People are often taken aback when I mention that I'm a Christian. If I could tell my younger self, she'd probably think I was kidding. I went to a secular school in London and had never batted an eyelid about religion, let alone attended church. I had a happy childhood, a great relationship with my family, and for the most part didn't have a care in the world. What could Jesus bring to my life that I didn't already have? In my early teens the question of God's existence never crossed my mind either. And why should it? None of my friends or family members were Christian, and they seemed happy without Him. I certainly didn't feel like I needed God.
Yet this time eventually passed, and I soon developed the common anxieties of a 21st century teenager - extremely low self-esteem and constant feelings of guilt. These feelings manifested in many areas of my life – be it grades, body image, friendships, and sexuality. If I could put it to words, I felt trapped inside my own mind. I looked to a world obsessed with self-image, self-care, and sex, for answers, but what I really wanted was to hand over the reins to someone else and to understand why I felt so guilty. Social media told me that if I would only put myself first, I could finally be liberated. Yet this advice only seemed to perpetuate the problem.
At the time I didn't even know Christianity was a viable option. I eventually got over whatever I had felt, and for a while I thought that was the end of it. I didn't need a Saviour. But in Year 13 when the body-image issues resurfaced I was back where I had started. What made the difference this time around was that I had coincidentally been reading some Christian books recommended to me by my Religious Studies teacher. I had no idea that these two seemingly unrelated things could somehow be connected. The answer to my anxieties was right in front of my eyes! I had imagined that something like attaining good grades or changing my appearance could be what finally satisfied me. Yet the things of this world never wholly satisfy us in the ways that we want them to. What I really needed was something that up until this point I didn't even know that I'd been missing. This wasn't fleeting like my appearance or good grades were, but something that was eternal and whose love was not dependent on anything I had or hadn't done.
In all honesty, when I first acknowledged the existence of God, the prospect of actually committing my life to Him petrified me. Knowing what I knew meant that I could no longer just live for myself, but for someone higher than me who I couldn't even see in the flesh. It meant trusting in God even when none of my friends did and sometimes feeling like an idiot. Yet the best things in life rarely come easily. And bad days don't just disappear when you become a Christian. But you're far better equipped to deal with them with an all-loving, just God experiencing them with you than you are on your own. I can safely say that building a relationship with the Lord has without a doubt been the greatest honour and challenge of my entire life, and I have never found anything or anyone more fulfilling. I now realise that all those things that I had previously thought had nothing to do with Jesus – be it grades, body image, friendships, and even sexuality, actually had everything to do with Him. Because Jesus changes everything.