My parents were Christians and I went to church with them when I was a child. I always said that I believed in God, but didn’t question too deeply about what that meant to me. At seventeen I started making excuses not to go to church. My parents tried to encourage me, but I was filling my time with going out, drinking, clubbing, boyfriends so I didn’t give myself much time to think about God. I pretty much wanted to do my own thing, live life my way.
I moved to Cardiff when I was twenty-four, working in Caerphilly for a few years. Some people on my team were Christians, two actually became Christians while I knew them and I watched them get baptised. Driving home after one baptism, I remember feeling so empty and kind of lost. I was really upset, wondering where I was going with my life. I was crying and I remember calling out to God to help me. I had a nice life, was doing what everyone else was doing, focusing on things I thought I wanted and needed. I wasn’t happy though, deep down.
Life’s biggest question
I was in a relationship at the time and picked up a book on being a Christian with a non-believing partner. I realised I couldn’t wait for my boyfriend to be in the same place I was. This was a personal thing. I had this sense of a God, looking at the beauty of nature, the complexity of life, design was everywhere! I thought of dying too… coming face-to-face with God. There would be no excuse I could give Him. Surely this is the biggest question in life, why was I doing nothing about it?
I had wasted enough time. I needed to figure out as an adult, what it was all about. I became single at thirty, the first time in years, and knew I had this chance to be on my own to find out more.
I told my parents that I wanted to go to a church, they knew of one in Clydach, so I started going regularly. I thought I knew what Christianity was all about, having gone to church as a child, but it became apparent that I really wasn’t clear about many things. Attending church and later going on a Christianity Explored course helped clarify things for me and I really started to understand who Jesus was, why He came and why He died. I started to get what all this ‘paying for my sins’ was about!
I realised that the world we live in is a broken world because of the sin that entered it. This caused us to be separated from God, wanting to live our lives our own way, without answering to Him. That was true, it described me! But, I also realised that God loves me and has given me a way out to be saved from this. He sent Jesus and if I trusted in His death on the cross… to die in my place… for my sins… then I am forgiven. Jesus has dealt with them on the cross, and I am no longer separated from God.
God saves us though Jesus. I was deeply moved by this ultimate love and sacrifice, realised how I was a sinner and felt guilty for the way I had been living my life. I prayed honestly to God, I confessed to Him the things that I was ashamed of and asked for His forgiveness.
Gradually, after a few months, I felt that I believed and I thought that I was a Christian.
Making perfect sense
The Aberystwyth Conference in 2010 was again a great opportunity for me to really focus and learn more, it became more real. It was all fitting together. It wasn’t until I was travelling back, that something wonderful happened. It suddenly all made perfect sense. My eyes felt like they opened and I could see the world clearly. I could see. I was just so moved by the power of this conviction that I was crying. It was amazing, and I knew that this was it. I knew that I really did believe in Him. The assurance that I felt just amazed me.
I remember before, I didn’t quite ‘get’ this when a friend was telling me how God had changed him. He was so happy and full of this joy. I’ll be honest, (and I considered myself a Christian at that time), I didn’t feel that way myself. I had been sceptical of what he told me. After Aberystwyth, I rang him up and said to him ‘Now I know what you were talking about!’
Faith in God impacts everything. One immediate example for me was that before the conference, I had been concerned with what people would think, so I hadn’t told anyone I was going to a Christian conference… for a whole week. But after, I wasn’t worried anymore about what they thought. So I just honestly told whoever asked. It was incredibly liberating, and I felt relieved too. I was finally being true to God, being open about my faith in Him. I wasn’t hiding away what I believed any more. I was me.
Life didn’t feel right before because that separation from God was the cause of the emptiness I was feeling. Being right with Him is what has made me feel so complete and at peace. And yes, there are challenges being a Christian, it’s not going to be an easy life once you believe in God! I’m certainly not perfect; I will sadly make mistakes and sin. But, I now know I am forgiven if I trust in Christ. Being forgiven does not mean complacency though; seeking God’s help I still need to work on the sin in my life.
It just keeps on amazing me how this conviction has changed my life. And all those years ago I would have thought submitting my life to God wouldn’t be the most exciting thing in the world, I really had no idea. It feels like I am finally alive. Earth’s joys do not compare to the joy of being reconciled to God. All I ever needed was Him. It feels like I’ve come home, I now know it’s where I’m meant to be.
Esther van der Spoel was recently baptised at Bethel Evangelical Church in Clydach, Swansea.