Ive always considered myself a Christian, I got baptised in February 2012 and I remember afterwards being on a total high. i went around and hugged every single person at my church that was there after the service- my church is quite big so thats a lot of hugs.
Soon after i went on my youth weekend away, and for the first time in my life, i felt totally open in praying and worshiping. I felt free to raise my hands during worship, and didnt worry about what people thought of me. At the end of one of the worship nights, one of our youth leaders asked if anyone felt the need for prayer, which i felt called to. So i went down and talked and was like "i dont know what i need prayer for, but can you please pray for me" and one of my leaders prayed for me. During the prayer i burst into floods of tears, and another leader joined to pray. Later on my youth asked me if i was okay, and my reply was that i was the happiest ive ever felt and it was good tears.
For some time this spiritual high carried on and i felt so close to God, and really got involved with the church and saw God work. But then i hit a really difficult season, and started struggling a lot with my confidence and self worth. Instead of seeking safety and security in God, I dived into school work and put so much pressure on myself school wise and image wise that it really made me sick. I began to secretly hate myself, and hurt myself a lot because of this.
My parents found out about this a few weeks before i was to go on my first step out mission, and they gave me an ultimatum; either I talked about it to my house group leaders or went to the doctors. Doctors made me really anxious so i avoided the latter and told my house group leaders, who really helped and supported me through a lot of my darkest times. but they werent professionals, and they had other things to deal with so it got to a point where there wasnt really anything left they could do to help.
I remember my first step out mission in 2014 on the first night at the evening service I was asked the question "when is your spiritual birthday" i.e.When did I become a christian... I didnt have one, mine was my baptism i guess. The next day at team devotionals our team leader asked what changed when we became christians... At the time, i didnt have an answer.
One of the girls on the team shared her testimony and talked about the struggles she had of overcoming self hatred and how God healed her hurt, and at the time I longed for that. That week, God showed me that there is purpose for my pain and that even though i hated myself, he loved me and had a plan to use me in amazing ways even though i couldnt see the bigger picture. I discovered the verse 1 John 3:20 which says "But even when we dont feel at ease, God is greater than our feelings and he knows everything"
Over the next few months there were many highs and lows, and i had points where i felt God with me and work through me and seasons where he felt miles away.
I then went to a small event in my church where a small group of about 20 people met up to talk about revival in Scotland. at one point the topic of spiritual healing was brought up and i totally broke down sobbing. I was then taken into another room with my closest friend, and two leaders one of which i had never met. The one i hadnt met before, Ruth, had words for me and she said "you are beautiful and you are smart" these were two simple words, but i couldnt even say them aloud. I didnt feel smart or beautiful. I felt dumb and ugly. But through prayer and support, by the end of the day i was able to say the words and almost believe them.
A year ago last Christmas, I got into a really bad and harmful thing and slipped back into self loathing and low confidence. When my parents found out, i ran away because i was so ashamed of what i had done... I couldnt face them. I packed a bag with some money, food, my bible, and a book i got for christmas. That night was one of the lowest points in my life, but as i read the book I discovered something amazing. I discovered a life worth living.
In society, we determine an objects value by how much we are willing to pay for it. So a really good footballer will be worth a tonne of money, and in some eastern cultures its tradition that if a man wants to marry a girl, he'll pay the family with goats or cattle. The prettier the daughter, the higher the price, that kind of thing.
If how much we are willing to pay for something determines its value, then just imagine how valuable we must be to God. God didnt just part with a few thousand pounds to get us on his team, and he didnt just give up his best cattle to pay for us to be his- he bought our freedom at the cost of his own sons life. God demonstrated just how much he treasures me by sending down his son to pay for my ransom, and to free me from the very torture i actually deserve.
The God who created the universe, loves me more. So with knowing this, how can I look in the mirror, look at all my imperfections, and be disgusted? How can I see myself as worthless? When I criticise myself, I criticise God's creation. When I say I'm worthless, I say Jesus death is meaningless. If I say I'm a mistake, I say God made a mistake... and God doesn't make mistakes.
One of my favourite songs, 'treasure' by flyleaf sums this up perfectly;
Refined I've become the most dazzling precious treasure,
I am treasured over all the earth,
Just look at what he's done,
How he's laying down his life,
Take this life oh most dazzling precious treasure...
At step out training, we were encouraged to describe our testimony in a sentence. For me, it would be this; before I was broken, and now I am treasured.