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From a very young age I felt God drawing me to Him. It was a presence that made me feel safe and secure. I longed to know Him, but I didn’t know how. I was raised in a religious family with an awareness of God. We said grace at dinner time, celebrated Easter and Christmas … but I never knew God for myself.

When I was 15, my dad was posted to Sale with the Air Force and I started coming to Sale City Youth group. On my very first night we attended an event called ‘Crossing the Gap’. This was a group of local Christian guys performing incredible motorcycle stunts to a live audience in the middle of a paddock. They shared the message of the Gospel and gave an invitation to take the step of receiving Jesus into your heart. I had never heard of this before. I felt so compelled to respond that despite my shyness, I was the first one up there. That was the moment I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. It was like everything that was calling me during my childhood, was all leading up to that moment. I had begun my journey with God, but I was yet to discover the full potential of a personal relationship with Him.

There were destructive patterns in my life that caused me to spiral through cycles of despair and kept me limited in my walk with God. This included chronic shyness and timidity, which may sound relatively harmless, but it was debilitating and led me to believe that I wasn’t worthy of much at all. An inability to see myself as God saw me caused me to seek affection in all the wrong places. Soon after, still in my vulnerable teen years, I had entered into my first serious relationship with a boyfriend. That was when all of my insecurities and debilitating patterns ramped up. Extreme insecurities, panic attacks, anxiety and depression followed. Everything escalated and opened the door to a dangerous battle with self-harm. No one knew the degree of my battle, as I wouldn’t let anyone in. I went as far as to strategically pick a place to sit at the dinner table, so that nobody could look at me. I went through most of high school with my hair over my face, not making eye contact with anyone. I spent my days in the counsellor’s office, and so many times, I just slept there, completely exhausted and battle weary. It was as if I had made the best decision of my life, then the enemy tried everything to reverse it and sideline me.

There were many people from church that reached out to me and offered support, but I couldn’t embrace hope while I thought I was worthless. This pattern continued for years and years… and through it all, I’d give God just enough to work with me in small and insignificant ways, but I just wouldn’t surrender my walls and grant Him unrestricted access. So, the battle went on, and although I was actively seeking medical and professional support through doctors and psychologists, I remained in a broken state.

 

“There were many people from church that reached out to me and offered support, but I couldn’t embrace hope while I thought I was worthless.”

 

Deep down, I knew I was not in a good place to be involved in a serious relationship, and a part of me knew I was attempting to seek affection and self-worth that I should have been seeking from God. So, I made the decision to step away from any relationships that were taking my focus off of God. I had reached a point where I knew I needed God to put me back together and began to pursue more of Him.

During this process my church family was a massive support – they prayed for me, they were so consistent and patient with me, and they continued to speak over me the truth of what God thought of me and what His Word says about me. This was in complete opposition to the unhealthy thoughts I harboured towards myself.

There were times throughout this period that I was able to function relatively well. I was going to work, I was going to church – on the surface things looked fine, but internally there was a storm brewing in me that was rooted in a deep sense of worthlessness.

At one point the depression worsened and drove me into old destructive patterns. I isolated myself again, I stopped opening up about my struggles and I didn’t let my church family in anymore. I ran back to the familiar comfort of seeking affection from another and, this time, I ended up in the arms of a stranger. There are no words to describe how much this pattern was depleting my already damaged self-worth. That night, I hit my lowest point and I wanted it to be my last night. I wanted to end my life.

At my lowest point of despair, I felt it again. That same call that I had felt all my childhood tugged on my heart. So, on that dark night, instead of driving into a tree I drove myself to hospital. This turning point saved my life. In that moment I responded to God calling me further, I responded with all my heart and with everything in me. I responded beyond my destructive patterns, beyond every limitation and inhibition I had. It was as if I had hit rock bottom and God was my only hope. In that place of complete dependency on Him, every internal wall came down and I truly let Him in. I thought God had given up on me, but He never did and He never could.

 

“In that moment I responded to God calling me further, I responded with all my heart and with everything in me.”

 

My church family hadn’t given up on me either, they walked so closely with me through the journey of recovery. They showed me unconditional love and acceptance and kept pointing me closer to God. It was a radical chapter of progressive healing that led to a completely renewed mindset and released me from an internal prison of torment.

Now, I don’t even recognise my old self. I can clearly identify patterns of self-doubt and I am able to promptly shut them down before they have the chance to take hold. Since entering a real relationship with God I have excelled in all areas of my life. I’m good at my job and I genuinely care about the place and the people. I am no longer a shy spectator but a strong team member who shows initiative and diligence. Friendships and relationships have become so strong and healthy. I’ve come a long way from the girl who wore her hair over her face all of her young adult life.

After a long journey that involved numerous counsellors, psychologists and doctors and multiple prescription medications – I was finally completely healed! Looking back, I can see that I was sick, but I couldn’t be completely restored without receiving the spiritual healing I needed. I needed people in my life who knew God for themselves, who could lead me to Him when I couldn’t see it for myself. Now, my greatest desire is to introduce people to God because only He has the power to save and set free.

If ‘today Emily’ could say something to ‘past Emily’, it would be: “Connect with people who really know God and get on your knees and let God in.” From there, everything changes.