Loved even with wounds

by Colin Dexter

As Alpha began, I felt the need to reflect on my life with God. Growing up I had always believed in something, I was so sure about a God existing although I had no idea how to have a relationship with him. I did things that I thought would earn me his love and rewards; very rarely feeling anything. Christian festivals or youth group weekends away turned into opportunities to spot the hot boys. I normally hooked up with a few and then felt guilty about it afterwards.

My whole relationship with God and the Church had been a confusing mess. It all stemmed back to abuse that I faced in church when I was 13 years old. Abuse that left me so broken and scared. I was constantly angry with the Church, angry with God and resenting everyone around me who tried to interfere.

At the time when I was 13, I didn’t realise I was so angry. Instead I wanted to find my own coping mechanisms; to find a way to switch off all those things I was feeling. The hurt, the pain, the dysfunction of everyday life. Rather than talk about it, I found my own way. This magical coping mechanism with new my best friend, Anorexia. She did so much for me, controlling my every move but it didn’t matter because she made me feel amazing. Anorexia was everything I needed to get me through day to day and I loved it. Throughout my illness I carried on going to church but was unable to really engage with anything there. I would use it as a chance to skip meals, and be out more.

It was all going swimmingly, or so I thought. All up until aged 17 and with a failing heart and yellowing skin I was admitted to a mental health hospital. I didn’t get it. Why was everyone trying to take away this one thing in my life that made me feel so good? The one thing that I felt was my solution to everything?

People would visit and pray for me. All the while, I was praying for the pain to just go but felt nothing from God. He never had given me what I needed. It seemed to me that he had watched me fall and crumble. That he had watched me suffer at the hands of an abuser. This so-called God; how could he possibly claim to love everyone? That was where faith had stopped for me.

Facing my brokenness

Eleven years ago I walked out of a church and vowed never to go back. I tried church three times at university but once again felt judged, and like no one understood.

Little did I know that eleven years later I would be stood in the entrance to Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), sweating on a hot summer’s Sunday evening. I looked through the door, debating what to do. Eventually I crept in, hiding in the back row of church so no one would talk to me; so I could keep myself separate.

Then Alpha began. I had no idea what to expect, so my guard was up. I spent the first few weeks resorting back to my old teenage self (that version of me where I so often used to get stuck, trapped in my 13-year-old self that was formed by the abuse).

I knew something was stopping me making a commitment to God but I couldn’t work out what. Perhaps the idea of giving up control? Trust? The guilt I felt? The fact that I couldn’t let go of my past? I felt God had punished me over the summer, and over parts my life because of what had happened to me as a child.

Hope Virgo (extract) “Stand Tall little Girl”

Facing up o Anorexia

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