Five years ago today, on the 6th November 2011, I got baptised.
It was an evangelical church which baptised people when they decided to commit their life to Christ, similar to confirmation in the Church of England and some other denominations.
I wanted to share the fact that I wanted to live for Christ with my friends, my family and the congregation. I wanted to publicly proclaim that I was a Christian and would aspire to live as Christ lived, although this is very difficult to do and I always fall short.
Since that day I have faced many challenges; I have turned from God a number of times but He has always welcomed me back, focusing on my return rather than my sins.
At my baptism I gave a testimony of all that God had done in my life but, looking at what I said then, I can see that a lot has changed and I want to share my testimony for where I am now. For the person I have become in the five years since I was baptised.
Here it is:
I have been going to church ever since I was born. I went along to the local Methodist Church with my parents each Sunday, and my younger sister, when she arrived! I was baptised as a baby here and, slightly later on, I attended the children’s group each week where I learnt many bible stories and took part in numerous nativity plays and holiday clubs. At this time, I saw Christianity as something I had to do on a Sunday; a place to meet friends and go on trips out. I was aware that a lot of people at my school did not go to church but it didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t really see the importance of having Jesus as a friend.
When I was nearly twelve years old there were some problems amongst the leadership of the church; many of my friends and their families left as did my mum, my sister and I. We moved to a church nearby which was evangelical and very different from what I was used to. There were lots of children and young people at this church and I enjoyed the Sunday morning group and Friday night youth group. The discussions and activities seemed more relevant to my life and I felt that I was growing to understand what being a Christian meant. Many of the congregation seemed to be close to God, getting words and pictures fairly regularly and this encouraged me to seek to grow closer to God as well.
However, at this time I also began to struggle with self-confidence and body image. I stopped praying, reading the Bible and talking to God and only attended church because I felt my parents expected it of me. After a period of unhealthy dieting, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and feelings of paranoia and depression, I began to let God back into my life as I wanted to escape from the mess I had become and I couldn’t see another way out, especially as I did not get on with the counsellor at my school.
As I approached the age of fifteen I decided that I wanted to show everyone that I was giving my life to Christ so I wrote a testimony and did some baptism preparation before getting baptised in November 2011. I was given a few positive and encouraging words which suggested I was growing and maturing in my faith. I felt encouraged and ready to evangelise to anyone and everyone. It was almost like the low points of my past had never happened.
Unfortunately, it was about half a year later when all the problems I had struggled with before re-appeared. The youth leader at my church suggested that it was Satan, trying to ruin the positive relationship I was developing with God after my baptism and it did seem like I stopped praying as regularly, focusing on food and exercise instead. I was reaching a low point in my faith again and the fact that people were beginning to leave this church also knocked my faith. There was so much change and I wasn’t too keen on the changes being made.
After talking to my mum, I realised that she was feeling uncomfortable and out of place at this church so we decided to search for another church to go to. The first church we tried felt like home and I felt safe there. Despite the youth group being very small, it was nicer than the one I had just left and the youth leader made my sister and I feel very welcome. The discussions we had tackled Christianity in the real world and I began to pray more regularly again. I still had low points where I was struggling, especially at exam times when I was very stressed and anxious but I felt better able to cope.
When I went to university my faith continued to grow; in all the isolation and loneliness of leaving home and all the people I knew it seemed that God was the only constant and I found myself praying and calling out to God all the time. Once I’d found a church in Nottingham, I began to settle in and offer my time to the church. I loved showing God’s love to people in need and just being there for them.
Once when I was praying I got a picture for someone and, despite being scared and unsure if I was imagining it, I told them and it turned out to be a sign for them that they were going in the right direction which encouraged them and me.
My faith has continued to grow as I have seen God support me in becoming independent and coping with many new and scary experiences at university, especially during a panic attack I had before my first summer exam which I felt thoroughly unprepared for. When I was in need I kept on crying out to God for help. In the second semester of my first year at university, I become overwhelmed by feelings of self-hatred and doubt which led to the development of an eating disorder and depression. I kept praying although I kept getting worse. I knew people were praying for me but it didn’t seem like God was watching and there were times when I wondered why God was not intervening. Somehow, I feel I am stronger as a person but the feelings have still not gone and I keep getting days which are bad and recovery seems impossible.
Many Christian song lyrics and Bible verses encourage me to keep going and I know that God is keeping me safe as He has never let me feel so low that I have actually seriously hurt myself and He has put many people in my life who are amazing at looking out for me. I have been able to talk to people at university about Christianity and I feel that I want to share the Good News as it has saved me and I want it to save many other people too.
I know that if I stay faithful then God will help me through everything as He is part of the big and small things. Trusting in God is hard but it offers safety and sanctuary, even when it doesn’t seem like it.