Hot coals

‘No, buddy, you need Jesus big time’

Even walking on hot coals left me empty, explains MPower team member Nick Whittome.

Around the time I was 30 I suddenly realised that I needed to take responsibility for shaping my life in some way.

I felt like I had wasted the whole decade of my 20s in unproductive nonsense. I had achieved some necessary things, like buying my first house and holding down a job, but I had a nagging feeling there was more to life than what I was experiencing.

When I turned 30, a friend invited me to go on a self-development course called Outlook. The vision for the course was to ‘create a world that works for everyone with no-one left out’.

There was teaching and exercises to do, and personal barriers to overcome. It was fun, and I really enjoyed it.

The final exercise included pumping up enough self-belief and confidence to take on a fire walk – that is, walking across eight or nine metres of hot coals in your bare feet. And I actually managed to do it.

Once I had completed these self-development exercises, there seemed to be nothing I couldn’t go out there and achieve. But I had this nagging worry – what if there is something else, something more?

And why, after achieving this training company’s ultimate goal (i.e. the fire walk), did I still feel empty?

There was a Christian in my workplace at that time, and one morning he said something that really jolted me: “Self-development courses are all about self. They come from self and they end in self.”

I was quite taken aback by his frankness, but... he was right.

I also met Chloe that year, the woman who would shortly afterwards become my wife, and she invited me on the Alpha course, the ten-week course exploring Christianity.

There was an invitation to follow this person called Jesus – a person who had modelled what it looked like to lay down self to a very extreme level, it seemed to me.

So I was really curious.

I gradually became aware that I needed something, or more correctly, ‘someone’ beyond myself.

I took a long, hard, honest look at my 20s, which I really had wasted, and realised that with me in charge things hadn’t been a spectacular success. In fact, there were some profound issues – I can name any number of spectacular personal fails from those years.

So one day, shortly after that Alpha course, I accepted Jesus into my life as my Lord, captain and leader. Pretty much immediately, that nagging feeling of emptiness went away, never to return.

And it was nothing to do with self-development or me or my own efforts to create a world in which no-one was left out.

I began to realise that the only person really truly qualified to build a world like that was someone with a perfect track record – and that was Jesus.

Jesus was now behind the steering wheel of my life and I got to be his passenger for the ride, a role I hugely prefer.

So maybe those years weren’t fully wasted after all – because any time I have a wobble about my faith, I just check the track record from my 20s, and remind myself: “No, buddy, you need Jesus big time.”

And I couldn’t be happier or more blessed by my decision to follow him.

This article first appeared in the November 2021 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered directly to your home.

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