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Emma Sowden

1st Year Geography Student (and no, before you ask, I don’t just colour in maps!)
Born in Essex, but raised in the land of sheep that is Wiltshire, in the UK.
I’m a big fan of cheeseburgers, deep chats and Southern-US rock bands.

John 16:33

In this world, you will face many trials and tribulations. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

“So if your Dad is a vicar…does that mean you have to live in a church?” is a common question I was posed as a child. Yes, that’s right everyone: I’m a preacher’s kid. I could recite the Lord’s Prayer by the age of 4 and have spent every Sunday of my life with my bum plastered to a cold church pew. So, sure, I believed in this idea, this GOD, but did I worship him? Nope. Did I even like him? Not a bit.

My mum was the most incredible woman – never have I met someone who had so much joy to give but who expected nothing in return. Despite having to deal with a lot of pain in her own life, she lived for others, and especially for Jesus. Her first diagnosis of breast cancer came when I was three. After a four-and-half-year-long remission it struck again. The chemotherapy was a long process, but in the September of 2007 we celebrated her birthday and an end to the treatment. Unfortunately, in just a few weeks, the cancer had returned rapidly and aggressively; she was moved to a hospice and died before Christmas. At age nine, it was more difficult than words can describe to watch my entire world deteriorating in front of me – she had no hair, little strength, and eventually she lost her mind, too.

In the years proceeding I suffered with a lot of trauma, as well as grief. It made school hard, and sleeping harder. My school reports followed the same pattern; “Emma is doing fine – but confidence needed.” To say I was socially anxious is an understatement. By the age of thirteen, grief-filled habits had become personality traits; it sounds overly woeful, but I honestly thought unhappiness was all I was destined for. This was then compounded when my Dad met my now step-mum – who was this woman, suddenly entering my life? I felt a strong sense of bitterness towards her, my Dad and life.

All the while, Jesus meant nothing to me; he was somebody who was talked about on Sundays or in a prayer before dinner. God wasn’t in my pain. He was, in my mind, distant, untrustworthy and certainly couldn’t do anything for me; that is, until, at the age of fourteen, I accompanied my youth group to a large, weeklong Christian festival. There I met young people who actually loved this guy Jesus. They talked of how their identities were found in Him, and that he is FOR us, never against us. One evening, the preacher spoke of the Holy Spirit – God’s power in action – and proceeded to pray for us to encounter this Spirit. I distinctly remember my prayer: “Ok God, hi… ummm… I’m not sure what to pray, but all I know is for the first time in my life I completely trust you. Do what you will.”

I didn’t even realise I needed healing (as I mentioned I had settled for unhappiness), but there and then everything clicked. Everything within me believed and knew that the creator of the heavens left his throne to live a life of poverty and humility and die an excruciating death, all the while thinking of me – that very bitter fourteen-year-old girl – and that this changed everything.

I returned home with purpose. My confidence levels began to climb, negativity turned to positivity and I couldn’t wait to learn about this person who had once seemed so distant. ‘As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you’ (Isaiah 66:13). The father (and mother-) heart of God asks that we bring our brokenness to him; he doesn’t want for us a life of guilt at our past mistakes or brokenness, but a relationship – that’s all – where we live in freedom. Now, does that mean my life has been all sunshine and happy-clappy smiles since then? Of course not, but with each trial I’ve clung tighter to God, even as I’ve shouted at him and cried to him, and, through it all, I have continued to live in hope.

It took me a while to fully understand what God had done in my life, until one day, when my Dad found a letter my Mum had written her brother in 1983. He (my uncle) had died before I was born, and so she was given the letter as nostalgia. In the letter, my mum (age 22) describes a weekend at a Christian conference, with the theme of reconciliation. Whilst there, she came face-to-face with the difficulty of losing her Dad at age 10, and the “bitterness” she had for her stepfather. The kind people she met there prayed and suggested she “sit quietly and let God speak”. The letter reads: “He [God] gave me a picture of a really broken, dirty pot (me) it was smashed to pieces and out of it was flowing honey, I felt that this was God’s love flowing through me after I had been broken”. Some 30 years later I sat reading these words, dumfounded that God had done exactly the same thing in my own life.

People sometimes ask me to provide the evidence for the existence of God. At this I will happily suggest the scientific and philosophical evidence for creation, or the historical and rational evidence for Jesus Christ. I will even share how I’ve seen miracles – bones that were broken put right, spinal injuries corrected in a second, and witnessing children and adults tangibly encounter a living God. However, I think the greatest evidence in my life that points to Jesus is the story I’ve just told – how grief was turned to joy.

Contact Emma Sowden

Questions? Let me know! Email: emma.sowden@outlook.com Text: 07766622782