My Story/Testimony (Trust me, It gets REAL)
I feel like in order to start my new journey of re-igniting my blog, I should share a bit more about myself and my story (a.k.a my testimony!)
(Side Note: *For those who aren’t Christians or are unsure of what a testimony is, A testimony is the story of how you came to know God and is a way of sharing your personal experiences and journey!*)
My first ever pivotal spiritual moment in my story didn’t start until college, but I feel I should give a brief overview of my life until that point as there are little seeds God planted in my life before that moment, that uprooted themselves later on and played important roles. This post is definitely a long one, so get comfortable. ( I promise it’s worth it, and I’m so happy to get to share this part of my life with you! I’m hoping this story might bring some relief or encouragement for new Christians or people starting off their journey )
Starting from the beginning, I was born in Ottawa, Canada. I grew up going to a Catholic elementary school and church, and was used to hearing about God but I didn’t fully comprehend his importance much less to have a relationship with him. My basic understanding was that he loved us, Jesus was nailed to the cross and rose again, and that there was some kind of a burning bush story. I loved going to church, but I was the only one who ever went out of my family. I became an altar server and served for about a year before I realized that sleeping in on Sunday morning sounded a lot more appealing for my nine-year-old self. For most of my life I just believed in God, but that was as deep as it got.
Fast forward to high school, I had a friends group that loved to party on weekends and the memories (or lack thereof) from it would be the topic of conversation for the week to come. My life was an endless cycle of looking forward to the weekend to party, talking about it all week, and doing it all over again. While I was a natural homebody (and spent the majority of time at a party wanting to go home; Introverts can feel me on this one), I still went out anyways. I wanted to feel like I was living my life to the fullest, and having fun while I was still young. My peak of happiness revolved around being under the influence with my closest friends, and that’s how it stayed all throughout highschool.
When I hit my senior year of high school, that was when I started to notice changes in my mental health. I didn’t really understand what I was going through at the time, but all I knew was that I felt isolated and trapped within my own exhausted body. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, which was the darkest I’ve ever felt to date. I never talked about it with anyone, and so I tried to continue as per normal. I stopped going to parties, but when I decided to go out one night the alcohol only induced my anxiety further and all of a sudden being drunk didn’t feel so fun anymore. This was the first time I asked myself why I even drank, to begin with… why was numbing myself or distorting my view of the world more fun than enjoying my actual life? Something was clearly missing in my life, I just didn’t know what.
Once I got to college, I no longer wanted to be the shy, anxious girl I was in high school. I wanted to be confident and independent. ( like all young women do, right?) I was moving away from home for the first time, and It was the change I needed.
I was quick to make friends within my residence building; with some being the neighbors across the hall in the same program as me. Two of them were Christians, and the rest of our group weren’t. I was closest to one of the guys in the group (who was one of the two Christians) and we had a really strong bond from the start. We hardly talked about religion, but he had brought me a women’s bible as a gift one day. Out of politeness I took it, but was quick to hide it where no one else could potentially see it, as I was embarrassed to have it in my possession.
About halfway through the first year, was when I had my first ever experience with God (unbeknownst to me at the time). I had failed a test that was pivotal to continuing in the programs major three courses. It didn’t hit me right away, but a week or two later I broke down in my dorm room alone. The weight of my failure, all came crashing onto me all at once. I was drowning in the feeling of disappointment and failure.
In an attempt to get any sort of comfort, I texted my closest friend from across the hall looking for advice. In response to my text he told me to take out the bible, and to read Jeremiah 29:11. It read “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I still get chills when I read it to this day. I scanned over this bible given to me and couldn’t believe the words I was reading. My sobbing slowed, as did my heart rate. This verse spoke to me so deeply, and I didn’t understand what I was feeling at the time but my anxiety had completely vanished. I felt peace like never before, and it radiated through me. It hit me like a ton of bricks that God had a plan for your life, and you only need to trust in him. I felt like I had no control of my life up until that point, but this verse clearly spoke to me that God had it all figured out, and yet I was trying to control everything. I even remember thinking to myself “ why haven’t I trusted in God sooner?” This was only the beginning.
While I wish I could say that this spiritual moment had made my life do a complete 180 and I was a perfect Christian woman since that day, I’d be lying. It took a lot of work and effort to overcome the wall built up around my heart and I’m still working on it to this day.
I started diving into it with baby steps. I started attending a local church by the college with my good friend from across the hall and some other people within the residence building. It was a Pentecostal church (which up until this point I hadn’t even heard of the word Pentecostal, and my friend had grown up in a Baptist church which was a whole other term that was completely foreign to me at the time). Growing up in a Catholic church and then going straight to a Pentecostal church was quite a contrast, but I found myself clapping and swaying to the worship music they played. There were some people my age there, which definitely wasn’t something I was used to seeing. Going to church was difficult though. It was uncomfortable, out of my comfort zone, and I felt like I wasn’t exactly a ‘church person’. On one hand I enjoyed going because I felt good after, but on the other hand I still didn’t want anyone to know I was going in fear of judgment from others.
I didn’t want to become the “Jesus girl/Bible thumper”. I knew what it was like in the past hearing from other people talking about Jesus, and I always found it super off-putting and so I didn’t want to be that person. But, a part of me was curious. What could make this many people around the world so joyful and hopeful in something they can’t see? Even though I believed in God throughout all of this, I had so many doubts.
My friend in college continued to encourage me, and he played a huge role in getting me to come out with him to church. He continued to push me out of my comfort zone, and it was something I really appreciated about him. Especially since in this case, being pushed out my comfort zone was having a positive impact and influence on my life. This was the first time I felt like someone had my best interests in mind, and I didn’t want it to end.
Once the first year of college was over I continued to stay friends with the neighbour across the hall. Despite meeting in college two hours away from home, he actually lived nearby. He told me about a young adults group he attended every Thursday, and that I was welcome to come along with him and his friends. This became my go-to group and hangout for the entirety of the summer. We would hear a small sermon with some worship, and then all hang out once it was done. A large group of us would go out to either play pool, get some poutine or milkshakes, have game nights, swim for hours at the beach, and I’d come home at 3 am exhausted yet having the time of my life. This was the kind of fun I longed for my whole life, and it didn’t involve any sort of intoxication. I finally felt like myself for the first time in a long time.
God really spoke to me during this summer, and I spent many days debating to myself about whether or not I was all in, or not. I still felt uncomfortable telling my family or friends about young adults, and I avoided talking about God at all costs. I was having the best time of my life, yet I was so conflicted internally.
I got to my breaking point when I was driving to young adults with my friend. I was in the passenger seat, and I had had enough of being undecided in my relationship with God. While I was hearing the sermons fine, and I was trying to get into it and feel the joy everyone kept describing I wasn’t fully there yet. So, on the drive I prayed to God telling him exactly how I was feeling. It ended with me saying to him “If you really are there, and you really want me to keep going to YA then I need to see some kind of miracle like everyone keeps telling me that you can do”. I thought to myself quickly about something that would be impossible to do in that moment of time. I concluded in asking God to show me a Lobster on the road. My head was bowed down at the time, and I asked God “when I raise my head I want the first thing I see is to be a lobster. That will really tell me that you’re listening and want me to continue pursuing you.” Well, when I lifted up my head what was the first thing I saw? A giant lit-up red lobster billboard, with the lobster being the first thing I saw. The blood drained from my face, I felt like I had been put in my place, and I immediately felt myself apologizing to God since he answered my prayer immediately. Something so random and out of the blue, yet he delivered. I felt guilty for even needing to test God, but this was the moment I decided “okay, I’m going to pursue this further.”
The following couple of years since making that decision were not easy. I continued to feel like a fish out of water at church or at young adults. My anxiety was constantly at a high, since all I wanted was to feel like I belonged and I didn’t. It got to the point where I felt I didn’t belong in my “old” life or with my newfound Christian life. Everyone at church seemed to have their life together, and compared to how I grew up I felt like a fish out of water. What I failed to realize then, was that I was judging these people before even getting to know them, and I was only building a higher guard. I kept to myself, since I felt that if people got to know me better I wouldn’t be accepted. Like as if they’d be able to sense the “non-christian upbringing” right off of me and leave.
I spent many days wondering if I had actually accepted Jesus into my heart, or wondering if there was something wrong with me. Why weren’t my results instantaneous? Why weren’t any major changes or miracles happening? I think the true millennial in me wanted instant results. The truth is, my journey from accepting Jesus to trying to follow him has not been stagnant, or an upward acclivity. I had many times where I lost sight since I felt like I wasn’t getting anything from God, and I really missed my old lifestyle. However, it was in those low times when I could notice the changes God had been doing in my life.
The changes happening to me were small but important. Slowly, my thoughts had shifted to think before doing or speaking. I’d ask myself without hesitation what God would think of what I’m doing, or if that aligned with my values. I started to become more aware of the brokenness of the people around me; from drinking, mental health, gossiping, toxicity in the workplace, bullying, etc. All of it was hitting me in the face so bluntly, that even as I talked to people I was hyper-aware of how my actions or words were affecting them. I had more compassion for people pouring out of me than ever before, and I had a sudden passion for people to feel loved and accepted. I could no longer be apart of gossip with my friends because I felt a sadness stirring inside of me, and I felt uncomfortable while it was happening. I was being convicted, and I learned to listen to it and grow from it.
The changes happening to me only became stronger each day, the more I grew in my relationship with God. I explained it to people as feeling like I suddenly had my eyes open, like as if I had previously been living in this bubble and I was now able to step outside of it and look back at it through a different and compassionate lens. The person I was becoming was the person I always wanted to be, and God was able to lead me there.
Fast forward to today. I made the personal choice to be baptized in 2019 as a way to solidify my obedience and will to learn and know God better. I was tired of feeling on the fence, and not accepting Jesus into my heart the way I wanted to. I still face judgment and mockery from those close to me about my faith, but I stand firm in my belief that there is a God who loves you. As someone who never had any strong belief; or care for one, to be where I am today says so much about God and who he is.
My journey took trying to be open and trying something new. It took the softening of the wall around my heart to hear the words I was being told and to understand them. It took patience and compassion to see through the eyes of those around me I was so quick to judge. It took courage to continue seeking God despite the trials and the judgment. It took vulnerability to pray openly to God about my deepest and darkest moments, and giving them over. It took gentleness with myself for the setbacks. It took giving up; giving up control and my perfectionism. Finally, It took acceptance. Acceptance of the messages I was hearing, the feelings I was having that God would set on my heart, and accepting that it truly was Jesus through it all.
John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.