Mandy Pilz describes the impact of her troubled upbringing on her life and how learning to trust her heavenly Father has changed everything
“You can tell Mandy she’s no longer my daughter.” I stood and gaped at my brother as he delivered this message from my dad.
Aged 18, I had carelessly absented myself from his bi-annual access visit and it had rattled him so much he had disowned me. I could not have known it at the time but I would never see him again.
I had been six when dad tricked mum into leaving our family home. The next day an unfamiliar woman had walked through the door and taken up residence. She became step-mother to me and my eight-year-old brother.
It was the beginning of four very unhappy years in which my brother and I spent practically all our time at home in our bedrooms. My only contact with dad was a goodnight kiss in the lounge.
Eventually my brother and I were sent to live with mum on a large council estate in Yorkshire. I hated living there and became a rebellious, angry teenager.
I had no time for religious belief of any stripe and was scathingly critical of churches and Christianity.
The difficulties that our little family faced, alongside close shaves with accidental death, eventually caused me, at age 16, to subconsciously begin asking big questions: Who was I? Was there any value and purpose to my life? At the same time my brother fell seriously ill with schizophrenia.
As a university student I continued my inner search for identity and meaning. My previous scorn of Christianity evaporated and I began attending a ritualistic church. I didn’t know any other way forward.
I got confirmed and although outwardly might have appeared to be a Christian, inside I remained unchanged.
In 1985 someone recommended I go to an evangelical church. I was still searching so went along with their suggestion.
I was surprised by the simplicity of the church’s arrangements – no altar, no priestly robes, no incense or bells. More striking still was the love shown to me, a stranger, by the people there. As a result I became a regular attender.
In the summer of 1986 I began reading a Christian booklet. As I read it seemed my mind was slowly being illuminated.
The booklet’s contents were so relevant to my life at that time. I had heard the words “Jesus died for you” before but I had not understood their personal application.
At the end of the booklet there was reference to Jesus’ death paying the price for my wrongdoing, followed by an invitation to commit my life to following him. With great excitement I realised this was what I had been searching for.
Within a split second everything in me said “YES!” to Jesus and I found myself face down on the bedroom floor, sobbing at the realisation God had forgiven me completely for my wrongdoing.
Afterwards the whole world looked different, as if I had been blind until this moment. I felt completely alive, re-created, and experienced a feeling of lightness as though a heavy weight had been removed from my back and hurled away.
The presence of God was so real to me – for the very first time.
From this moment my confidence greatly increased and I had a clear sense of purpose; later training for Christian service overseas.
I thought I was just fine now, but it became clear that a healing process was necessary following the events of my childhood. This mainly took place through my new-found relationship with God as Father, but also by intentionally praying through my past experiences with someone who could empathise.
Significant friendships with fellow Christians also helped, in particular with an older couple who I lodged with for three years in Botswana. They had such an open-handed, unpretentious approach in their relationship with me that I experienced deep healing through them.
I recognise there are still traits in me caused by my childhood trauma, but I also know that I have been led on a path to wholeness which still continues today.
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