Stories: Tim Smith

Who are you, and what do you do in Cambridge?

My name is Tim, and I’m a second year mathmo at Jesus College. I was born in Newcastle and have lived there all my life, although I don’t have a shred of a Geordie accent to show for it.

Tell us about something that matters to you

I won’t win any points for sophistication, but I love football. My Dad and I are big Man City fans, and Saturday evenings will always find us watching Match of the Day, whether together or 200 miles apart. Without wanting to sound too much like an Engling, just the sound of football is beautiful – the crackle of radio commentary, the roar of the crowd (even at City), the patter of the passing on the soft turf, then the thump of a volley against the underside of the crossbar. I miss it. 

What’s your story?

My story is a story of two halves. As a child, I was taught about the Bible, and as a child I believed it. A particularly vivid memory is the fear that I would go to hell, as someone who had disobeyed God. About the age of 12, I came to trust that God had saved me from that fate, through his son Jesus. I keenly remember the irrepressible happiness this realisation brought – but it was still the faith of a child. 

I’d say the second half of my story spans the years from that moment of realisation up to today. They have been years of struggling to come to terms with the idea of an invisible deity, as a personal, reasoned belief. But God has made it quite clear to me that he is not an idea I can discard – the conclusion I could not escape was that he is ultimate reality, and I can do nothing other than bow before him. 

At the same time, I have become more and more aware of my sin – that is, the refusal to bow down before my Creator. I have discovered the pervasive reach of self-centredness in all I do, and the vile hypocrisy that mars my relationships with others and above all with God. Another inescapable conclusion: the hell that scared 12-year old me is exactly what I deserve. 

But it is here that I have found my most precious truth. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross, facing his Father’s anger that was rightly meant for me. Why? Because he loved me! And what’s more, he still does! He rose to life from his grave, and now he is my King. Now my story is that I follow him, looking forward to the day when he will end all suffering and death for those who trust him. In many ways, my faith is still that of a child – by myself helpless and often failing, but looking to a Father I can trust. This is the way to approach Jesus, and he turns none away. 

Is the story of Jesus good news in a world like this?

One bitterly sad effect of the current situation is the loneliness that will inevitably come with lockdown. I have felt that longing to not be alone, and many experience it to a much greater extent. Casting a long and increasingly dark shadow over our world is the prospect of that great loneliness, death itself. To speak of Jesus as our friend will seem trite in the face of such bleakness, but I can only say with all sincerity that I have never found him wanting in kindness or gentleness. He draws close to those who weep, and he will carry them safely over the river of death, to wipe their tears and be with them forever.

If you’d like to find out more about Jesus, who has defined Tim’s story, watch this talk on the question, “Why does Jesus of Nazareth still matter?”