Free Indeed: Gordon’s Story

(Trigger warning: suicide)

As a young boy growing up in Northern Ireland in the late 50s, I can remember being struck by the words of this hymn, number 464, The Psalter, Church Hymnary, Presbyterian Church in Ireland:

Make me a captive, Lord,

And then I shall be free;

Force me to render up my sword,

And I shall conquer be.

I sink in life’s alarms,

When by myself I stand;

Imprison me within Thine arms

And strong shall be my hand.

It didn’t make any sense to me.

If I’m a captive, how can I be free?

In my late 20s, I was working for a guy who was a Christian and every now and again he would tell me about Jesus. He told me that I was a sinner and needed to be saved. So, eventually, I said, “Sure, I’ll be a Christian. What do I have to do?”

I read the Bible and really tried to listen at church. I soon learned that you can’t become a Christian through your own good works. I didn’t advance in my walk with Him because I was trying to do it all myself. 

In my early 30s, I found myself divorced and decided to come to Canada. I ended up in Winnipeg and married. I faithfully attended a church and volunteered there regularly. But for some reason, I wasn’t entirely happy. It always seemed like there was something missing and I was looking for something more.

In 97, we moved to Calgary because of work. That’s where I became a workaholic, (in case you didn’t know, oftentimes being a workaholic means that you’re running away from something!) I would work 12–14 hours a day, 6 days a week and didn’t have time for anything or anyone else. I soon found myself divorced again.

After the economy crashed in 2008/2009, I was without work and on my own. I fell into a deep depression. I didn’t like being alone and soon ended up in relationships that I shouldn’t have been in. I moved to Vancouver Island to distance myself from those people and situations. What I didn’t plan on, was just how separated from everything I would feel. I felt completely alone for the first time in my life.

It seemed like I had been wandering in the desert for a long time, always looking for something but never knowing what I was looking for.

One Sunday night in early 2021, I was driving to a Tim Horton’s on Vancouver Island so that I could get internet service. I listened to a church service and right in the middle of his message, the pastor stopped and said, “I’ve got a word that I have to say, and I believe it’s from the Holy Spirit. I believe that this is for someone online.”

He pointed directly at the camera, as if pointing right at me, and said,

“If you’re thinking about suicide, don’t. Jesus loves you.”

It was as if the pastor had read my mind. I had been on the verge of suicide that night.

I was determined to not spend another winter on Vancouver Island. Unfortunately, by the time I decided to go back to Calgary, there was a huge rainstorm that wiped out roads and bridges, cutting off Vancouver from the rest of Canada. I waited a week, finally deciding I just had to go. The drive that would normally take me 12 hours, took me 26 hours.

The day I left, there was the most beautiful sunrise. I knew it was God reassuring me that good things were ahead. As I drove on the roads, amid bad road condition signs, there was not one snowflake or skiff of ice to be found. God was paving a way for me to get back to Calgary. I rented an apartment, 5 days after leaving Vancouver, and was moving in.

I finally felt like I was on the verge of finding what I had spent so long looking for. And I did.

I found Jesus when I cried out to Him on my knees in my living room.

I asked Him to forgive me of my sins and He heard my cry. He reached down and touched me, and made me a new person. How can it be that the God who made the heavens and the earth, reached down and touched me? He forgave me and gave me a new life in him! Oh, how free I felt!

I had spent years looking for Jesus and not knowing it. I worked tirelessly, drove to crusades all over the country, went to Southern California to go to bigger churches, and still couldn’t find Him. I was trying to find Him so much that I missed Him.

I missed that He wanted to meet me in the simplicity of my everyday life.

Since that day, I have given my life completely over to Jesus. He has healed me of my depression. He completely changed the way I think. That Christmas, I ordered a new study Bible and began reading it in January. By the end of January, I had read the entire thing. It was never my intention to read it as quickly as I did, and it is not in me to read anything…let alone the entire Bible…but I just loved reading it.

I was struck as I read about sexual immorality in the Bible. They say it takes about 75 hours to read the entire Bible, and the phrase, “sexual immorality,” is mentioned about 75 times, which means that every hour I read the Bible, I read that phrase. I knew I was being convicted, and that God was using His Word to transform me from my old ways. He was setting me free. I have now read the entire Bible for the fifth time this year. I can’t get enough of His Word.

Looking back now, I can say that I was an “almost Christian”. Singing the songs in church on Sunday and going through the motions: but when we are “almost Christians,” we settle for an almost life.

We miss out on living a life of abundance with Christ.

But then Jesus came into my life and renewed my mind completely. I don’t think the same, I don’t talk the same, I don’t walk the same. I am free.

Suddenly, those words that I had read in the hymn book as a boy, made complete sense to me.

Make me a captive Lord,

And then I shall be free.

God is good, all the time. I’m so glad He captured me.

We thank Gordon McKibben for sharing his story and how he is truly free in Jesus. If you too would like to strengthen your walk with Jesus in community, check out Next Steps to get connected to a group, a class, or a study!