by Stefanie Bates (above image, second-from-right)
If I were to describe my past, the words I would use includes condemned, shunned, alone, afraid, humiliated, hurt and shamed. In primary school, a group of girls in my class used to pull my hair and laugh at me. They told me I was really ugly, and that I will never be pretty like them. Their words pierced my heart as tears stung my eyes. This is my first memory of pain and rejection. These girls also made sure I was picked last in sports, saying that nobody wanted the girl with asthma on their team. I started to be really quiet to avoid being bullied, but the bullying continued to happen. Before my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he used to have anger issues and a very short temper. So I feared him. I feared going to school. I feared making mistakes and being judged. I feared everything. I started to live a life full of fears and anxieties.
When I was 18, I entered into my first relationship where my ex abused me emotionally, and at times, physically. His voice drowned out my own thoughts. The bullying incidents when I was younger made me feel like this was the only type of love I could ever get because I believed I was ugly. My negative scripts combined to form this mantra – I will never be good enough. As I was just a Saturday Catholic, my relationship with God was weak. I thought of him as a distant omnipotent figurehead in heaven looking down at us earthlings. When I heard about SOW, I saw it as an opportunity to change my life. Nervous and scared, I signed up – just 2 days before the application deadline.
It was during a prayer ministry session that I began to let my guard down. I told the prayer team all my fears and problems. They shared that I had been shutting God out and that God is very sad that I am sad. That statement really struck my heart. I never thought that God would feel sad for me, and I was comforted. This was the first time that I felt God’s love for me.
As time passed, my sharing partner encouraged me to examine my past hurts in greater detail, and to see where God was in those moments. One day as I reflected on the memories where I was bullied, my mind raced with questions – “Where were you Jesus? Were you even there?” And then, I saw Jesus as a young child standing near me, touching my hand. Young Jesus and I looked forward to see the adult Jesus on the ground, covered in blood and wincing in pain from the beatings he received. His breathing was laboured, similar to how my young self gasped for air after running away from my bullies. His eyes pierced mine and I knew that Jesus understands perfectly what it’s like to be mocked. He knew what it was like to be surrounded by people who hated your existence and wanted you hurt. God was actually there with me all along. This helped me to forgive my bullies and those who hurt me. I claim that the Lord has always been by my side and had never left me in my difficult moments.
More testimonies on the images of God and healing:
I claim that the Lord has helped me realise that my voice is worthy of being heard, because it’s not just my own – it’s His too as He is alive in me.
Found. Accepted. Loved. Strong. Restored. Being healed. Content. If you ask me to describe my present self, these are the words I will use now.
Even when you feel that you are alone in your problems, you are not. God is always there, even when we don’t feel like He is. Today I encourage you to just trust in Him, and look for Him. As Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
More artwork and photo-reflections: