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I had everything, or so it seemed

I was born into a family of four, with two brothers and one sister. My mother was a Christian and my father an atheist. We were taken to church by my mother and her parents, who were both strong believers. Through my teenage years, I continued to attend church. But when I went to university, I faced many temptations and found myself unable to resist. I pushed aside my conscience and told myself that everything would be alright in the end.

Rugby was one of my passions and I signed a professional contract with Glasgow. It became my burning ambition to play for Scotland, an ambition that was fulfilled at all age levels. But I kept getting injuries and people would comment on my bad luck.   One guy joked that my body was rotten. Every time something bad happened to me I would immediately suspect it was a punishment for my immoral lifestyle. I would say an insincere prayer only to forget about it a couple of days later. In the end, I got sick of feeling guilty and decided to ignore my conscience.  

They thought I was dying

I had everything, or so it seemed — lots of free time, money, women, popularity, good physique. I was now in the full Scotland squad, and had a veterinary degree, a house, friends…everything I thought would make me happy. But I was restless and dissatisfied — deep down I was not happy.  

Then in Autumn 2005, I was about to go out to play against Munster and I said the Lord’s prayer. This had become a tradition with me before each match — a kind of safety net just in case something really bad happened. I recognised the hypocrisy of thinking that all would be well if I said a ten-second prayer while I went back to my sins for the rest of the week. Then the thought about injuries being related to my immoral lifestyle popped into my head again.   Deep down I was miserable and running away from my conscience. At the door of the dressing room, I thought to myself, ‘If one more bad thing happens to me I’m going to turn back to God.’

Twenty minutes later I woke up in an ambulance. I had just suffered one of the worst head knocks witnessed on a rugby field. I had been knocked unconscious in a seemingly innocuous tackle but then went into a convulsive seizure and became violent and aggressive. Newspapers described me as ‘bellowing like a bull’. Friends and team-mates later said they thought I was dying. But I came through — God spared me. When I got to the hospital, I realised what had happened. I was terrified — I now believed in God and knew he was angry. But I kept it to myself and started praying for forgiveness.  

Reborn? What’s that?

I decided to change my life, but it proved harder than I had thought. I was conceited, materialistic, gambling, womanising and dishonest. Every time I tried to escape from my immoral lifestyle, it pulled me in deeper. I became miserable and things in my life began to fall apart — I was plagued with injuries which threatened my career, and my health was badly affected by my lifestyle.  

I started going to church — hoping it would make me feel so guilty that I would eventually become a good person! But it made me feel worse — I knew what was right and what was wrong but I couldn’t stop myself from doing wrong.   I started reading the Bible and got to the bit where Jesus said, ‘Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ I was scared. Reborn? What on earth did that mean? I didn’t have a clue what being reborn was — and that meant I wasn’t going to heaven! I found a book about being born again that had belonged to my late grandparents and began to read it slowly.  

How can it change my life?

I started attending a church that my Mum had told me about. I always felt guilty going into churches — but was comforted by the words of Jesus: ‘I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’ The place reminded me of the church where I was taken as a boy. I liked the hymns and the people were friendly. What stuck with me most, though, was the sermon. It was about the good news that Jesus is the Son of God who came into this world to die for our sins.   I thought, ‘Yeah, OK. I’ve heard that since I was a wee boy. I think it’s true but how is it going to change my life?’ Then the guy said, ‘You have to believe it with all your heart and ask Jesus into your heart to be the Lord of your life.’ I thought, ‘Oh. I’ve never done that.’   I realised what it would mean and I wanted it. But I also wanted all the pleasures of this world even though I knew that, deep down, they did not make me happy.

I could see that the road I was going down was leading to misery and ultimately to hell. I could see that the other way was ultimately far better.   Everything had changed I was scared of giving my soul to someone else. But I believed that Jesus was who he said he was and that he was good — so he would look after me. I also recognised that if I was going to ask Christ into my heart, there would be no room for my sinful desires — I couldn’t hide them away secretly somewhere. I realised the only way forward was to sacrifice my whole being to Christ and give him my life.   I wanted to follow Jesus and kept reading his words: ‘If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’

I saw that following Jesus was truly the only way to live. I finally understood what he meant when he said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ After a few weeks, I realised that my life had changed and it was Jesus who had done it. I had tried for ages to change my own life and resist temptation, but I had always failed. But now, suddenly, everything had changed. It was like being a prisoner who had been set free! That is something only Jesus Christ could have brought about.

I understood that he had truly died on the cross for my sins — he had taken them all upon himself, leaving me completely clean. I was no longer scared of dying and I was filled with a joy that nothing since has come close to rivalling.   I remember a friend once saying something like, ‘You could lose your job, money, or even your health, but you’ll never lose Christ. You could lose everything, but you’ll still have everything because you have Christ.’ He was 100% correct!

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And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12