I’ve written before of at 15 arriving in a church and feeling like I’d come home.
But I don’t think I’ve written before about how I started to really believe in God, to want to find people that knew there was something else, something more, someone more who was present in the world and bringing light to things.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been talking to the sky. But I remember clearly one afternoon at 8 years old when I had my first Religious Studies lesson at Ladybrook Primary School. That was a “conversion moment”. The moment where my feelings and the way I saw the world began to make sense. My teacher in this first RS lesson didn’t tell us that God existed, she told us a theory. But I came out of the classroom as the bells rang with a clear answer in my mind: God who created us and loved us is the being I talk to in the sky. God is the life in the clouds I watch lying down in the school field, and God is the warming presence with me as I sit under the oak tree in the corner of the field with one of my many books.
I ran as most children did out of school that day, but I ran not because “school’s out” and we can get home to game consoles or toast. I ran because I’d found truth, I’d found my answer to life. I’d found a name for that omnipresent ‘thing’ I knew existed. And for about 60 seconds I felt this conversion, this amazing sense of knowing and understanding all that life is. And then I abruptly stopped running, as though I had hit a wall. ‘Remember what people have said to you about religion Rachael. Why don’t they see what you see? If you’re right this won’t be easy.’
As I stopped running though I didn’t feel sad about this wall I’d hit. I felt less thrilled, we all want life to be simple, but I felt that one day, somehow, people would be able to know that presence I felt, and know that they were loved. I was standing in a small patch of grass, on a sunny day, underneath a lovely tree (which I think they call a cherry blossom).
Rather wonderfully I found another one of these trees in the student garden of St Johns College Durham where I hope to study for the next three years come September. And if I don’t get the grades for Durham, then I’ll be equally happy to head to Lampeter in Wales, and will plant one if one does not already exist in the hope that some youngster might have a similar encounter one day.
I went back to the tree today and stood underneath. Nice to revisit it.