My name is Sarah and I have been to church all my life. I realised pretty quickly that it was far easier to say “my mum’s a vicar” if people asked me about my faith than explain what I believe. I didn’t want to get confirmed for a long time because I didn’t have all the answers and I wanted to wait until I was certain. About everything. But now I understand that I will never be able to fully understand everything and that a desire to live life God’s way is enough. That is why I have decided to get confirmed today. Not because I have finished my journey, but because I want to start one.
Like many people, one of the first times I met with God was at Soul Survivor a couple of years back. I spent the whole of the first ministry session praying loudly to just watch. People falling on the floor were both extremely scary and discouraging. Why did they get to experience the Lord when I can’t hear or feel anything? I felt like I just wasn’t good enough. However, on the last day I just opened up to God and prayed earnestly for the first time that week. This is what I wrote in my diary that evening: “I looked up at the cross and just pictured him dying. The pain in his chest, hands and feet was nothing compared to the anguish and agony of being separated from God. “Oh Lord, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Without God) you die inside, you recoil from yourself as if you despise everything. Then, if you want to, you too can rise from the dead.”
And that is what I wanted, complete renewal.
The comedown from Soul Survivor hit me harder than most as the one person I trusted enough to explain my transformation to, the one person I had the courage to tell, used my faith as a weapon against me when we broke up. Suddenly my amazing realisation didn’t seem so amazing. He used ‘Christian’ as a negative adjective and he even followed me to church and sat directly behind me, headphones in, staring at me, for an entire service. I still don’t understand what he got out of it, but it felt like the church was no longer my sanctuary.
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t invite Oliver to church. Not for a long time. I hadn’t lost my personal faith, but my enthusiasm and willingness to share it was gone.
But God hadn’t given up on me and he started to rebuild my confidence. I helped with a sermon at the discovery service and invited Oliver along. I still waited for him to laugh at me or to make a derogatory comment. It took me ages to believe that he wanted to come to church and I’d constantly ask him if he actually wanted to and tell him not to come if he only came to please me.
In January last year, me and my friend Becca helped out Heather, the children’s minister, with running a seminar at the Children’s Ministry Conference. Afterwards she gave us each a book on leadership and the verse she inscribed in the cover was Isaiah 41:10, “do not be afraid- I am with you! I am your God- let nothing terrify you! I will make you strong and help you; I will protect you and save you”. It was perfect. In fact, Vicky, our last careforce worker, gave me the exact same verse at Spring Harvest this year. God obviously wanted me to hear it.
I wanted to understand God’s plan for my life and one of the things I was struggling with was ascertaining whether God wanted me to study law. I remember a service about gifting and an amazing dramas about a man who wanted to find a clearly God-given purpose to his life and ignored the obvious things he enjoyed, failing to see how God could work through them. The preacher (I forget who it was) was saying about how God gives us passion and energy and excitement for the things he wants us to do. So all through the sermon I was thinking about how I wasn’t supposed to do law, but writing, something I love. However, God had other ideas, and whilst I was talking to the Vicar afterwards, a sentence that I wasn’t really in control of came out my mouth. I am really passionate about law. And as I said it I realised that God wants me to study law. In fact, in Matthew 5:19 which I was pointed to a little later, it says “whoever obeys the Law and teaches others to do the same will be great in the Kingdom of God”.
I could go on forever about the little moments where I have seen God work in my life, but instead I will leave you with just one instance.
Less than two weeks ago in Will’s sermon, he used an illustration about a statue of Jesus in France which had its hands blown off in the war. The plaque now reads “I have no hands but yours”. After the sermon, as we were praying, and in fact I was kind of dozing off, I could feel my hands go cold, as if a breeze was swirling around my fingers. It was pretty amazing. God is alive and I could feel him.
God wants to use me so I think it’s time to stop making excuses and simply say “here I am, send me”.