When I began my studies at UC Berkeley, I had already been struggling with clinical depression and an eating disorder for 3 years. No matter how many trips to the psychologist I took, nor how many types of medication we tried, nothing could really shake me from these cyclical behaviors.
God met me at an InterVarsity conference during my freshman year. At altar call, a few staff members invited students to come ask for prayer -- something that I hated doing because I believed coming forward would reveal that I was struggling, and that my struggling would reveal that I was spiritually immature. In spite of my hesitations, I walked forward to a visiting staff worker who guided me through healing prayer. The Holy Spirit showed me memories I had suppressed long ago -- traumas including sexual and emotional abuse.
Together, Auntie Brenda (the staff worker) and I walked through the painful instances; she held my hand as we asked Jesus where had been during those moments and their aftermath, and for Him to reveal my true identity beyond the false identity that I had assumed as the result of these traumas; it was freeing.
But a crazy and wonderful prayer session is only the beginning of the journey towards lasting transformation. I am a firm believer that sustainable healing can only occur in the context of community. The Ark was the place where I learned to walk off my former identity, where Pastor Suky Longfield took me under her wing and taught me how to put old habits and pathologies to death, where countless brothers and sisters (many who didn’t even know they were doing it) showered me with love and acceptance when I was at my least presentable - showing up in sweatpants to church to probably roll around and cry in the back - when I had nothing to offer back (something that was particularly hard for me to grasp, having come from communities that are often governed by tacit rules of reciprocity).
They made the Ark a truly safe space to shed protective pretenses and heal: feeding me soup and ice cream, patting my shoulders as I, snot-nosed and sobbing, brought myself to God every weekend, and continually inspiring me with their earnest hunger for God and their own victories that spurred me to not dally in realizing Him as worth the pain and arduousness of healing.
I would urge you to feel free to lose your composure at this church, to not fear how despicable or even insignificant your pains and struggles may seem - because something really important that I learned here is of God’s insistent goodness: He wants to see you whole even more than you do, and He will kindly and firmly guide you through that healing (if you let him) to realize life, joy and freedom beyond what you’d ever be able to reckon.
First shared at Ark's New Student Reception, August 13th, 2014