Having grown up attending Sunday school and church, I never really doubted that God existed. I knew what was involved in becoming a Christian, but I also knew that I wasn’t one.
I grew up living in a ‘Christian’ way, happy to go to church every week and even talk to my friends about God. But I avoided conversations that led to the subject of where I personally stood before God.
When I was about 11, my older sister attended a Christian youth camp. She came back home a changed person. She said she had repented of her sins and asked God into her life.
At this time, my mum, who had been seeking the Lord for some time, said she believed she too was a Christian. In due time, they were both baptised, outwardly symbolising their new life in Christ.
Where did I stand? Prior to the conversion of my sister and mother, I had struggled to encounter and know Jesus for myself. I felt I had sincerely called out to him in prayer, but I also felt that my circumstances were unchanged and my heart was unmoved.
At my mother’s and sister’s baptism, a family friend who didn’t usually come to our church approached me and asked why I wasn’t up there getting baptised along with them. I couldn’t give her a response, but in my heart I knew that the answer was I didn’t yet know Christ the way they did – as personal Lord and Saviour.
This exchange remained with me, and again I went home and asked God’s forgiveness for my own sins. Though I felt a sense relief at the time, the next day I continued as normal, feeling no great change had happened. This happened a few times, as I struggled to know if I had been saved or not.
One evening, my mum again asked me where I stood before God. I told her I honestly didn’t know — that I felt I was trying, but not succeeding.
I then spoke to my pastor about it. I explained that I had asked for forgiveness and that I believed Christ died for those who would come to believe on him, but felt no great change.
As I sat there explaining my dilemma, I realised that, though I had been seeking forgiveness, I wasn’t trusting the Lord to forgive my sins. I didn’t leave it in his hands to deal with, but in some sense tried to rely on what I myself had done: I was mistakenly trusting in the act of calling out for forgiveness, rather than in the One I was calling out to.
I reflected on the previous months and realised that actually, changes had happened. I wanted to read the Bible more; I wanted to pray more. I also came to realise that there was nothing in myself that could change me, only a working of God’s grace – of his showing favour and forgiveness to one who did not deserve it, in and of herself.
I went home and called out to the Lord once more. I thanked the Lord Jesus Christ for dying on the cross and for his working for me and in me. I repented for not trusting in him alone. Instead of a vivid, dramatic moment (that I had heard about in others when they were saved), I experienced a moment of quiet, and of peace with the Lord.
The following day I went to school. I remember waiting to go into a lesson when a couple of people approached me and pointed out that something was different about me and that they couldn’t quite put their finger on why.
That for me, was God answering my prayer. In his compassion he was giving me the assurance of forgiveness that I had prayed for. Since then, I know I can trust God to keep me and I rely on the sacrifice Jesus made.
God has answered so many prayers and continues to watch over me in the present, as I know he will in the future.
Having no idea what I wanted to do after school and not knowing where I should go, the Lord led me to Bristol to study music. He led me to a place where I’ve made good friends, met so many other Christians, and got to be part of a Christian Union and church, where I am taught and encouraged.
Though I still don’t know exactly where my life is leading, I feel the Lord’s loving hand gently guiding me. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths’ (Proverbs 3:5-6).