Though my testimony is not earth shattering and there’s many who have experienced much worse, it’s mine. It’s full of my struggles, pain, and the moments God met me in the midst of them.
I grew up in a loving family environment, with two wonderful parents who took me regularly to church and raised me to believe in God. They weren’t perfect, but they did the best they knew how.
My childhood was pretty good, and I was growing up to be a confident and happy child.
Things changed when I started high school. A group of friends I had entered high school with decided they didn’t want me as their friend anymore. So one day, as I went to put my bag down next to them as I always did, they got up with their bags without saying a word, and left. I followed them, not aware of what was happening. But they kept walking away from me until one of them turned to me and said “we don’t want you in our group anymore.” They walked off giggling and left me standing alone in the playground. Embarrassed and rejected.
Here I was at the tender age of 13, with a very limited view of the world, (as far as I knew, school and friends was my world) a few weeks into starting high school and suddenly I had no friends.
It doesn’t seem so dramatic now, but little did I know back then, that this single act of rejection would be the start of a turmoltuous few years for me, and anxiety that would carry on for many many years.
I eventually made other friends but my self esteem had taken a hit. I didn’t understand what had happened. I didn’t understand rejection. And from that point on, every negative thing someone would say about me, I would hold as truth.
I was called a tall freak as I walked past a group of (much shorter) snickering kids, I was told I “wasn’t even remotely pretty” by a boy in my class, another boy spread a nasty rumour about me and I was labelled as a slut. (I was 13, and had never so much as kissed anyone!) Girls would walk by and look me up and down and laugh behind their hands and I instantly took that as more rejection. Something must be wrong with me if all of these things were happening.
Every day I went to school, I was taking in others opinions of me and trading it for the truth.
When I looked in the mirror, I saw someone ugly and unwanted.
It wasn’t long before I started to pile on the make up, the fake tan – anything to hide the real me. I had developed an opinion of myself that was so low, I was ashamed of my reflection and thought anything was better than just being myself.
At some point during high school I was taken to church youth group by my friends. But this time, the words that were spoken by the pastor weren’t just religious quotes that my mind would wander off from like they did when I was in church as a kid. They were words that related just to me. Words that told me Jesus accepted me and loved me. That no matter who told me I wasn’t good enough, Jesus says I am more than good enough. Jesus thought the world of me. That night at youth group, I accepted Jesus as my saviour.
I’d like to say that from that point on my life got better and better but that wouldn’t be the truth!
The very next week, I got arrested for stealing make up at my local shopping centre. I was 15. Being walked through a shopping centre handcuffed with 2 police officers on each side, was humiliating.
Jesus was my saviour, but I had not yet let him in to my life to change me. And I didn’t do so for a long time.
I had several boyfriends throughout high school, trying to fill the void I felt inside. But they would never work out because I was so insecure. I thought I wasn’t good enough, so they must feel that way too.
One day as I was walking down the hill to greet my friends at school, I tripped and fell. As I was falling, I blacked out for a second. I wasn’t sure what happened, but it left me feeling strange.
Later that day, I was in the bathroom at school and I started to feel like I was going to black out again.
This went on for several weeks until my mum took me to the hospital for an ECG and an EEG. The results showed no irregularities. But one doctor eventually suggested I may be suffering from panic attacks. Internally I would hyperventilate, and this would lead to a lack of oxygen in the brain causing me to black out.
Panic attacks are so awful. It feels like the room spins and you’re about to faint. Your heart races, you get sweaty and weak, and it can often escalate until you feel like you’re gonna die. Someone once described panic attacks as that feeling when you’re walking down the stairs and you miss a step. You know that scary feeling you get for a few seconds? That’s the adrenalin surging around your body. And that’s what happens during a panic attack, but 10 fold.
When I left high school, the panic attacks continued. Only this time I wouldn’t have them on the playground at school, I’d have them walking in to a busy shopping centre, or a crowded area, or anywhere there were people. It made doing anything and going anywhere, hard. Harder than it should be as a young girl, just trying to live life.
My rejection from high school had shaped me into a fearful young woman who thought every stare from a stranger was a confirmation of my unworthiness. When other girls looked at me and smiled, I thought they were laughing inside. I was looking at the world through rejection-stained glasses.
As I got older, eventually things started to get easier. Painful memories from high school weren’t so fresh in my mind and I was able to move forward in life. I was able to go to work, contribute, form relationships and laugh at myself. I was able to accept compliments. I was able to look in the mirror and be ok with my reflection. I was able to have fun. But no matter what I did or where I went, there was always an underlying, deep rooted self belief that I simply wasn’t good enough.
This cycle of lies continued well into my twenties, even on my wedding day, I suffered so much anxiety that I couldn’t wait for it to end. I thought I looked terrible and felt embarrassed.
I still believed in God throughout this time, but I didn’t trust Him to help me. I didn’t read His word or turn to Him. I just tried to get on with my life and do the best I could.
It wasn’t until Andre and I started trying to conceive a year later, and experiencing the struggle of infertility, that I reached out to God. Desperate and hopeless, I called on Him. And He answered me.
Though my main reason for calling on God was to (selfishly) receive a baby from Him, He had other plans.
He led me to read books that would open my eyes to His great love for me.
For the very first time in my life, I got a revelation about who God was, and is. And suddenly I had hope. God was not just a figure in heaven, distant and unattached. No, God was my father! Who desired to be in a close relationship with me! Who loved me so much He bothered to count every hair on my head! This God had planned a wonderful life for us, one that went wrong when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden and consequently had us all living in a fallen world where we would experience sickness and suffering. But God had a plan to restore us back to him! To restore our lives and redeem us from this fallen world! And He was willing to give up His own son to do that for me! I started to realise that God had always been there for me, even in the hardest of times. He was not the author of the bad things that had happened. He was right there, willing me to turn my face toward Him. He was always drawing me back to Him, waiting for me to accept His invitation.
This revelation I had, was something I had not ever heard before – even after years of growing up in church. The scales had fallen off my eyes and I could finally see the truth.
That was in 2011 and I was 24 years old. (I fell pregnant shortly after this revelation :))
Now I am no longer tormented by the rejection from my past. Although some days I still have to fight to keep out the lies the enemy tries to tell me, I am more confident in who I am in Christ, than ever before in my life.
I’m confident in God’s opinion of me, I’m confident that He loves me, and I know I am very much accepted.
This confidence means I can look in the mirror and see a woman who was fearfully and wonderfully made by God, instead of the lack that the enemy tries to convince me of.
This confidence means I can hold my head high, and not in fear of a panic attack, because God had said He has me in His right hand and will not let me fall.
This confidence means I don’t have to be concerned with who thinks what of me. It means freedom.
This doesn’t mean I no longer struggle with these things – it’s a journey that might not ever end until my life on earth comes to an end. There’s times I still have panic attacks. There are a lot of days where I look in the mirror and am critical of everything I see. But now I have hope. Now I can cast down those negative thoughts and choose to replace them with what God says about me. Now I can see my value. Now I can see my life has purpose. Now I can see the power of words, and how those words can carry life or death. How one single act, big or small can have an impact on someone’s life.
So can I encourage you if you’re reading this, don’t let anyone else or their words determine your value. Find out who you are, WHOSE you are and accept that as your truth.
Love yourself, love others, and be kind.