The odds were stacked heavily against Ray Davies after his old habit of boozing came crawling back...
Growing up without a good male role model in my life definitely had its drawbacks for me as a boy. Mum didn’t stay with my biological father, so I’d no idea who he was, nor any desire to find out.
Grandma was the glue that held our family together. She was a typical matriarch and everyone revered her. On reflection, our tight-knit family was probably a bit too close, as living with my grandma, mum and four uncles could be a bit crazy at times.
My uncles were very fond of their booze and had brutal bust-ups when they got home from the pub. Every weekend was pretty predictable. I grew accustomed to the shouting and horrible atmosphere that ensued.
Mum had no control over me, and once I reached my teens things started to get out of hand.
I narrowly missed a jail sentence for a breaking and entering offence. I also followed in my uncles’ footsteps, drinking and getting into fights. Life took an unexpected turn at 18 when I met my lovely wife, Audrey. We got married four years later and had two boys, Tom and Neil.
Being married and having the responsibility of a family reined me in for a while, but it wasn’t long before old habits came crawling back. I began drinking and stealing again. That’s when my life spiralled out of control and I lost almost all that I held dear, even my family.
In 1995, I started working with a guy who lived just around the corner. We got on well, I knew his past and he knew mine. We often travelled together in his car on our way to work in Manchester. We had some great chats but then one day the conversation changed as he started talking about Jesus and going to church.
My first thought was, “This is all I need, another holy Joe.” But as time went on, what he shared was very convincing. I kept thinking, “There’s got to be more to life than this.”
He invited me to go to a men’s meeting, so out of curiosity I went along.
[swpm_protected for="2-3-4" do_not_show_protected_msg="1"] “If Jesus can forgive him, he can forgive me.” [/swpm_protected]
An ex-IRA terrorist called Kenny McClinton was the main speaker. He talked about his violent past and his experience of jail. I was completely captivated.
Then his voice grew soft as he spoke lovingly about Jesus. I thought to myself, “If Jesus can forgive him, he can forgive me.” And I answered the altar call that followed.
Tears streamed down my face as I felt God’s tangible love and peace flooding my soul. Audrey told me the week leading up to my conversion that she’d had enough and was going to throw me out. But by God’s grace and perfect timing, our family stayed together.
Soon afterwards I joined Elim’s Purposed Life Church in Wigan where God did so many amazing things in my life. One time, a lady prayed with me, describing everything that had happened in my life. She couldn’t have known my past. It was a huge encouragement to me as a young believer, and reassured me that God knew and loved me. She also prophesied things that have since come to pass.
After that I got more committed and was knitted into the church. Over time, I felt God speaking to me about starting up a men’s ministry. Now, every month I organise a men’s breakfast and a speaker to come and share. Sometimes we go and do something fun together. We have a laugh and fill our bellies, but most of all we have fellowship and pray together.
I also love to share the gospel. I find people are naturally attracted to Jesus when we reflect him in our lives.
I recently went on a holiday of a lifetime to Florida. A few days in, I went swimming with dolphins. I was thoroughly enjoying the experience when another holidaymaker interrupted, asking which travel agency I had booked with. “Thomas Cook,” I replied curiously. “Well, they’ve gone bust he said,” explaining the chaos that had ensued. I jumped out of the water and went to find out what was happening. Large crowds of people were frantically trying to speak with holiday reps or anyone official. I could feel my chest tightening from all of the stress when it suddenly dawned on me to pray. Right there in the middle of the madness, I put my hands over my face and asked God to ‘sort it out’.
Instantly I felt his peace flooding my soul, calming every part of my mind and body. I told Audrey, “Let’s go back and enjoy our holiday, everything’s going to be OK.” Whilst everyone else was busy worrying, we were having a lovely time. Everything did eventually get sorted – just as God had reassured me. I’d hate to think what life would be like without him.[/swpm_protected]
This article was taken from the April 2020 issue of Direction Magazine.
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