My name is Catherine Oliver. I’m 27 years old and originally from Reading. I grew up in Reading, attending Carey Baptist Church with my family, and this year I was baptised. It has been quite a journey to get to this point. This is my story.
God, please help me
Throughout secondary school I was bullied, and I can remember praying and crying out to God to get me through even the next hour of a class. I felt God was with me and helped me to get through. Bullying had a hugely detrimental impact on me, as well as affecting my family, and I became suicidal. Since my school years, I have battled with my mental health, and there have been several times when I have been extremely close to the point of no return. It has been God and my family who have helped me to carry on.
Does God care about me?
When I finished school, life got better. I had a sense of freedom. I made a new group of friends and was able to have more fun. Gradually, I drifted away from God and this continued into university. Although I thanked God for getting me through school, at the same time, I was angry with him for allowing me to be bullied all that time. I wanted to have fun and enjoy myself, so I looked to others to give me happiness. I went to church on and off, as I felt a conflict between doing what I wanted to do and what deep down I knew was better for me. I ended up getting really hurt by other people and so gravitated towards God again. For a long time I sat on the fence. Part of me felt that Christianity was stifling and that it meant I couldn’t have fun, but I knew that a life without God wasn’t healthy either. On several occasions, I tried to walk away from God and get rid of Christianity, but after a while, something would pull me back towards him.
Searching for the truth
When I was 22, I met my first serious boyfriend. He was very charming and swept me off my feet. However, he was a ‘New Atheist’ and strongly opposed God and Christianity. He challenged me about my upbringing and my way of thinking which made me question everything. I had huge conflict in my mind because on the one hand, I wanted to be with him, but on the other hand, I did not have peace about the relationship. Ultimately, to be with him, I needed to become an atheist. He took me to a couple of events held by atheist groups. I had hoped to hear more about atheism, as well as to understand it, but instead, the meetings were just based on a general topic. My partner explained that atheism has no belief system and that there wasn’t much more to it than that. This was too simple and left me unsatisfied, as I couldn’t just believe in nothing. At one event, the host made a joke about God, which both he and my partner laughed about but I remember disliking this. At this event, songs were sung poking fun at Christianity. This amused me as I wondered why they are so bothered about God if they are atheists.
Eventually, the relationship ended. Although I tried, I could not become an atheist or have a humanist wedding. I knew that ultimately I wanted to marry a Christian.
The truth shines through
In 2014, I went back to university again to become a qualified nurse. The course was extremely challenging, and I hated it. I was angry at God as I felt that nursing was something he had called me to do yet the course had been hugely difficult at times. However, I still went to church as I still believed in him and recognised that God had blessed me in other ways.
In 2015, I met Theo, who was a Christian. He was the first Christian I had been out with, and it made a massive difference. Instead of trying to live in two worlds, or drifting away from God, my relationship with God grew, and he became my focus.
As C. S. Lewis wrote; ‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.’ This is my experience of God.
I can’t say the exact moment I became a Christian, but I now knew that I was. I still have questions, and there are several things I don’t understand, but I am a work in progress. There are many things the world offers, but I know that the world is temporary and often causes more harm than good. A world without God makes less sense, and in my experience is less satisfying, than a world with him. I am thankful that despite my attitude and behaviour, God still loves me.
Deuteronomy 31:6 particularly sticks with me, ‘Do not be afraid or terrified because of them for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’ Looking back on my life I can see that God has never left me. I am thankful to him that he is consistent and he doesn’t change even when my emotions do. Despite many testing times, God has kept me clinging close to him, and I trust that he will continue to do so.