Growing up, I felt a lot of pressure to be perfect. I did a lot of performing arts, singing and dancing and they take a lot of work and energy. A lot of my time was spent trying to get good grades, trying to win the competitions, constantly in this routine of work.
I worked myself into the ground. I didn't even realise but I had no connection with my emotions anymore. A few of my friends, unbeknownst to me, were Christians. One of them, her name was Michelle, would invite me along to a young adults group that would meet on a Thursday. Every Thursday evening, we would have an anatomy lab but she would always say afterwards, "Hey, would you like to come? A group of us are meeting up." I knew it was a Christian thing. So for two years, every Thursday, I'd say, "No, I'm not coming."
Eventually, after two years of her asking, I was like, "Okay, all right. I'll go." I sat across the table from a girl named Taylor and she was sharing her testimony. I'd never heard a lot of the words she was saying before. I'd never really heard the word testimony and hadn't really ever thought about Jesus more than just a figure in a stained glass window or as a baby in a manger.
I felt something in my heart. I'd never heard such a story of change before. So when my friend Michelle asked me along to the young adults group the following week, I went. I had lots of questions and Taylor sat me down so I got to ask her a little bit more about her story. She ended up sharing the bridge diagram with me, which is a picture of Romans 6:23, which is, "For the wages of sin are death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, our Lord." It basically paints a picture of the fact that we are all sinners inherently, and because of that, we don't deserve God's love. However, since God is a just God and a fair God, He sent Christ Jesus, His son to save us.
This was totally shocking to me. God is still this big, loving, giant in the sky, who, you know, we all see when we go to heaven. I thought that it doesn't really matter what you do here as long as you're a good enough person. That's what I was obsessed with, being a good enough person. She was telling me that that was not enough, no matter how hard I worked, I could never be good enough to get to God on my own.
That was a massive mind shift, because suddenly God wasn't just this big, all loving giant in the sky, but He was God. He's a King. I don't just get to walk up to the King without even knowing Him and say, "Give me all the things," if I don't even know Him at all. So my initial reaction was actually anger. How dare this person stand here and call me a sinner. I felt called out.
After that they gave me a Bible and I had more and more questions about who Jesus was as a person and the life that He lived. Questions about how can I believe that this book wasn't just written down by some man who had never met Jesus before. What if it was just made up? All those sorts of questions, which I think a lot of people who haven't grown up in Christian homes have.
Every question I had, had an answer to it. It wasn't like, "Oh, these Christians just believe things without thinking about it." It was obvious that people who are highly intelligent and who have inquisitive minds are Christians. The Bible actually encourages us to challenge and to question. Some of the best scholars in the world trust these documents, even if they don't believe in Jesus.
I think it took about six months for me to get to the point where I started to want to talk to God. That night, I was like, "Okay, right, let's give it a go." My friends and I, we were outside stargazing. I thought, you know what, here's my moment. So for the first time I prayed. I said, "God, if you're real, then show me a shooting star." Real risky. Of course, it's such a cloudy night. We hadn't seen a single star and we'd been out there for a few hours just chatting. I felt this real sense of disappointment because I hadn't seen a shooting star. I think that was the first time I realised I actually wanted God to be there. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the biggest shooting star that I've ever seen, and my mouth just dropped. "So God, you are there."
I had a lot to process. I was like, "Okay. So God's just shown me that He's real." Not only that, but I'm not just blindly believing. I've spent the last six months reading and investigating more than I ever have for any other book that I've read. I know how the Bible was put together. I know I can trust these documents, but I was still stuck up on this idea that I was a sinner. I thought, how dare you call me a sinner, God. I'm a good person. I help old ladies cross the street, I don't cheat on exams, I'm a good person, right?
Then over the next few weeks, God proceeded to show me exactly how sinful I am. I started to see that I actually think really unkind thoughts about other people. When things go wrong, I automatically blame somebody else, I don't blame myself. Now I understood God knows me. It's not just the things that I do, but He knows my thoughts, He knows my heart.
I started to see that my heart is not as good as I thought it was. Not only do I now know that God is real, I can trust that Jesus was a real person. I can trust this Bible. I started to see that I'm a sinner. Essentially when I'm backed up against the wall, there's nowhere else to go, but to God. So I prayed to God, "God, I know that You're real, and I know that I'm broken, but I want to give my life to You. I'm so tired. I've been working and fighting to be good enough for something and I didn't even know what. Take my life. I want to live for You."
It felt like I could breathe for the first time. Felt love for the first time. Felt loved. A joy that I'd never known. A peace like I am forgiven. So now, my life looks completely different. Not necessarily in the things that I'm doing. I mean, I finished university. I still do all of the things that I did. I still do shows, I still am involved in the performing arts. But my heart is in a completely different place. In the past everything I did felt so intense and important. If I don't get this role, if I don't get the grade, then I'm going to lose my sense of self.
I don't need to be perfect in anything. Because that's who Jesus was, He came and He lived a perfect life so that I don't have to, and that's so relieving. For perfectionists out there, we don't have to be perfect. It's been done. It's already finished. I'll admit that I'm a sinner, but in that, there's so much freedom, and joy and peace.