Libby Atkinson had been exposed to the Christian message from the time that she was born, since her father was a Christian minister looking after a church of over 200 people. But as a six year old girl, it seemed that the God her Dad talked about was angry one minute and loving the next. She was to find however that He was far more loving that she could imagine. But before discovering this she had to face a very traumatic situation. This is her story.
My father was a Christian minister, in an occupation not known for its high earning power. I was brought up in a very large house, which my father purchased from ICI at a knock down price. It had 46 rooms, and stood in two and a half acres of ground. In order to keep it running, my Dad had single young men living there, who would have otherwise have found it difficult to find accommodation. They helped maintain the building and the garden, and paid very little rent. Many of them became Christians, and ended up going into the Christian ministry.
I was confused about the God that my Dad talked about. It seemed that one minute He could be angry, and the next minute loving. Where was the consistency in that? I sat through a lot of ‘Hell and damnation’ preaching when I was young, which scared me. A lady came round to help Mum keep the house clean. The way she loved Jesus really impressed me. She just went around the house praising the Lord. But after six months, she never came any more. I heard that she had died, and I did not understand why God allowed that to happen.
Meanwhile, getting a chance to spend time with my Dad was near impossible – after the members of the church, the fifteen lodgers and the rest of the family had had their time with him, there was little left for me. I also became aware of the fact that I had a fear of death.
When I was about six, we went on a church house party to Eastbourne. There has always been something about me that wanted to help and rescue people and things – it was just part of my nature. So, during a game of volleyball on the beach, when the ball went into the sea, it seemed the natural thing for me to wade in after it.
There is a stream that runs through the sea at Eastbourne – it is easily seen when the tide is out. This causes strong undercurrents, and you have to be very careful, even in comparatively shallow water. The ball seemed to move out so quickly, and I followed as fast as I could. Before I knew it, I had to stand on the tips of my toes, to keep the water from going up my nose. I still had not retrieved the ball, and I had to decide whether to go deeper, or turn round. Did I want to turn round? Or did I just want to be with Jesus? I decided that I had had enough, and that to be with Jesus forever would be wonderful, so I allowed myself to go even further into the sea.
At that point, I saw all my life flash before me – not that I had lived that much of a life as a six year old. But it was all very graphic. It was then that I remember coming out of my body. I looked down I could see the sea, and saw this thing flopping around in the water. Then I realised that it was my body! Just at that point, everything went black. What had happened was that my Dad had seen that I was getting into difficulties, and had waded in to get me. I know I should have felt grateful – but I didn’t. For those few minutes, I had appreciated the absolute peace that I felt, and being without the need to fight things all the time.
By the time I was twelve I pestered my parents to allow me to fly. They couldn’t take me anywhere, because they were too busy. But they persuaded a family to take them with me on their annual holiday. This family had two boys, who had a passion for creepy crawlies. They thought it was great fun to put those dreadful things in my bed each night! Our travels had taken us to a little village near Interlaken. I was away from my family for six weeks, and I was terribly homesick. I spent most of my time on my bed, crying. One afternoon, I felt very upset, and was crying, when I suddenly felt a hand of my back. At the same time I heard a voice say ‘Libby, didn’t I tell you that I would never leave you or forsake you?’ I looked to my side, and standing there was this extremely tall Being, surrounded by light. I saw Him only from the waist down, but He must have been very tall, when I think of how high His waist was from the floor of the room. I remember looking at the beautiful golden girdle that he had around His waist. But the light was so bright that it was almost like someone was shining a light in my face. I decided not to tell anyone what I had seen, but from then on, I imagined Him around me, and it helped me to cope much better than I had been doing before.
By the time I got to the age of eighteen, I felt I ought to be baptised to please my father, which is just about the worst reason for getting baptised. I felt guilty as the baptismal service got under way, because I knew I was doing it for all the wrong reasons, and that most of the church knew that too.
But as I stood in the baptistery I saw what looked like a grey wall come down, which separated me from the congregation. Now I could no longer see the people in the church, which made me feel a little better. Then, just after I had been baptised, I saw Jesus standing at the edge of the baptistery waiting for me to come out. He said ‘Come my child, and enter into all that I have prepared for you.’ He then took my hand, and led me to the door that I had to go through to get changed. Then, as I got to the door He just disappeared.
The years rolled on, and I married. Life was going along quite nicely until I became ill with a viral infection. My husband had cooked me two boiled eggs for me to eat. I had lost my appetite, so my husband chopped the top of the eggs off for me. But I was just too weak to dig out the egg from the shell. I desperation I cried out ‘God, you’ve just got to help me.’ Moments later there was a knock on the door. I could hear a women’s voice I did not recognise talking to my husband. ‘Is there a woman called Libby living here,’ I heard her say. My husband was obviously cautious about saying too much to a stranger, but I called out and told him to invite her in. The stranger then told us her story.
She had been praying, and the Lord told her that He wanted her to go to the house of a woman called Libby. He then gave her my address. He then told her what she had to take with her. Complex vitamin B tablets for building up strength, Complan, because I had not been eating, and some teaching tapes, for building me up spiritually. He also told her to put a day aside, as I had lots of ironing I needed to catch up on! She had heard correctly on each key issue – even getting the correct address from the Lord!
This was the kind of God that I was interested in. A practical God, that loved and cared for mankind, and wanted to help and heal. I started to read my Bible afresh, and began to notice that the God talked about in the Bible was very different from the one that I had heard about for so long as a child. He had proved His love for me of different occasions over the years, and I could doubt Him no longer. Since then, His care, protection and deliverance has been a part of my life, and I love to tell others what He means to me.
The true story of Elizabeth Atkinson included, with kind permission, in the free e-book BEYOND THE FINAL FRONTIER which includes 27 similar true stories, and may be freely read and downloaded from this web site.