Through her campus job, Brittany began getting to know a few other students, especially a girl named Jenn. While they were hanging out at work, Jenn asked her out of the blue, “What’s going on with you? You seem down.” Brittany started talking about the problems in her family and how discouraged she was.
“We’re going to make a list,” Jenn said, “of all the things you’re feeling bad about.” As they wrote, Jenn pointed out that Brittany was completely helpless to fix the problems on the list. “All these bad feelings are based on lies,” Jenn told her. “The truth is, you can’t control any of these things.” Jenn went on to tell Brittany that she needed God and that God loved her, no matter what she did.
Hearing that God loved her didn’t totally make sense – in her experience, being accepted and loved usually took a lot of work – but Brittany listened. Jenn brought out her Bible and explained the gospel: sin had separated people from God, but God loved us and sent Jesus to make a way for our relationship with him to be set right. Brittany had been in church on and off throughout her life, but this time, as Jenn explained God’s love, Brittany began to really understand. “I saw a Father who would never fail me; I saw a love greater than anything I had ever known; I saw grace and salvation and the power of Christ dying on the cross for our sins.”
Grasping the gospel had a revolutionary effect on her thinking. “For the first time I really found myself embracing Christ. I wanted to surrender my life to him. I reached a point where I had to accept that I was weak and broken, and only the love and grace of God could save me.”
Brittany’s circumstances hadn’t changed, but that day the way she saw her life changed forever. She says, “It’s something that words cannot explain. There was something within me, a burning passion to turn to Christ for everything. I was facing so much sadness and rejection in my life. I found the comfort of Christ’s love and sacrifice and that was the defining factor in turning my life around.” Brittany says that Jesus became irresistible to her and learning of the sacrifice he made on the cross for her sin was the most beautiful thing she’d ever heard.
Coming to church to learn more was the next step. She visited Coram Deo with Jenn. “It was like I was seeing and hearing the world for the first time. Words during the service were fresh and new, and I knew I was hearing the Word of God. The connection and emotional reaction was so strong that it shocked me, yet it felt so natural at the same time. Being at Coram Deo, hearing the Word and reading the Word, felt like coming home.”
Along with her exposure to the preached and written Word, community has had a huge formative effect on Brittany. She found out that a missional community was meeting around the block from her apartment, so she and Jenn started a weekly tradition of having dinner together, then walking to MC. “Jenn started discipling me right away,” Brittany said. “I’d call her and ask her to read me verses when I was down. She helped me get into the Bible and told me that I could ask whatever questions I had. And our missional community was a community like I’d never had in my life.”
God’s Spirit has been gently bringing healing to Brittany’s life. Lately she’s been thinking about those painful family dinners a lot. Eating with family has a different meaning now. Brittany sees the contrast between those bad experiences from the past and her experiences coming to the Lord’s Table on Sunday mornings. For Christians, taking communion together is a family meal; we eat bread and drink wine to remember Jesus’ work on the cross to bring us back to God. We take it knowing that God’s promise to us is always being renewed and his lovingkindness is absolutely secure. “It’s so much deeper than just dipping some bread in some wine,” she says. “It’s a picture of Jesus, you know? That’s our connection. I take it so seriously now that I know the beauty of it. It’s funny how things like that change.” Coming to the table used to mean bracing for a fight; now it’s a sign of peace and restoration.
Brittany’s no longer in contact with her dad, although she prays for him to meet Jesus. Her mom visited church with her and Brittany’s seeing evidence of spiritual interest beginning to stir. There’s still sadness and pain associated with some circumstances of her past. There are old habits of mind that persist. “I have a lot of work to do,” she says. “The way I was formed, anxiety and sadness can be really routine. I sat for sixteen years of family dinners, you know? So there are still a lot of those feelings.”
But there’s also a profound confidence that Christ’s love for her will never change. “I’m constantly finding myself looking deeper into Christ and I find the good news of the gospel absolutely irresistible,” she says. “This isn’t just a single experience, but the beginning of a brand new life that will continue to reveal the love of my Father for me.” Part of that life is receiving the bread and the cup, Sunday after Sunday, and learning to share in a new kind of family dinner.
— Writing and photography by the Coram Deo Story Team —