I was brought up in Plymouth, in a non-Christian family. I always attended a Church of England school and had a very basic understanding of Bible stories. My mum had wanted us to join a Catholic church but my dad refused despite the fact that most of his family were practicing Catholics.
At age 3 I was sexually abused by an uncle. My mum had moved us to stay with my nana, as my parents were having marriage problems. My mum’s younger brothers still lived at home. We were there for about 3 months.
At age 5 my brother took me to a local church about a mile away. We only went a few times but I remember liking it, although I didn’t like the sound of a God who was everywhere and could see everything you did. It really frightened me at the time.
At age 15 my father sexually abused me. Shortly afterwards my parents divorced.
Unsurprisingly I grew up feeling unloved, unprotected and unsafe. I learned to put a brave face on things. My mum did her best to make me feel loved. I developed an unhealthy way of coping. Outwardly I functioned well, got good jobs, worked hard and was always cheerful.
In 1991 after nearly 6 years of living with my first husband we got married. He treated me badly – ‘treat them mean to keep them keen’ being his motto. He came from a Catholic family and his mother disliked me. Eventually in 1993 I could no longer live under the mental cruelty and we separated, although I did agree to go back to him after he pleaded with me. I stayed unhappily with him until I met Bob.
Bob, Alpha, Baptism & Counselling
I met Bob in 1994 and fell in love. We lived together for 3 years until I fell pregnant with Stanley. We had planned to get married in September ‘97 but Stan’s arrival changed that and we got married in March ’97 at Gretna.
When Stan was nearly six months I told Bob we should get him Christened – in a way that was traditional. Bob had just started going to Slough Baptist Church and he had tried to get me to go when he first started, but I didn’t want to lose my lie-in on a Sunday as I was working full time!
I went along to see a dedication and was totally overwhelmed by the whole experience. I felt really comfortable and really excited, like I had found something I was missing. I was very mistrustful of the people and wouldn’t leave Stan with the people in the crèche, so for the first 6 months I went I never heard a sermon except for the family services!
Bob did an Alpha course. One day he came home and told me he had made a commitment to the Lord and that when he died he would be going to heaven and he didn’t want to be separated from me! This brought things sharply into focus and I signed up for the next Alpha to find out more!
During the Alpha I realised that I was angry that God had seemingly allowed all the bad things that had happened to me, but eventually came to the conclusion that it was not God, but fallen man who had done them. I had always believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but unlike others on the course I didn’t feel ready to make a ‘commitment’. I still wasn’t sure what it all meant. Our pastor had started talking about us getting baptised which I didn’t fell comfortable with and said I wasn’t ready.
Then one afternoon I was trying to write my testimony for toddler group when I got to “I am a Christian because…” I couldn’t get any further because I wasn’t sure I was. Had I done enough? What had I done? Did I deserve it? In my mind the answer was no, because of my sin which I seemed unable to stop. So I went to see the Pastor who encouraged me to say the prayer at the back of the Alpha book and also said to me that if we had to wait until we were perfect then no-one would ever be baptised.
So the celebrations began. I was still a little unsure, but he was the pastor and he must know what he’s talking about … right?
We were baptised in March ’98, together. Bob went first. He kindly took all the heat out of the baptism pool which was a bit hot! So we came out as new creations! Now what? In my heart I felt part of God’s family. I so desperately wanted to belong to please him. I changed a lot of my ways, felt conscious of God watching, but could not stop my main sin. We had had marital problems – inevitable given my ‘introduction’ to that side of life – and we bumbled along an up and down road trying to change with no support or proper teaching until we eventually washed up at a Christian counsellor.
She was a lovely lady. The thing I would most take away from the experience was that she reflected God’s love to me in an amazing way helping me to understand how much God loved me. I had never really experienced the love of a father, so it had been difficult for me to comprehend this. She also taught me that my way of coping was a sin against God. It had developed because of what had happened to me, but now remained a habitual sin. I found this very painful to grasp as the ‘grace’ coverall had enabled me to continue using my crutch even though I had been battling against it for years. But ultimately it did not help us.
Around this time some friends of ours who had left our church encouraged us to go to Sozo, a healing ministry. The business wasn’t doing well and we were sinking financially. We went on a Freedom From Freemasonry weekend as my dad is a member. It was an unusual experience. They were very serious about God’s word if a little strange. They encouraged mum to say a prayer and told us she had been saved. Bob and I were very sceptical.
We also did a Freedom In Christ course. Both of these things just added to our realisation of how little we knew, but we wanted truth and real answers to our questions. The wishy washy teaching just wasn’t helping us. The more we prayed and trusted God to guide us, the more he revealed to us.
Sozo did tell us about how Christianity and psychology don’t mix. We went home reeling that day as it dawned on us we would have to give up the business but after hours of research on the internet and lots of prayer we came to the conclusion that this was where God was leading us and we had to trust him.
God’s Gracious Leading
Bob went to the Metropolitan Tabernacle bursting with excitement. He knew he had found the truth there. We went up there as a family and were really struck by the sincerity of the people and teaching even I could understand.
But we were still at Slough. We had been there nearly 12 years. All our children had been born in Slough, all our friends were there; mums and toddlers; home group; Tuesday Break.
God had been utterly amazing: after applying for 9 jobs – Bob had unexpectedly lost his job just before Christmas – only one replied, in Burton. After securing an interview Bob remembered a reformed church up that way, whose pastor was a chap called Chris Hand! Bob got the job and the door opened.
God has provided us with like minded friends in our own church, who helped reassure us that we weren’t going mad, as we were going against everyone else in our church. He provided an amazing escape route out of our financial nightmare. We truly repented of our mistakes and our lack of trust that he would deliver us.
We learned how He is sovereign, and that knowing he is in control He can be trusted. He will never let us down. That He uses the hard times to teach us and help us grow, not to punish us as some teach.
I have grown so much in my understanding. When you grow up with very few boundaries and a lot of insecurity, you need firm boundaries of trust and excellent teaching to help you grow.
The best thing that has happened is the door opening up here. We feel totally at peace because we have clearly seen God’s hand in everything that has happened. The jobs, schools, house, mum’s flat have all happened at the right moment. The children settled immediately! And I feel like we have ‘come home’.
I am excited about learning more about my Heavenly Father who with the power of his Holy Spirit will help me continue to shed my sinful habits and become more Christ-like. I thank the fellowship for making us all feel so welcome, for their prayers on our way up here.