When Grace started university, she had no idea the impact that finding a local church would have on her faith and mental health during uni. Her story is one of hope, of connection and of salvation. We asked Grace to share some more of her story here.
Before starting uni, what was your relationship with faith/Jesus like?
"My relationship with Jesus before uni was in a sticky place. I gave my life to Jesus when I was about 14 and at the time my faith was a priority in my life. When I was 16, I got in to a relationship that in turn pulled me away from my relationship with Jesus, I made the decision to prioritise my boyfriend over anything else. I went from being firmly placed in church, leading worship and being fully involved to pulling away from everything completely due to feeling like a hypocrite and knowing I couldn’t have both in the way that I did.
I grew up going to New Wine, a Christian camp since I was 2, it’s become a very special place to me. When I went before I started uni, my mum met Katie at the Fusion stand. From this, my mum did that embarrassing thing that parents do and dragged me to meet Katie too. It turned out that Katie lived and had graduated from the uni I was about to join in September so she ended up taking me under her wing and integrating me into church. I knew I wanted to go to church when I started uni, but I felt like I was fresh to the Christian world, like I was starting from the beginning again. All this was going on whilst I was still in a relationship."
What difference did finding a church at uni have on you?
"Going to church at uni reset my foundations again. I would see people worshipping, engaging in their faith at church and it made me want it too, I could see there was something I was missing. Going somewhere consistently, making friends with people who have the same morals and belief system can become a lifeline during a big life change like uni, especially when uni culture can be so different to what life like a Christian looks like. I loved my uni life so much, I was so blessed but having church as a solid part of my week and doing life with other Christians helped me to grow in my identity in Jesus and rediscover his character.
During my first year of uni I was suffering with severe anxiety and panic attacks, but growing in my faith helped me to combat those things through prayer. Slowly, I started to come back to Jesus and begin exploring things again. At the end of my first year, my relationship ended because of my desire to prioritise God in my life again and from there on, everything changed."
What led you to want to get to know Jesus more and get baptised?
"I honestly think that seeing my friends grow in their faith, going to small group, church, all made me want to grow in my faith and once you start to discover and learn more, once you start to see all these positive changes in the people around you but most importantly learn more about who Jesus is, it makes you want to keep going! The person I am today, the way I want my life to look is so different to how it was when I was a fresher.
I should’ve got baptised years ago really but it felt right to do it with the people that I love just before I ended my chapter from uni and started a new life in a new city. Especially when Jesus has helped me to learn so much over the past 5 years during my time at uni and beyond. My baptism was a celebration of that and a preparation for my new chapter in life."
Looking back on your time at uni, how do you think your life was transformed through coming to faith?
"My life was transformed so much. My anxiety and panic attacks have improved more than I could have imagined, my desire to become closer to Jesus has increased, my perspective on life has altered completely. I have so much more to learn but I feel like a different person to the person that I was when I started uni."