Turning My Life Around
David Bell didn't have an easy upbringing and decided to join the Royal Navy to give himself a fresh start in life. Twenty years on, he tells Sorted about his life since becoming a petty officer and how faith in God has helped turn his life around.
David joined the navy at the age of 17, having struggled at home with his own parents as well as in foster families. His life on HMS Montrose helped him to gain a sense of purpose and new perspective, but a failed marriage after joining the navy set him back considerably.
The young officer knew something was missing from his life, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He found it difficult to open up to others and to form close bonds. It was hard to trust people given what he had been through in the past.
"I was very unhappy with my life and I was looking for something, but I didn't know what I was looking for," says David. He started to attend a Christian fellowship on board, but found the friendliness of the other members rather overwhelming. It took him a while to get used to the camaraderie, but this is something he since has come to appreciate.
Despite attending the fellowship, David didn't become a Christian right away; in fact it wasn't until March 2009 that he made a commitment to God. This happened during a trip to Amport House, home of the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre in Hampshire. The decision had a major impact on his life, but it wasn't the end of all his problems.
He explains: "The two and a half years since I first went to Amport House have been like a roller coaster ride with massive ups and downs and lots of tears and doubts. I have also struggled to get to grips with forgiving myself for my sins, even though I know God has forgiven me for what I have done in the past.
"Plus, I have also found it very difficult to leave my past behind me and I am still dealing with things that happened to me when I was a child. I am also occasionally still dealing with the effects of the breakdown of my marriage and also my childhood experiences.
"So - as you can probably imagine - since I found Jesus there have been some positive changes in my life, but my past still creeps up on me and makes life difficult for me at times."
According to David, becoming a Christian has given him a new reason to live. "I know that he loves me no matter what," he says. And reading the Bible has helped him get to know God better. "At first I thought the Bible was a waste of time and it didn't mean anything to me, but after I had read it a few times I started to realise that the Bible is full of examples of how to live your life and it is also full of assurances and promises that God loves us."
Spending time with other Christians has also helped him to grow in his faith. David has made several close friends at the Naval Fellowship and the Citadel Salvation Army in Sheffield. "Having friends has become quite important to me now because I do not have much to do with my birth family," explains David. Their support has helped him to bounce back more easily during the difficult times.
David also has very close bonds with his colleagues, and his desire as a Christian is to boost morale on the ship and to provide pastoral care wherever it is needed.
This is partly why he feels it is important to have Christians in the military. "We come from all different walks of life and I think having Christians in the armed forces brings us that unity and family environment with our faith with God."
In addition to his day-to-day role he has helped to maintain the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes and has earned himself a Herbert Lott Award for his efforts. He also helps organise church services while the ship is at sea and helps to source branded items for the ship's company.
"I am nothing special, I am no super-Christian and I am a million miles away from being holy but I am trying my best to be the person God would like me to be," David concludes.
Copyright © 2011 David Bell
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