‘Suddenly, I had a choice not to retaliate’

Marnie’s story | God’s Spirit at work

“I don’t think I was a particularly nice child. If someone said or did something mean to me, I’d react, and try to get them back, usually with my words. If they said something that I found offensive (which was quite often), I’d say something to get revenge or cut them to shreds.

Then I went on a Christian camp when I was 16. I remember that some of the others were talking about how good it would be when they got to heaven. As I listened to them, I distinctly remember thinking that actually, I didn’t know whether I was going to heaven when I died. How could I be sure?

That evening, I spoke to one of the camp leaders about it. He encouraged me to pray to God. As I prayed, it suddenly became really clear to me that that’s why Jesus had to die on the cross. I’d grown up in a Christian, church-going family, so I’d heard the gospel and I knew the Bible well, but it suddenly became clear to me that Jesus died on the cross so that we could be right with God. There was no other way for any of us to get to heaven.

I can’t describe the freedom I felt in that moment. I was so aware of it! I was free indeed! For the next two years, I went to a non-Christian high school and then I studied at university. During that time, I was surrounded by people who thought differently to me. But I felt free from their expectations. Before the camp, I would have felt burdened by it – I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough. It was a normal teenage thing, I know, but it changed after the camp. I was convinced that in Christ, I was whole. I was good enough because Christ was good enough. I didn’t have to worry (as much) what other people thought.

Then I noticed that God’s Spirit was actually working in me. I started to change. If someone said or did something mean to me, I had a choice. I could stop and choose a different path instead of retaliating! I could hold back my words. It was almost like I had a renewed ability to let things go. I would never have been able to do that before I was a Christian!

Of course, many years have passed since then. I’m now in my early 40’s and I think the challenge over the last 20 years has been to keep on trusting in God – that his path is good, regardless. What if things don’t work out the way I want? Will I still be able to trust God? I think it can be easy to believe the lie that things are unfair, or that we’ve been hard done by.

For me, I didn’t get married until later in life. There were many years when I wasn’t sure if marriage or children would ever happen for me. Would God be big enough for my disappointment, if that didn’t work out? What if the weight of disappointment affected my faith in Jesus? I thought about it for some time, but I think I learnt over those years that God is big enough. I can trust him on the path he leads me on, whatever that is like, because I’m never going to be disappointed by God.

It’s strangely relevant at the moment. I’m working part-time as an accountant for Greater West for Christ. I’m normally in the office, but of course, I’m now working at home in lockdown. As hard as that is, I actually seem to have more space to spend time with God. My mind is a lot quieter than it normally is and I can pray.

This week I’ve been reflecting on Jeremiah 6:16: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” I’m so thankful that God stopped me at the crossroads all those years ago … because it’s only on his path that I can truly find rest for my soul.”

Marnie’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

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