Before I do though, let’s start in the beginning.
My mum and dad aren’t religious in any way. I went to a Church of England primary school so learned all the hymns and the bible stories but after that religion didn’t really feature at all.
When we were getting married, I was adamant I didn’t want to get married in a church and said “I’d be starting my marriage on a lie. I can’t make a vow to God or Jesus when I don’t believe in it at all.”
Fast forward a few years to Sept/Oct 2016 and the decline of my mental health before my breakdown.
I ended up making friends with a couple of people who I don’t think would class themselves as born again Christians, just a family who found God and Jesus in their 20s. The way they spoke about their beliefs actually had me intrigued. They believed that they were able to ‘hand over’ all the crap in their lives to God and he would sort it out. This belief was the magic sauce and secret ingredient to them having a coping mechanism whenever things in life presented as a challenge. It also helped them to rejoice in the good stuff. Basically, whatever was happening in their lives they believed it to be God’s plan for them.
What a brilliant concept!
And then one of the friends in question said “It’s only like you and the way you feel about The Universe”.
I have no idea what’s out there and what’s beyond this world for me. I do know that whenever I practice my gratitude to ‘The Universe’ or ask for help from ‘The Universe’ I usually receive in some form. Is this just God and Jesus re-badged and rebranded?
The Invitation to the Christian Festival
“Gemma we are going to New Wine. I think you’d like it. Do you want to come?”
I said yes before I’d even properly looked into it.
New Wine is a week-long Christian gathering that blends different themed speeches with music and worship. There’s a full programme of speakers and events over the course of the week and I was invited along. This was about 9 months after losing it and I was on the road to recovery. Still on my quest for answers and looking forward to a week in a tent with Blake I said yes.
My family were a little shocked. Religion isn’t their thing at all. However I went with an open mind.
I actually really enjoyed it. My goal in life is definitely to be a speaker. I realised on day 1 that I was watching professional speakers in action. Yes, they were referencing the Bible but they were storytelling in such professional, engaging and eloquent ways. I learned something from each one.
I also learned that you can have a completely different opinion but still appreciate the opinion and beliefs of others. I didn’t feel uncomfortable in any of the talks and sessions – even when I didn’t agree. I didn’t feel uncomfortable when people around me writhed and had an encounter with their version of God – I was just intrigued.
Every evening after the day’s talks, thousands of people would gather in the main tent to experience ‘worship’. This is a combination of music, prayers and a keynote speaker over the course of a couple of hours.
The music and the band were exceptional. If you have never heard modern worship music, Google ‘Hillsong’ and in particular a song called ‘Oceans’. The music is powerful and moving.
A giant worship karaoke happened each night. The words were displayed on the screen and there was even a section in the crowd specifically for deaf people with an interpreter lit up and signing the words to the songs.
On the second day of experiencing this nightly worship I turned to the only other non-Christian in our group and said “Look. Where are the mobile phones?”.
If you were to go to a music concert these days you would only see a sea of mobile phones either pointing at the stage or pointing back at the people (complete with snapchat filter) making sure the world knows where they are and that they’re having a good time.
Since my experience at New Wine I think it’s left me more accepting of others. My healing journey over the last few years has seen me actively try and drop expectation of others and also really try hard to not judge. I prefer to be able to see things from other people’s perspectives and I think understanding other beliefs gives you a broader experience of the world.
Describe my God
I suppose I still haven’t answered the question though. Probably because I can’t define anything tangible to describe as my “God”.
The closest I’ve got is the power of belief.
Having the ability to believe in something and more importantly to believe in yourself is powerful. You can hope and wish that you’ll get validation and approval from someone or something until you’re blue in the face, but having true self belief is the greatest gift of all.
It’s not something I’ve fully achieved just yet. I try and I make the effort every day to believe in myself. The times when I do are usually the times I feel most happiest and content, confident and brave.
Just as I’m typing this out and wondering how to finish this blog off off, I have realised that I’ve been playing my favourite song again each morning that addresses this very concept.
This song is to be played at my funeral, and everyone is to dance. Yes, it’s a bit funky but listen to the words. Turn it up loud.
“If you believe in yourself, you’ll make it. Every day of your life.”