There hasn’t been any time in my life that I haven’t believed in God.
When I was young this belief was passed onto me by my parents, but I transitioned into having my own faith somewhere in my teenage years. I don’t recall there being one moment that I “became” a Christian, however, there have been pivotal moments that have deepened my relationship with God and in which I have surrendered and declared Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.
Not having a dramatic conversion used to make me feel like I didn’t have a testimony worth sharing, but actually I can be thankful to Jesus that this is mine! What a blessing to have grown up in a Christian household.
I was always an active participant in youth group, but when I was around fifteen I began to ask deeper questions, ones surrounding God’s will and why bad things happen. (I think a lot of people ask these sorts of questions at some point.) That was probably the year I grappled the most with faith, in the sense I had to work through those questions before taking responsibility for my own relationship with God. As I said, there wasn’t any time that I didn’t believe, but my belief became more personal at this point, and something I wanted to intentionally cultivate.
Then in year twelve I went through another spiritual shift.
I felt like there was so much more to life and to God than I was living out and seeing around me. I knew I wanted more from Christianity and church but I didn’t know what that looked like or what could be available to me. In that year, 2015, my parents lent me numerous books, and they were all real people who were experiencing this “more” that I was seeking. These include Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger and I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh.
Reading those books equally encouraged me and brought up a lot more questions. Encouraged in the sense that people were living this life I wanted. But brought up questions, and almost worried me, in that I wasn’t seeing this lived out in the people I knew at church. I was reading about people being healed, but I had never seen that happen. My Bible study leaders constantly talked about how we were forgiven and free, but I felt stuck and guilty.
I wrestled with these two contrasting lives all year. On one hand, I could see there was more on offer, somewhere, somehow, but on the other hand I had people telling me that I was doing everything “right” and that I was a good Christian who was living in freedom.
Nearing the end of year twelve, there was no obvious career path for me. I didn’t have a specific area I wanted to work in or study in, so I decided to look into Christian gap years. I was accepted to live, study, and volunteer at a Christian healing ministry. I studied a Christian Ministry and Theology Certificate, and the ministry allowed me to practically apply what I was learning.
It began as a gap year, but at the end of the year I decided to study with them for another year, taking my Certificate to a Diploma and volunteering in a different capacity. I lived there in 2016 and 2017, and was also baptised there as an adult in 2017.
During these years, I discovered the “more” I had been looking for. I learned how to hear from God instead of just reading the Bible. I learned to see Jesus in my everyday life and in moments from the past that were painful and keeping me from living in His freedom. I learned that even though I was perceived as a “good Christian”, there were still many ways I was inwardly living outside of God’s intentions.
As some quick examples, I pushed down emotions I perceived as negative, such as grief or anger, when actually God created all emotions and we need to process them all in a healthy way. And I also defined myself by other people’s opinions and wasn’t secure in who God made me to be. I wasn’t even aware I was doing these things, and I didn’t realise how much they were impacting my relationship with God and with other people.
There are many more lessons I learned in those two years, and most of those lessons are things I still need to consciously bring before God. Because even though I found “more”, that more is something that is constantly deepening and growing. I certainly haven’t “made it”, and never will in this life. I’ll simply continue to discover more of God as I journey forward.
I have found true freedom from so many things, but still there are weeds with big roots in the garden of my heart. But it’s exciting to think about what God will reveal to me as I continue on and tend to this garden. (No, I don’t know where the metaphor came from.)
After finishing the two years with that ministry, I moved back home, where I lived in 2018 and 2019 before moving out in February 2020.
Life right now is uncertain. There are so many changes and decisions being made. I’m once again unemployed, and I know so many people are hoping for things to “go back to normal”. But with everything I’ve gone through with God by my side, I have peace despite the weirdness in our lives at the moment. I think it’s amazing that God never leaves us and isn’t surprised by anything that happens. Even though my relationship with God has deepened immensely more as an adult, I can look back and see how He was moving in my life when I was six, when I was eleven, when I was thirteen, and I know that I’ll look back on this time and see how He moved today.
And that, coming from someone who used to wonder if I could ever live in freedom and know peace, who used to wonder if I could have a personal relationship with Him like people in books, is incredible. I feel so blessed when I look back and see how God has never left me alone.
In part, this has been vague. But fully, it has been true.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.Isaiah 61:1