24 October 2018
As a child I attended church every week with my mum, dad and brother. Back then, though I believed God was real, in my mind he was a distant creator to whom my life wasn’t very significant. Day to day I rarely acknowledged him, and my prayer life began and ended with saying grace before meals. However, that all changed very quickly when I became ill with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness and so my experience of reality was distorted. I would look in the mirror and rather than seeing how thin I had become, I was convinced I was too big. Though a part of me knew it wasn’t true, something in me desperately wanted to be thinner. It felt like there were two people living in my head: me and someone else, and that other voice was louder than my own. It was an exhausting daily battle which I felt like I couldn’t win.
Whilst I was unwell my family, church family and even people I didn’t know, fasted and prayed I would be healed. They trusted that God would restore me to health and that he had plans for my life. As I reflected on their actions I realised their perception of God was very different to mine. To them, God was close not distant, and he cared about my life – to this kind of God, I was valuable.
Eventually I called out to God, “If you are the God they believe you to be, a God who is near and cares, then pull me out of this difficultly because I haven’t got the strength.”
Then one day I looked in the mirror and saw what was really there. I saw how sick I had become. God healed me of my eating disorder and enabled me to see the truth. The loud other voice became dimmer; God won the battle in my mind for me. The only response that made sense was to give my life to God. He rescued me that day in more than one way.
On the day of my baptism, my auntie gave me a verse that beautifully describes what God did for me:
“Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.” Psalm 30:2-3 (NIVUK)
After that it wasn’t smooth sailing. I really struggled. I would picture the Christian life as climbing a very steep mountain, only I felt like most of the time I was failing and falling. I lacked an understanding of grace and would start every day a fresh, striving to be perfect and obviously failing.
This was my experience for many years and it left me feeling dry and depressed. There were mountains amongst the valleys, mainly Christians camps, but I struggled to maintain that. I found it hard to imagine God being able to use me in the way so many of the people that prayed for healing said he would, especially not to reach people who weren’t Christians.
For me, university was a huge turning point. I remember thinking that I could just walk away from God at that point, but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow me to. I joined a Navigator small group.
During the first semester we studied Romans, which is not the easiest book to tackle, but was just what I needed. Studying Romans helped me understand God’s grace. I finally stopped starting every day striving and I began to experience the freedom Jesus promises. The Christian life was still a mountain but I pictured Jesus beside me helping me up when I fell and walking beside me as a went.
Being part of the Navigator small group and meeting 1-to-1 with someone enabled me to flourish. I grew in understanding of who God is, who I am and increasingly saw the beauty of the life God has called us to live. I saw God use me to bring a friend to himself and to witness to other friends, as well as to build up and encourage those who already knew him.
Since university my trust, love and knowledge of God continues to grow, though I still often struggle to know how loved I am and to accept the grace I have been shown. God is at work in me. Right now, I am captivated by the promise in Isaiah 61:3: “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.” I long to live a life that reflects the beauty of who God is, one that shows just how good his kingdom is. I hope through my life people will come to Jesus and receive restoration, healing and life. My life was transformed because of oaks of righteousness God planted around me, people who had been set free, healed by Jesus; their faith brought restoration to my life.
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