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Ansy Firmin

Ansy Firmin is a Christian singer-songwriter and worship leader based in Bristol, UK. From an early age, Ansy took an interest in songwriting and has been active in her church, leading worship whenever the opportunity presented itself, and other times, at Christian events while studying as an undergraduate of Bristol University.

The lunch queue inched forward. Loud chattering filled the hall as all the other school kids play-fought and gossiped in their tight-knitgroups. My heart pounded in my chest. Panic rising. The shame overwhelming. Self preservation kicked in – avoid eye contact, pretend everything is normal. Just get your lunch and leave. Once I’d finally paid for my lunch, there was the full hour that stretched on like years, wandering around the school grounds, finding somewhere to actually eat it. Sometimes, I hid in the toilets or took refuge in the school IT room. When I passed other kids in the playground I would try and hold my head high but inside I was dying. This humiliating routine repeated itself day in day out. It was the result of five years of being bullied and ostracised at school.

When I passed other kids in the playground I would try and hold my head high

A girl in the year above didn’t like me. I recall the panic of being singled out and rejected without someone even knowing me. The most popular girl in school and made her dislike of me known publicly and loudly. I still remember, with vivid clarity, being in class and a boy next to me just casually telling me ‘she doesn’t like you’. She didn’t want people to hang out with me. Like sheep, everyone followed suit and I became an outcast. I’d had doors kicked when I was in the toilet, drinks thrown at me out of busses. I was subtly tormented, day in, day out, for years. I started secondary school a happy confident girl and left a complete wreck, suffering from severe anxiety, silently wandering the school grounds and corridors like a petrified mouse – desperately trying not to be seen whilst trying to present a sense of composure.

The wise man wisdom

A wise mentor of mine recently quoted CS Lewis to me – the question ‘where’ can be more helpful than ‘why’. Often we won’t know the ‘why’ part this side of heaven. So where was God in all this? My place of safety and refuge at that time was church. The body of Christ showed me the love, acceptance and gentleness that were so absent in the other areas of my life.

At my church there was a lovely elderly couple who invited me over every other week and just let me cry on their sofa. They gave me cups of tea, unconditional love and prayed for me. They assumed the role of spiritual grandparents for me. Going to their home was like escaping into a heavenly oasis for a few hours and it gave me the strength to keep going. I was also part of a church youth group and made friends there which gave me a much-needed feeling of belonging.

The question ‘where’ can be more helpful than ‘why’.

That must’ve been it. [laughs] Was that the routine of church youth group and being accepted.

There was God’s hands on mercy at that time and the Holy Spirit ministry offered by that elderly couple was where God’s manifest gentleness and love was at work for me. Christ – ‘the head’, was at work through ‘his body’- the church.

Music was a great escape, I would sit at the piano for hours, composing and playing out my emotions in ways words couldn’t capture. It was a time when I started to take a much greater interest in making, rather than learning, music. My piano teacher eventually gave up teaching me to read music and instead encouraged me to write my own. Like David’s harp, playing the piano had a deeply calming effect on my mind and spirit.

It also helped my mum who would sit on the sofa, listen and go into a place of calm as I played out raw emotions on the piano. I started songwriting; putting biblical truths to music in ways that would more easily stick. I met God deeply there, while calling to him through playing the piano. Over the years my passion for songwriting developed and I’ve done pretty much every kind of music there is – dance music collaborations, singer-songwriter recording and gigging (under pseudonym AMRA), classical composing, writing music for film and TV as well as leading worship at church and getting involved in the Burn 24/7 movement.

I also took an interest in music production and for me production is part and parcel of my creative process and so I learnt to master for myself. A few years back I felt prompted to record a number of tracks in what is now my ‘See The One’ EP.

The theme running throughout the EP is focusing on the immediate and eternal hope we have in Christ whilst dealing with the reality of living in a fallen world full of suffering. We worship a God who has known extreme suffering, who has felt the deep pain of being outcast. Isaiah 53 speaks prophetically of how Jesus ‘endured the torment of our sufferings – he was despised and rejected by men, a man of deep sorrows, he was no stranger to suffering and grief.’ (Passion translation) How crazy is it that we worship a God who himself was bullied? The chapter goes on to say ‘in his wounding we found our healing’.

Sometimes God does do a sovereign act of emotional healing and suddenly wipes away all damaging effects of emotionally traumatic events. However, more often we are called to walk out our healing over time step by step- releasing ourselves from those bullies though forgiveness, person by person, memory by memory, trauma by trauma. Plod by plod. 

In my experience, this isn’t a passive process but an active one. Things can lie dormant for many years, until the Holy Spirit prompts you to unravel a layer of pain and scarring. Sometimes I visualise it like cooking lentils – when you first cook them, a load of grimy froth comes to the top which you need to scoop it off. After a while, another layer forms which needs scooping off. Each layer is less frothy than the last until eventually there is no gunk left. That is what Holy-Spirit lead emotional healing can look like.

You may wonder if that bullying issue got resolved. As I counted down the last remaining days of secondary school, I received a new blow – I found out that the girl who was bullying me was planning to go to the same sixth form college as me. The bullying was going to carry on for years- it was going to follow me wherever I went.

But God intervened: One of my church friends who was also going to the same college befriended the girl who was bullying me, despite being at different schools. In the course of their friendship they talked about me over the summer before term started. My church friend, who had this girl’s respect, told her to back off.

And that was that. To my utter amazement when I arrived at college, this girl who had caused me to live in trepidation for years, was coming up to me at college and initiating friendly conversations! I was so flabbergasted I didn’t quite know what to say but was bowled over that she was even speaking to me. And so I was free to enjoy college, make new friends and start to heal from that episode.

In later life I’ve learned more about trauma and the effect it can have on mental health. I recently gave birth to a wonderful daughter, Annabelle.

Unfortunately, the birth was deeply traumatic, physically and emotionally. In the context of receiving counseling for this, I have been encouraged to look further back, to revisit my childhood trauma. In doing so I have reflected on the many references in Scripture to God’s children being clothed with righteousness. This carries special weight to people who have been bullied for one of the scars of being bullied is the tendency to carry a mantle of shame and a sense of rejection. We may feel unlovable. Yet Jesus does not give us a mantle of shame, but a clean, white cloak of righteousness.

We have been given salvation though the cross. Here is hope. Here is our victory. It is wrapped up in his victory. In this life, as God’s children, we are all on a journey, often through suffering, towards wholeness, upwards to heaven. It won’t be completed until we get there. We have been given emotional healing to work out actively, not passively. We are called to walk the path of light and forgiveness in this fallen world.

We hold, unswerving, thankfully, tenaciously, stubbornly, to the reality that Jesus is Lord and that we have the hope of a New Heaven and New Earth; a day when he will wipe every tear from our eyes. (Revelation 21)

My passion is to present deep, eternal truth through music. As for my upcoming projects (other than being a mum!); I have new worship music that I’m itching to record so part of the plan for 2020 will be to dust the cobwebs off my studio and crack on with it. Watch this space.

Seyi Adebowale

Seyi Adebowale

This interview was arranged by the the publisher of The MHM Magazine.

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