Laura Oakes is savouring a cappuccino at Soho Coffee. It’s become a treat for her – an unusual luxury item to be enjoyed. It was not always so: eighteen months ago, a normal day would require consuming two or three.
Laura had been a high-flying, fast-living Londoner. She had founded and run her own sports agency, and among her clients were several well-known professional clubs. She worked very hard, and success came easily. Thus she could buy a house in Twickenham, have a fast car, and take several holidays abroad in the year; she was often travelling, and always business class. As her own boss, she could even make reckless decisions if she wanted to – like a fortnight’s trip to LA on a momentary whim.
But there were costs. She partied hard, drank more than was healthy, and had significant debt. Always looking for the next thing, she was unable to enjoy the moment.
She recognised something was wrong and sought help at The Priory. Her therapist set her homework for the first week: to list what she was doing, why, and what she felt about it. The next week Laura returned with an Excel spreadsheet detailing all that she did and why – but as to what she felt about it, she hadn’t a clue.
At the same time she started going on an Alpha course. As she’d been brought up in a Christian family, this was less surprising than it might have been – but the trigger for her was seeing the life of one of her colleagues at Harlequins Rugby Club being transformed by doing Alpha and coming to faith.
She found intellectual assent easy – she agreed with the evidence – but had trouble with saying “God, I’m yours, I want you in my life”. Laura knew that she was in fear of God because she struggled with wanting to be in control of her life. What unlocked this impasse was her Alpha leader describing it like a marriage; a relationship with God. Not a controlling, slave-like bond but a loving relationship. Laura gave God access to her life that night in a small, baby step of faith – “I wasn’t ready to marry him, but I wanted to start dating!”
Her therapist was so amazed by the subsequent transformation in Laura that she curtailed the planned programme immediately.
The sports agency was merged with one that focussed on arts, media and entertainment, and her next job in the sports industry took her from London. This was ultimately abortive, as was the next one – which nevertheless brought her to Gloucestershire and to Trinity Church.
Although job contracts are intermittent, she’s discovered that economics in God’s Kingdom seems to work differently. Unexpected refunds appear; and someone recently presented her with a large cheque: “I can’t accept this!”, Laura protested, but was told “You’ll have to, the money isn’t mine!”
One of the highlights of the week now is her regular evening volunteering at The Garage, Trinity’s drop-in centre for the homeless. She’s found she has a deep love for those there, which is evident even in small ways: she finds remembering their names easy, whereas she’d always found this difficult in her business life. She talks admiringly of a lady who’d been on the streets and thought she’d die a drug addict, but now has a house to live in, is off drugs and is doing Alpha. Laura explained, “they need people who love them and make them feel significant”. Similarly, she’s been totally inspired by Compassion UK’s child sponsorship programme.
Laura’s turnaround epitomises what may happen to someone who begins to experience Jesus Christ in their life. It is not a formula for maintaining the status quo: as she says, “the life I thought I was going to have is now completely different”. She’s learning to live unafraid of the love of God.