I was so excited for Christmas. So when a friend invited me to a carol service in the Great Hall at Birmingham University, I couldn't wait. I wore my new Christmas jumper and really enjoyed the event, despite realising that my singing abilities didn't quite extend to the traditional carols!
At the end I took a little book called Uncover that was on my seat. I'd seen it lying around my friend’s flat the week before and I was curious. Josh was open about his faith and seeing how quietly confident he was intrigued me.
While I was home for Christmas I read that little Uncover book and looked at everything on the Uncover website. Being an English Literature and History student I treated Luke’s Gospel like I would any of my study texts. I scribbled all over it, writing out questions, underlining things that seemed important or that I didn't understand. But by the end I was underlining all the things I loved about Jesus; looking back I can see part of my journey within Uncover just from my annotations. The studies that went alongside the text allowed me to test what I felt about the claims Jesus was making and if they were historically accurate. Jesus wasn't who I was expecting, but turned out to be everything that I wanted.
I was plagued with constant thoughts and questions and carried around a weighty feeling in my gut that this was something I needed to figure out. This was an important thing to look into and the most important thing if found to be true. I would lie awake at night thinking about the bigger questions of life. I bought a Bible as a Christmas present to myself and read John’s Gospel. I even prayed that God would help me understand and learn more about Him. That weighty feeling in my gut stayed with me as I wrestled with the truth and with myself. Jesus was working in my heart.
I came back to uni after that Christmas break not really knowing what to expect. How could I explain to my friend Josh all that I had been thinking about and wrestling with, and could I really expect him to be able to answer all my big and scary questions that I still had to get straight in my head?
I remember the night when I first grasped the idea of God's grace and knew in my heart that it was true and I wanted it. I had been listening to a podcast from a church in Canada, that my cousin is a pastor at. I'd been listening to his sermons since I'd gone to uni, whenever I felt sad or homesick as they comfort and encourage me. This particular podcast was entitled ‘Embrace Grace’, and being the shameless social media lover that I am, I tweeted 'Embrace Grace' as a way of recording the moment. Minutes later I received a text from Josh wanting to know what my tweet was about. We met for coffee a few days later and spoke for hours about who Jesus was. He did his best to answer my tricky questions. Looking back though, even though I still had stuff to work out, in my heart I knew it was true. Jesus, fully God and fully human, loved me and wanted a relationship with me.
This is when I became impatient and actually invited myself to Josh's church. It was on the walk back that I told him I was a Christian. I often like to joke that I did Uncover all by myself and had to invite myself to church, but Josh had been praying for me since I first showed an interest and I could not be more grateful for his faithful prayers and friendship. He gave me the best advice I may have ever received on the walk home: 'Be brave and tell people.’
That day I went back to my flat and told my friends and family. Since then I've tried to be as open, as honest and as brave as I can be about being a Christian. It was through hearing my friend talk about his faith that I started to seek answers for myself. It only seemed natural to start my life as a Christian by sharing it with others, and that's how I've gone on; embracing grace and sharing my faith.
The fact that it hasn't even been a year yet since I became a Christian amazes me because God has allowed me to do some amazing things within that time, including being a part of one of the CU's events teams that put on regular evangelical events. It was such an incredible blessing to be asked to host the CU's Cosy Christmas Carols the following year and to be part of the same event in which I picked up Uncover the year before. I was excited, knowing the power of the gospel and the potential fruit that this carol service could bring. In the space of a year I went from singing carols for the sake of tradition to singing carols knowing the truth of the words with joy in my heart. Although I still can't reach the high notes in Silent Night!
Emma was a student at Birmingham University when she picked up an Uncover Gospel. This started her on a remarkable journey of faith, which she describes here.
Pray for students like Emma this Christmas, particularly as they head home over the Christmas holidays.
Photo credit: Leeds CU 'Something More' 2017.