For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light.
– Ephesians 5:8
Today marked the last day of classes. With three assignments left to hand in and thankfully no final exams to do, I can safely say that third year is finally over. The end of this school year brings with it a couple of things: I will get to take a break, I will get to start my co-op position, and it will finally be summer. This also marks more than half-way through my degree. Following this semester, I will have four study semesters left and hopefully one more co-op position, and then it’s off to the real real world. Praise God!
But this year also brought with it massive change in my own life and how I approach it. In 8 months I have grown, changed, and converted.
This was me in the first week of September. I just came back from vacation sporting a really nice tan and a big smile. It was different from what I had experienced a month and a half prior, where I was super upset over a guy. But I thought that after being refreshed and renewed from vacation, I would be able to take control of my life, go through third year with ease and ultimately become a happier person.
Long story short, that didn’t happen. But for the sake of this post, I will actually tell you the long story (which I promise isn’t actually that long).
About a month after this photo was taken, I found myself shaking, crying, and filling out an intake form for health and counselling at SFU. The day before I found myself in an uncomfortable chair in a room that smelled like latex, I had a panic attack at school. The night before that, I was considering something that I hadn’t thought about in months: suicide.
I soon found myself seeing a counsellor every two weeks. My panic attacks were frequent and I was extremely moody and stressed out. At the time I was balancing school, work, some semblance of a social life, extra curricular activities, and preparing for my piano diploma exams in December/January. I had insomnia already, and the condition of my back further perpetuated a lack of sleep. I would stay awake thinking about inevitable failure and letting people down. I hated letting people down.
At this point I should also probably mention that I really couldn’t care less that there was a God for me. I still went to church, still served as the accompanist for mass choir and helped out with youth ministry. I was there because I didn’t want to let people down, but at the same time there was a certain uneasiness that came with going to these events. I felt scandalized and fraudulent, like I didn’t belong, like I didn’t deserve to be there because of my relationship (or lack of) with God.
November was the hardest for me. The panic attacks were even closer together and I was struggling with everything. In particular, I was failed a few practice exams for my piano diploma, leading to question my own ability to teach. I wasn’t able to focus in class because I was so anxious and kept expecting an impending doom. I felt tired and hopeless and abandoned. Even though I had family and friends, I still felt all alone, as if God had abandoned me.
Once final exams had come and gone, I was able to take two weeks to catch my breath. But despite this new-found freedom, I still felt anxious. I suddenly found myself ill two days before Christmas, and eventually I slept through the holiday and didn’t feel like myself at all. I wanted to end it all.
There was just one problem. I had this thing called Rise Up that I had signed up for months and months before. I had panic attacks about going alone and going into the conference not knowing anyone. With my family out-of-town and the snow about half my height, I made the trip downtown, feeling physically a little better but still incredibly anxious and weary. But despite my anger and anxiety, there was something inside of me telling me that I needed to go to this conference.
This was one of the first photos that I took in 2017.
It was through talking to a friend recently that I realized that the 5 days that made up Rise Up was indeed my capital-C Conversion. I had experienced such grace in the past with other experiences, retreats and conferences. But my change of heart was temporary, lasting a week or two at most, and I soon found myself back in old habits.
This, however, was different. I truly made an adult decision to put God in the center of my life. Through the five days, God showed me the wounds in my heart as well as the things that I struggled with the most, most notably my need for humility and complete and total surrender to God.
The difference between Rachel in the fall semester and Rachel in the spring semester is staggering, and as I reflect on it myself I honestly cannot believe that God was able to pull through. But then again, He is God, and God can do anything!
One of the biggest changes that I found in my life was the fact that I was a lot less stressed and anxious. I am a natural worrier and from time to time I do worry, but I have found that my anxieties have decreased so much in favour of more trust in the Lord.
I have seen God working through my life and through the lives of other people who I have encountered. As I went through this semester, I found myself sharing God’s love with others more than I think I have ever done in my entire life, because I have come to believe that this is true for me. And this is true for you too!
God has given me a beautiful community to grow and walk with. He has renewed my desire for God in my life and has entrusted me with great opportunities like co-hosting a radio show, an upcoming co-op position, vocation discernment, and serving the CCO community as part of the executive team for the upcoming year, and I know that He has so much more in store for me.
In 8 months I have gone from totally lost to totally free. My outlook on life and how I approach it has completely shift, and I know that with God I can do anything.
And you can, too. I believe in you.
Another year has come and gone, and this year has definitely been a true test of my faith. Thank you God for getting me through!!