About me

This is my story. In Christian circles we call this our testimony – it can be as simple as “This was me before Christ, and this is how He has changed me, and this is where I am now” or it can be a detailed life story full of drama and miraculous intervention. Every believer’s testimony is unique and powerful, and shows how God relates to them as an individual, because that’s exactly what makes our God unique; He is relatable, personal, and desires a deep and fulfilling relationship of love with each person – including you. I hope that reading my testimony will encourage you to seek God for yourself through Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour, and my closest Friend.

Many of you have come to this website because you know me personally, or you know a member of my family or one of my Christian friends. I am 29 years old at the time of writing, a freelance classical choral singer, and a keen music administrator, for both choirs and orchestras. I love nothing better than organising a concert, or getting music ready for a rehearsal or service, and then preferably singing or playing in it myself! The highlight of my (very limited) orchestral playing career has to be playing the triangle (yes, really!) in the William Tell Overture as a teenager; terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure!! But it’s when I sing that I feel most authentically myself; the sheer joy of ‘lifting my voice’, as Scripture describes it, energises and fulfils me in a way that almost nothing else does. This morning when I read Psalm 126, I noticed an interesting correlation between singing and being a witness to God’s faithfulness to a watching world:

‘When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion,

We were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

And our tongue with singing.

Then they said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us,

And we are glad.’

Psalm 126:1-3

Once the people sang the praises of God in sheer joy that prophecy had been fulfilled and they were free, then those around them noticed and attributed the glory to God. That is exactly what I want my life and singing legacy to be – “The Lord has done great things for her.” Yes, He has, even though I have not always been faithful to Him. Read on to hear my story, my testimony.

Many would have called me the ‘good girl’ type – brought up in a Christian family, going to church every Sunday for as long as I could remember, and always knowing about Jesus. Growing up, I loved church and our Christian friendship circles; it was where a lot of my friends came from, especially when I was very young, and I loved to read my children’s Bible and look at the pictures. My parents prayed with my siblings and I, taught us lessons from the Bible, and made our Christianity very much a part of everyday life. The way I spoke and behaved was informed by what we do or don’t do “because this is what pleases God”. Christianity was certainly something that defined me as a child, and I accepted it and enjoyed it. I loved telling people about Jesus, though this didn’t always go down well! I loved singing in church, and one of the first solo singing experiences I remember was singing a song called “Jesus loves even you, friend” aged about 5 in front of the whole church, and my parents still have it recorded on cassette tape somewhere…!!

My siblings and I were homeschooled for most of our childhood. I did Reception and Year 1 at the local Church of England primary school, but we were not happy with the school for many reasons, and after that my parents felt led that God was asking them to home-educate, so they took a huge step of faith and removed me from school. This was not common in the UK in the 90’s, but we soon got plugged into one of the the home-educators networks in London – run almost entirely by landline and round-robin emails in those days! Everyone in the group had a different background, family situation, and reason for wanting to home-educate and it was an incredibly diverse community to be a part of. We had the most wonderful and varied educational life, and through that, we were always encouraged to ask questions, think critically around a subject, debate and do our own research into things that intrigued us or caught our attention. As a result, I became highly self-motivated to find the answers that I wanted to the questions that I had. This extended to my faith. As I grew older I started asking the big life questions: “Why am I here?” “Where did I come from?” “What’s the purpose of my life, or indeed of life in general?” and even the almost-heretical question in my 11-yr-old mind: “What if God doesn’t exist?”

These questions sent me on a quest to discover what other people believed about the world, and I was soon flooding my mind with the beliefs and theories and philosophies of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Humanists, Paganism, Animism, the New Age and even the occult. I looked at whether there was evidence for the claims of the Bible; in science, in archeology, in historical documents, and in the lives of other people – after all, I reasoned, why would people choose to go against the flow of secular culture or other religions, and in some cases, put themselves in mortal danger in an anti-christian culture by believing something that isn’t real? Why would missionaries give up everything to take this message to another country or people group? I read books, watched videos, searched the internet and went to museums, and in the end, I found the evidence I needed for all of this, in every area. You can see some of the answers that I found under the Resources tab above; my conclusion was that the Christian faith and the Bible is an entirely rock solid, rational and evidence-based belief system, and nothing else I had researched could compare, on a purely rational, logical level.

I then had to consider the spiritual claims of Christianity; was it really the only way to God? Why Jesus over Mohammed or Krishna or anyone else? Why couldn’t all roads lead to the same God? To summarise a long and often complicated wrestling with these things, I found the claims of Jesus to be the answer. He claimed not only to be the Messiah, the Son of God, but also God Himself – the Jewish religious leaders at the time saw that crystal clearly, understanding exactly what He said in its original Jewish cultural context, and it infuriated them. His life, His miracles, and His authoritative teaching leave only two options: either He is entirely who He says He is, or the whole thing is a lie and should be discarded. C.S. Lewis, once an outspoken skeptic of Christianity, put it this way:

‘Jesus [. . .] told people that their sins were forgiven. [. . .] This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. [. . .] I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.’

C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity

At age 13, I decided that I couldn’t sit on the fence forever. It made sense to me, and I was perfectly able to follow the logic of my research. I knew I couldn’t be a Christian just because my parents were, so I accepted Jesus as God for myself and asked Him to forgive my sins and come into my life as my Lord. I got baptised a couple of months before my 14th birthday, and felt a real peace inside and an energy to tell others about this Jesus, which I did whenever I could.

However, as with many teenagers, I struggled with all the usual angst and problems of becoming a young adult, and my emotions were often too powerful for me to handle wisely; if I loved, I loved passionately and blindly, and if I saw or felt injustice my reactions were equally strong. In my naivety, I allowed a very dangerous and poisonous man into my life; someone much older than myself, already married with young sons, and in a position of authority and trust in my life, and in my late teens he began grooming me online through a flirtatious friendship. It felt dangerous, secretive, thrilling that someone could like me in that way, and I knew very definitely that it was wrong, but I thought I could control where and how far it went. Of course, I couldn’t.

On and off over the next few years, this continued, wearing away at my resolve and my spiritual strength. Periodically I would become sickened with it and tell him to go away, but he would just pop back up a few weeks or months later and I would give in and reply. I ended up allowing him to draw me into a manipulative, secretive relationship, which I didn’t recognise as abusive at the time and I blamed myself for getting into the situation. I was in a very vulnerable place, allowing it and participating because I felt that I was ‘damaged goods’ by that point, that it was too late to say anything to anyone, and that God wouldn’t want me back now. I listened to all the wrong voices in my heart and mind, and felt utterly trapped into silence in this web of shame and brokenness – it was the closest thing I have ever felt to complete separation from God and it terrified me. My relationship with Him almost completely died, and my relationship with my family became tense and strained, even though they didn’t know what was going on.

When I went to uni, I realised I had to decide who I was and who I was living for; would I throw in the towel and just live like everyone else or would I go in as a Christian and try to sort myself out? I desperately wanted to be known as a Christian, and I longed to have that peace back that I had when I got baptised, but shame and fear ruled me. I tried to fit in, to be liked, accepted, included. I ended up with a boyfriend within the first couple of weeks, who quickly became my closest friend, and he was the first person I told about the abuse. The process of telling my family was traumatic and devastating for all involved, and I did not cope well with the stress. I considered ending my life more than once. Even though I had cut all ties with the abuser and blocked him on social media and my phone, he still found ways to stalk me, setting off panic attacks and nightmares that he would come and find me. A close friend of our family also died of cancer that year, and I just found myself unable to handle things, preferring to block them out entirely; I pretty much cut off contact with my family. I was a living contradiction; wanting healing and closeness with Jesus but constantly putting up barriers to Him reaching the most painful parts of my heart and mind, and I held other Christians firmly at arm’s length for most of my first year, afraid of judgement and rejection if they ever found out what I had done and had allowed to happen to me. I lived as if God didn’t love me and threw myself into ‘having fun’ or working until I could bear the tension no longer.

I had joined a tiny local church during that year, where I was basically the only student save my boyfriend, and that suited me just fine, because I could be anonymous to a certain extent until I had figured out who I felt I could trust. The church was mainly older folk, and their love and encouragement eventually became the most precious thing in my life, and I counted them my best friends. I finally began to read my Bible again and I realised that whilst I was pushing Jesus away, He had never once left me alone, even in my darkest moments. He was simply there, loving me, preventing me from going too far or taking my life, and waiting for me to come back to Him. As a teenager, I had understood and loved the concept of Jesus, and I had loved the picture-book Jesus who was so gentle with the children on His lap, but some of His words in the Gospels seemed unnecessarily complicated and sometimes just strange and harsh, and it was only really at this point, the summer between first and second year at uni, that I began to encounter Him in a new way. I began to hear the deep love and compassion and wisdom in His voice, and to feel a closeness when I read the Bible, in a way I had never felt before.

My boyfriend and I worked through a lot together, reading the Bible, praying, processing, repenting for not honouring Him with our lives, and finding forgiveness and restoration together. Forgiveness was a huge thing for me to come to terms with; both forgiveness of myself, and forgiveness of my abuser. I was struggling massively with a fierce hatred and bitterness, and it was eating me up inside, destroying my peace and wearing me out. The more I hated, the more I hurt, and I was suddenly faced with a choice – would I forgive this man? By not forgiving I was trapping myself and limiting what God could do in my heart, and I began to realise that I needed to choose forgiveness in order to be free to heal. It wasn’t easy, and it is still a conscious choice to let go and leave it in God’s hands, but when I prayed for the strength to forgive, as I knew I myself had been forgiven by God, I was released from hatred, bitterness and unrest.

As we grew in this way together, both my boyfriend and I had an overwhelming sense of peace and joy in getting to know God personally in a new way. We were both believers already, but in many ways we weren’t living that faith out, and neither of us had ever truly experienced this before: moving from knowing about Jesus and accepting Him intellectually, to really knowing Him deep inside and receiving Him personally. We stopped effectively living together, put God central in our relationship, and got more involved in Bible study, church life, and trying to share our faith with our friends. I felt by the September of that year that I could really say with confidence and joy, “Yes, I am a Christian, and the Lord has done great things for me.”

Life is never easy, especially when you try to live for God, because His ways are often counter-cultural, and of course there have been bad decisions, betrayals, and times of pain and darkness since. When life gets hard, I have often struggled with the shame and guilt of my past being brought back to haunt me. But I know that it isn’t God who does that; the devil is the accuser of believers and the father of lies, and he loves to taunt people into despair when they do things wrong. In beautiful contrast, the Lord Jesus is the one who looks at sinners with love and says “Neither do I condemn you – go and sin no more.” With each struggle I come out stronger, and with increasing maturity I have increasing confidence in God and in myself; in becoming the person He is making me to be day by day. I am not a victim of abuse and manipulation, or of my circumstances – I am a survivor, and though I am still a prideful, foolish, selfish sinner just like every other human on this planet (and will be until the day I die or am raptured!), I know am forgiven, and I stand before God with the holiness and purity of Jesus around my shoulders, having exchanged, by faith, my brokenness and sinfulness for His perfect righteousness, once for all time. That is the power of the cross in my life, and I can truly say that I love the Lord Jesus above anything. I live for Him alone, I sing for His glory alone, and His plan and will for my life, though very different to what I had in mind, is always the best and most fulfilling place to be.

To finish I want to share my favourite hymn text with you – it sums up my life and my heart and I hope it touches your heart too:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me,
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold him there! The risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless righteousness;
The great unchangeable “I AM,”
The King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God,
With Christ, my Savior and my God.

Charitie Lees Bancroft