In 1992, I got arrested in the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton.
That is a night I will never forget. I’d just split up with my girlfriend, Tania, and I had nowhere to live. All I had was my Ford Orion, an Adidas bag full of clothes, my Technics 1200 turntables and two boxes of 12-inch records. The night before I drove to Buxton, I slept (if you can call it sleep) on the back seat of my car in a car park in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. I also had a heroin habit, and I was using massive amount of amphetamines every day. My life was in a mess.
The reason I drove to Buxton that night was to fulfil a vow I’d made to myself. In the early hours of that morning as I was driving towards a set of traffic lights in Shudehill, Manchester, I vowed, ‘If those lights turn to red before I get to them, I’m going to show my **** on Buxton market.’ They did, of course, turn red. ‘Right, I’m a man of my word; I’m off to Buxton.’
It was during that journey that I first became conscious of God. As I was driving, I was chatting with God out loud. I had an overwhelming sense that God was calling me and sending me to Buxton. I know this all sounds crazy: there I was, my life in a mess, talking to God and thinking that God was calling me to be a famous DJ!
When I arrived at Buxton Market Place around 3:00am I kept my word and did what I had set out to do before I set off again. Then after driving around the corner, I noticed a police car following me. He turned on his blue light and pulled me over. I’d been banned from driving a few months before, so I was carrying a false licence. He looked at it, but he didn’t radio in to check it. Phew! He let me go.
I set off again. I had nowhere to stay, so I started knocking on the doors of different hotels. ‘Let me in! God has called me, and I need a room for the night.’ They wouldn’t open their doors. I do remember thinking, ‘This is a bit like Jesus; he couldn’t get a room either.’ Bizarre, I know, but true.
I then arrived at a car park. Unbeknown to me then, this was in the Pavilion Gardens. I took one box of records out of the boot of my car and went for a walk. I was still chatting with God and thanking Him for calling me. I came to a kid’s play area. I put the box of records inside a children’s playhouse and started walking around the top of a climbing frame. ‘If I walk around the top of this without falling or touching the side, I’m going to be a famous DJ.’ I did it. ‘Thank you God!’
After seeing a river at the bottom of a hill, I ran down towards it. When I got there, I thought, ‘I need to cross it.’ I undressed, waded across the river to the other side, walked up the bank and then saw a big building. I went to the door and started to knock; a light came on and a woman appeared. ‘Let me in! God has called me, and I need a room for the night.’ Of course, she didn’t open the door.
In the distance, I saw a blue flashing light coming towards me. It was the police! ‘Oh no,’ I thought, ‘I’ve got no clothes on, and my clothes are on the other side of the river!’ I ran down to the river and waded across; by this time, the blue flashing light was a few hundred yards away. I didn’t know what to do, so I hid behind a stone building.
Suddenly, I remembered a vivid dream that I’d had a few nights before. I’d fallen backwards into some water, and as I fell into it, I saw colours that I’ve never seen before. The water felt pure, and I came through to the other side purified and clean. I thought, ‘That dream is going to come true!’
I ran back down to the river to a section that looked really deep. I stood with my back to the river, holding my nose, when two police officers began walking towards me. ‘Come here lad, you’ll be alright,’ they called. Ignoring this, I looked back and jumped, expecting the dream to come true. But the water was only three inches deep!
The police rushed to the side and pulled me up the bank. They gave me a blanket to cover myself up. ‘God’s called me,’ I told them. ‘Yes son, I’m sure he has.’
I ended up in the Buxton police station. Though I told the desk sergeant, ‘God’s called me,’ I got charged. And ended up on remand in Leicester Prison.
When I think back to that night in 1992, I can’t help but see that the Maker was in the mess.
Here I was: messed up, using drugs, driving my car without a licence, homeless and with just a few possessions. I got arrested at 3.00am in the morning wondering around the Pavilion Gardens naked! However, it was right in the middle of this, where I started to talk to God. This is where God first called me!
I know this might not sit right with some of you – God turning on the spiritual antenna of a messed-up drug addict during a night of madness. ‘Why would a Holy God do that?’ you might say, or ‘Surely God would rather do it in a more prim and proper way.’ Well, I would say to you that He did turn on my antenna. The Maker was right there with me in all that mess!
What about you. Do you feel that with all that’s going on right now, things are a mess?
Listen: remember that in your mess, and even in lockdown, God isn’t far away. He’s there with you. So just reach out to him. Talk to him. Who knows what might happen? You might just meet the Maker in your mess to!