I hate it when you go to those church services where people pray for each other and then they fall over. Why would you fall over praying? That’s just stupid. At least, I thought so but then one day it happened to me. I fell over.
How did I end up falling over? I had gone to one of those ‘prayer and healing’ services to see what happened. I’ve been a Christian all my life but still, I was sceptical of healing ministries. I was in a good mood that day, the sun was shining and I felt quite happy. But as I was praying I felt as though I should go forward and be prayed for. So I did. They asked me if there was anything I needed prayer for and I said “No, not really. Just pray for me please.” I shut my eyes and prayed and they held a hand up and prayed for me. In theory I was praying for my future, for guidance, but in reality I was just trying to hide from my past.
I can’t speak for others, but my story of self-harm started shortly after a traumatic break up with my then girlfriend when I was 17. During the break down of the relationship it seemed that everything I tried to do to fix things just made them worse. When we broke up, I blamed myself and it wasn’t long before I decided to punish myself. One cut a day for 50 days across my shoulders. Punishment. I told myself that was it, but it seemed that I could never go more than a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, before something would upset me and I’d cut again.
That time as I was praying, it had been maybe two months since I’d last cut myself but the urges were coming back and I didn’t know how long I could last. As I was praying for guidance, I fell.
I wasn’t pushed, and I wasn’t attention seeking. I just felt my knees crumple underneath me and I fell forwards and crashed down on my side. Half of me was still praying, the other half was like ‘What the ****?’ I half rolled onto my back and carried on praying, the other person placing their hand on my shoulder and praying in tongues for me. I sawimages flash before my eyes, but I don’t remember what they were.
And then it happened.
Everything went quiet and dark and I heard a strong but soft voice say: ‘If you need to cut, I’ll be your knife.’ Suddenly my brain was dancing around from thought to thought, Bible reference to Bible reference and it all made sense! I remembered Jesus and I remembered him hanging on that cross. Not the clean and mildly sexy Jesus of paintings but the bloodied and beaten Jew with nails through His wrists and blood flowing from gashes and wounds that covered His body. I remembered Isaiah 53.5:
‘But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.’
And as I remembered, I knew that I didn’t have to punish myself for the things I’d done wrong. Whether that was for the things I did wrong to my Ex or to God or to myself, I knew that the punishment had been dealt with by Jesus on the Cross. I knew that whatever my struggles or urges to cut, I could pray and Jesus would take them upon himself.
As I lay there on the floor I realised someone was still praying for me with their hand on my shoulder. Awkward, I was ‘done’. So I said ‘Amen’ out loud and opened my eyes and looked up to see who was praying for me. There was no one there; there was no one within three metres of me.
Since that day, I’ve only wanted to cut myself once and I didn’t. I prayed and five minutes later the urge was gone. I’m 20 and it’s now been over one year since I last cut myself. I may still have the scars on my shoulders, but I also have the truth that Jesus died for my sins on the cross and who was raised to life three days later to prove that he was greater than any sin we need to be freed from.
My prayer for you this Easter is that you’ll look beyond your circumstances, your past, beyond whatever is keeping you down and look to the Cross and the man on the Cross. I pray that as you look to that Cross you’ll see that sin and death are real, but that they cannot keep Jesus pinned down and I pray that you will join in the freedom of Easter day when Jesus came back to life as the Lord of all; our savour! Amen.