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Testimony - Samantha

Picture of Samantha

As a Vicar’s child, I had good knowledge of Bible stories from a young age. I always considered myself a Christian and always liked to try and be a “good” Christian. However moving to a new school wanting people to like me, I soon realised people didn’t. They knew I was a Vicar’s daughter and couldn’t care less for a Christian “do gooder”. I quickly became quite uncomfortable being known as a Christian or even worse the Vicar’s child. Going to Christian gatherings like Keswick Convention and Word Alive always encouraged me as it was a safe space I could be a Christian and hear encouraging words from leaders. I always wanted to be a part of a Christian friendship group but I was always too shy and awkward. At one Word Alive event something that stuck out to me was a passage from Galatians 3:28-29 which says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, nor male or female for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise”.

It suddenly hit me how amazing the promise of being God’s heir was. I wasn’t good enough and yet God was providing a way through His Son Jesus for me to be an heir just like Jesus. I was realising it wasn’t about works it was by faith – being in Christ Jesus. I wanted to live by faith and not just have all the head knowledge. However returning to school and eventually going into secondary school I found it increasingly difficult. There was more pressure to fit in and be liked, make friends and be just like them so they would accept you. Being labelled as a Christian at a Catholic school where everyone just made fun of the Christian religion made me feel like I was always being singled out and laughed at. Being a Christian felt restrictive, I wasn’t “normal”. I was ashamed of my identity in Christ and yet I could never give up on it.

I often thought life would be so good if I only had a group of Christian friends who were like me. I became so focused on trying to be who people wanted me to be I forgot who I wanted to be, who God wanted me to be. I became really mixed up always at war with myself, highly anxious and hating every tiny thing about myself. I didn’t feel good enough to be a Christian and felt like I wasn’t living up to my label as a Vicar’s child. Whether at Church or at school I just wasn’t good enough. It was around this time in Year 9 that I discovered what self-harm was. I thought it would help release all the unreleased emotions and hatred I’d built up towards me, a cry for help to anyone who saw it. Instead it just made it worse. I then became anxious about covering it up and it made me hate myself more for doing it. During one mental breakdown around this time I resisted the urge to self-harm and decided to pick up a book instead. It was “365 Devotionals for Kids” by Max Lucado. I flicked to a page where it told me about God’s love for me. He didn’t have to but He sent His one and only Son whom He loved so much for ME. I didn’t deserve it not in a million years but He loved me so much that He died for ME. I remember crying so hard that night because of God’s love for me and then prayed asking Him to forgive me and thanking Him for loving me and sending His Son for me.

I managed to stop harming myself and struggled through life a bit more encouraged. Then lockdown hit and it was one of the best things to happen to me. Yes it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows but I was away from the pressures of school and I had loads of time to give to God and spend time with my family. I was so refreshed and felt more alive in Christ Jesus. Then the end of lockdown came and I had a lot going on but after being refreshed I had more strength in me to fight through it and get school finished with. I gave up on trying to fit in like I did before as I had a new confidence in who I was in Christ. However now I was busy again and school exhausted me, I found it difficult to spend time with God the way I had been doing in lockdown. I wanted to concentrate on my devotionals and not passively read through them just because I had to. It felt wrong to not give God the attention He deserved and it was a lot easier to ignore it than deal with the problem. What I hadn’t realised was that I was compromising God and putting Him where He was convenient for me. When you start compromising God on the little things it so easily leads to compromising the bigger things.

Starting Sixth Form was terrifying to say the least. I was at the same school with the same people but I was stuck in the position of making friends again. I fell into bad company but I was stuck compromising; as long as I had somewhere to sit during break and occasionally talk to I wasn’t bothered how bad for me they were. I found myself trying to fit in again. I managed to kill my conscience so I could ignore my anxiety and come across as confident and make people like me. To some extent it worked and I started dating a non-Christian which increased my self-worth and gave me a safety net at school. Swimming 18.5 hours a week provided a safe space as well to release everything and boosted my self-confidence and self-worth. I was a good swimmer and I had a family at my club people who finally liked me. However I became extremely burnt out. I was so focused on my swimming that I ditched my school work and didn’t have the energy to bother with God or the type of company I was with. My mum eventually had to take me out of swimming and my world crashed around me. I’d lost everything I’d put my worth in. I was completely messed up and didn’t know how to turn to the people who I actually did have. I didn’t want to let them down; especially as a Vicar’s child. I realised I couldn’t be vulnerable and had to just get on with life. I thought it would all be over in less than 2 years and then I could start again with EVERYTHING: God, relationships and friendships and rediscover myself. I felt stuck waiting for the end of Sixth Form to finally roll around clinging hopefully onto this promise of starting again at the end of it all. God felt differently.

Long story short my ex and I broke up and I lost the one person I thought I was friends with. I see now they weren’t good for me either and I believe God was removing them from my life for me. At the time though, I hit an even bigger low. My entire world had collapsed in less than 3 months. I had absolutely nothing. I felt so rejected and alone, so unlovable I was self-harming again at one point carving the word love into my ribs hoping it would leave an ugly scar showing how ugly love was. Fortunately it didn’t. I subsequently crossed it out creating more scars to hide it. I was completely lost. After a few months God put a wonderful, kind hearted, Christian guy in my life. After a short time we started dating and he showed me what love really was and slowly things started to look up. I stopped self-harming after a while and was trying to build my relationship with God back up again.I found it really challenging as it wasn’t just a simple fix. Whenever something like a sermon or even just worship music spoke to me, it hurt too much and I would harden my heart to it to protect myself from the pain and embarrassing myself from crying in front of people. I felt too heavy with guilt to allow it to come up.

Going to the Keswick Convention this year really helped turn my life around. I was nervous at the start as I was worried that it would show I had something to be guilty about. I was also very keen to make friends with fellow Christians. As I mentioned before it’s something I’ve always wanted and never really had. I felt this year I needed them more than anything. Numerous things came together that week all purposefully leading up to the moment I needed to renew my relationship with God. I find it incredible to look back and see the effect of God’s plan. We have small groups in Keswick for the morning sessions where we have a chance to discuss the talk and Bible passage together and I had the privilege of being part of a small group with someone who brought the whole group together into a friendship group. God had provided me with the opportunity to be part of a wonderful group of Christians which was incredible from the very start. We had a session where we got given a post-it note to write a question if we wanted and then discuss it as a group. I wrote, “If you’ve become a Christian and then fallen out of faith how easy is it to come back; can you ever be rejected by God?” I knew the answer was no but I had very loud doubts and I needed to hear it from someone else and hope I would believe them. One guy answered first with a straight “No” saying that we can waddle off around God as far as we can but He’s always there ready for you to come back. I had to fight back the tears knowing that after everything my initial thought of God wanting me back was correct and yet I was finding it hard to believe; finding it hard to be vulnerable enough to let it sink in. That same guy read out his testimony during one of the evening sessions. Like most powerful testimonies it hit me hard. I wanted to thank him for reading his testimony out but I couldn’t find the right time. As a group a day or 2 later we decided to climb a mountain in Keswick.

The same guy enjoyed running around the forest area we walked through and me, being me, wanted to do the same thing. On the way back down I saw him stopping a bit in front and for some unknown reason ran to catch up with him. We then ran off ahead through the forest until there was a gap and I realised I now had a chance to thank him for his testimony. I mentioned I was getting confirmed soon and didn’t know what to write for my testimony. I didn’t say it to him but when I got asked if I wanted to get confirmed I was so uncomfortable with the idea. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t in a position of faith to give a testimony. I said yes regardless and hoped I’d strengthen my faith before the day came around. Because he had answered my previous question of coming back to faith he took a guess at what my testimony looked like and in a generic way he was mostly there. He just simply said “Well, what is it?”

In that moment I knew I had a chance to try make things right. I hesitated but then thought it would be pointless to not try this opportunity. God had given me someone who seemed mature in his faith, an expert at comforting and helping people to listen and help guide me back to the right path. And I took the opportunity. So I told him a few things from the timeline, not in detail but enough to give him an idea. He told me to feel emotions and let it all out which took me by surprise because I hadn’t made the connection of blocking God out with hiding my emotions.

I said, “Yeah ok I’ll try,” and went on to mention struggling with my relationship with my parents. When I mentioned my Dad I started crying and tried fighting it but he pulled me into his shoulder and told me to let it out. So I did. I cried so hard I got so overwhelmed by a whole mess of emotions and had a panic attack which he dealt with and calmed me down pulling me back in holding me tight as I cried gently into his shoulder. As he held me firm on a public footpath as people walked by, he softly told me lots of comforting, yet convicting, real truths about God’s love for me. As he spoke I realised it wasn’t him who was talking to me, God was. God was using him to hold me, keep me calm and allow me to be vulnerable so He could speak to me in a place I couldn’t run away or switch off my emotions and I was ready to listen. It was the moment I had been waiting and praying for for years.

One thing I will never forget him saying was God’s love is immeasurable; he said, “Multiply your friends love for you by 3, then by 3 again, then 10, then a million, then gazillion and then put it to the power of 10. Even that number doesn’t even come close to as much as He loves you. He sent His only Son who He loved for YOU.” He painted a picture of heaven and said God wanted ME there that’s where I’m going to live forever in heaven worshipping the Lord who made me. He spoke for a while and I listened gently crying. He then let me go and I knew this was the turning point in my life. I went home that night and prayed to God thanking Him for His promises and love for me and for giving me Ben in that moment to soften my heart. I prayed that I may continue to live my life following Him and putting Him first in my life. The next day at the Keswick youth group the leader did a talk and something struck me with what he said. He said some people here might have accepted Jesus as their Saviour but not their King. And as soon as he said it I knew he was talking to me. I’d never realised before but that’s exactly how I’d been living all my life. I needed to accept Jesus as my Saviour AND my King. That meant putting Him first, really worshipping Him and respecting Him with the awe and glory He deserved. And that’s how I want to live. I want to have Jesus as my loving Saviour and precious King reigning forever in my heart and soul outwardly showing His loving kindness in how I live my life for the rest of my days.

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