The last time I went with my parents to church was when I was fourteen. I got bored, I didn’t understand what the pastor was talking about, and there was no one there I wanted to be friends with.
The previous year I had been afraid that my friends would find out that I went to church. In the years after this, I did everything I could to hide the fact that we were a Christian family. I was embarrassed about my family and embarrassed about their faith.
It was seven years before I set foot in a church again. After I had moved abroad to study, in my final year a good friend invited me to the local church. He said that I was always trying to fill a need in my life, but the problem was that I was looking in the wrong place.
In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes: ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.’
This was exactly what I had been looking for. I was trying to fill my need with things of this world which could not satisfy me, and when I was so embarrassed about my parents and their faith, I looked everywhere apart from Christianity. Between the ages of 17 and 23, I had had five serious ‘long-term’ sexual relationships, and just as many short-term ones. I often got drunk while out with my friends in the city, and tried different drugs that just brought fleeting pleasure. And I was more miserable than ever while doing all this. I was more anxious than ever, and I had never been more unsure of myself, and of who I was.
The good foundational values my parents had given me as a child rescued me. However, like so many other good things in this world, my salvation came out of something bad. For seven years I had put my need for acceptance above my value of not swearing. For seven years I had put my need for affirmation above my value of not getting drunk. For seven years I had put my need for love above my value of not having sex before marriage. Finally, I experienced what happens to everyone who puts their needs above their values: a total breakdown.
The turning point came at Christmas 2013, when after yet another break-up with yet another girlfriend, I was so depressed that the only place I could find peace for my anxiety, love for my depression, and hope for my future, was with God. It was at this point that I decided to stop trusting in myself, and started to trust God. It was the beginning of a journey that has resulted in me leaping out of bed every morning. It says in the Bible, ‘But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:33). What amazes me is that I’ve received everything I was looking for, it’s just in another form than what I’d expected. A much much better form.
In many parts of the world the word ‘church’ is something of a taboo word, a word that very few people want to associate themselves with. This just shows how misunderstood the church is. When I was invited to church in the country I’m now studying in, my idea of church was turned upside down. It wasn’t a nursing home, nor was the Bible read in a monotone. The church was a group of people who met me with a warmth, a love, an acceptance and a joy that I hadn’t felt for seven years. I also realised that the church is not only for people who are already Christians. It’s for everyone, and in particular for our friends who we want to share this infinite love with.
After this turning point in my life, I also saw that the question I had asked myself when I was younger was the wrong question. The question was not whether I was proud of my family. The question should be, ‘Is my family proud of me?’
Written by a student.