‘When I was young mum took me to church each Sunday, yet the impression that I was given was all about rules, good attendance and cold buildings. Once Sunday school finished for me we stopped going and I didn’t think twice about going back to church. However when I first came to university two girls in the flat below me in halls were Christians and one week they invited me to go with them to church. It was completely unlike anything that I had experienced before, and off the back of that they suggested that I went on a truth explored course. It was here that I met Ellie and Cathy, and it was fantastic to actually hear about and discuss Jesus and the concept of grace, as well as to ask any questions comfortably. But I didn’t feel that the gospel applied to me. I was a bad person and far too broken for God to care about me.
When I was 14 I became very unwell with anorexia. I didn’t know Jesus’ love so I focused my energy into school and exams interspersed with stays in hospital, and managed to get good A’ levels and escape to Bristol for university. However at the end of my first year I had to go into hospital again for another few months. Ellie and Cathy had taken me to church a few times, but I thought like all uni friendships that this wouldn’t last, and that they would realise that I am not worth bothering with. I thought that they would see me as a complete failure for not being well. But, praise God, this wasn’t the case. Cathy came to visit me every single week to read the bible with me and to teach me the gospel. And when I told her that this didn’t apply to me because I was a bad person, she didn’t try to tell me that I am good like all of the therapists did. Instead she agreed, yet further still she told me that she was bad too – we were all bad and that’s why we needed Jesus so greatly.
I wish that I could say that this was the end of my story – that I accepted Jesus into my life and didn’t have to measure my worth by what the scale said anymore. But this wasn’t the case. After leaving hospital I once again became very unwell, and was in and out of university having to have hospital admissions for refeeding. Friends had had enough. My parents were frustrated, and I distanced myself from the church before they could reject me too. So when I was suddenly told that I had to have another emergency admission I was so, so scared and felt more alone than I had ever felt in my whole life. And for some reason, I rang Cathy. It was like I had never distanced myself from her, and she arranged for Ellie to take me to the hospital, taking a morning off work. Just for me. And I will never forget that she told me on the way that the most common command in the bible was ‘do not be afraid’. It was ok to be scared. It was ok to be broken.
A few months into my stay, Ellie introduced me to Claire who she said would love to read the bible with me. To hear that someone was willingly offering to spend time with me really took me aback, but I agreed, and this was the best things that I have ever done in my whole life. Through sheer perseverance Claire managed to convince me that the gospel applied to me too, and I started seeing the bible for what it was – God’s word that I wanted to live by to honour the massive sacrifice that he made for me by giving his only Son to die on the cross. For sinners like me. Like all of us.
Gradually Claire started encouraging me to come to church. She would drive me straight there and then rush me off afterwards so that I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. I found it very hard to come when I was unwell as I felt bad that someone would have to endure sitting next to me for the service when they would prefer to sit next to someone else. But Claire never gave up on me. When I couldn’t leave the house, she still tried to come over and eased me back into life with patience and love. I saw God’s love through her and her husband Aiden. And since then, for the first time, I have put on weight outside of hospital. I have begun volunteering and finding worthwhile things to fill my time with, and I have now not needed a hospital admission for over a year. When doctors tell you that your illness is chronic and that you will never get better, you start to believe them. But Claire, Ellie, Cathy and other friends at church believed in me and the power God’s love to allow me to claim my life back. They believed in me when I had stopped believing in myself and was ready to give up. For them this wasn’t an option.
So gradually I became more and more part of my local church. Unlike anywhere else that I have ever been I have never felt judged here. I have always felt accepted as who I am – broken, but loved by God who created me, and all of us, ‘before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.’