Iman Spearman relates how a conversation with her mum led to a visit to church she will never forget
The image is not the actual church mentioned
We had just moved to the area and my mum started to attend Regeneration Church in East London. Wherever we went, she would find a church to attend, and drag me along over the years. But by this point, I put my foot down. I didn’t want to go to church and had no interest in it having been to so many. I was convinced that I’d seen a different thing on Sunday to what I would see on Monday: there were people from my school who went to the churches I’d been to, and their behaviour didn’t match up and seemed performative.
So for about six weeks, Mum asked me to visit this church and every time, I refused. And then this particular week, she just wouldn’t let it go. She stood in the kitchen and I remember her saying, “I feel so strongly in my spirit that you need to go this week that I tell you what, if you go this week, I will never ask you to go to church again ever!” And as soon as she said that I jumped on it, I didn’t want to give her the opportunity to take it back. I said: “You said that you can’t take that back.” I had a friend with me who I made bear witness to this exchange and she agreed to come along with me.
I told her “If they try to do anything weird to me, you can drag me out of there!” We had a little giggle about that as well.
So we showed up at church and immediately I was quite surprised to see the demographic was not quite what I expected. So my first preconception was already blown out of the water.
James Poch, the pastor was the one preaching that week. I sat fairly close to the back. I thought, “oh, you know, this is really lovely. It’s almost a shame that I’ll never be coming back. There’s a warmth here.” I didn’t understand what that atmosphere was either.
And then a girl about my age gets up and shares a testimony, a story about what had happened to her that summer and how her life had been transformed. She was sharing her experience and the more I listened the more I realised our stories really quite similar: similar upbringing, similar disappointments, but she spoke with such confidence and conviction. You could just tell that she was someone who was filled with joy and love and she knew who she was. She seemed free.
As she spoke, I felt myself getting really angry, and then I was filled with a sense of frustration, and then longing, jealous even. I wanted what she had. And as I realised that I had that desire I noticed that the tears had started falling, and just wouldn’t stop. I was then filled with this overwhelming sense of love and that everything she said was true. And not only was it true, but I could have that too. I knew immediately that I had to make a decision. If I didn’t do it now, I wouldn’t ever get that opportunity again because I was never going back to church. So it was now or never. I couldn’t hesitate for long, that overwhelming sense of love seemed to pull forward, telling me it’ll be worth it, I was safe. I just thought I had to speak to the girl sharing her testimony. If this is possible, I can’t not have this in my life. I had to have what she had. And so I ran forward, I didn’t actually realise that my friend had tried to hold me back as we had agreed!
So I ran to the front, a blubbering mess and just said through the tears barely cohorently, “I don’t know what to say but can you pray for me?” And she prayed. And as she prayed, I just felt again, just this indescribable feeling of being seen, known and accepted, that I really do have a heavenly Father. And I just felt this wave of appreciation. And I was so grateful. I immediately committed my heart to Him. I prayed “thank you God, you can have everything, thank you for having me”.
And in that moment life seemed to click into place. It felt like I could stand up straight for the first time in my life. I didn’t realise how heavy my 16-year-old body felt before then. I just experienced actual joy. For the first time in my life. I didn’t realise how miserable I was up until that point.
And since then I’ve come to many crossroads: be it choosing to place God above my friendships at the time, to honour him in the way I lived even if it made me unpopular, or to acknowledge that I was deeply flawed and to repent and accept His help over and over again knowing that by his Spirit could I bear good fruit. The options were clear. I could either keep saying yes to God and experience more joy, greater freedom from past hurts, continued hope in this fullness of life in Christ and just being able to breathe. I think that’s probably the best way to put it like being able to breathe deeply. Or I could ignore it and at best live a half-full life barely clinging on to the freedom I’ve received or at worst, go back towards that dark, heavy space I was trapped in.
So reminding myself of my own story has been quite helpful for me actually to call to mind what God has already done and how He’s revealed Himself to me has helped me keep choosing Him over and over again.