If you go through my phone, you'll find 241 lists. I'm a bit of an organisation freak; I've got a million to-do lists, bucket lists, and I even spent hours one night looking at honeymoon itineraries.
Too often my life feels like a list of "shoulds" is and "woulds", and all too often this comes into my view of myself. "I've got to look out for everyone", "I should do as many campaigns as I can", "I've got to be perfect", are thoughts that you wouldn't struggle to find in my mind. Perfectionism can be both a gift and a curse; it means I can write an essay without spelling mistakes, but also obsess over what others think of me.
Although most of the time I can block out this negativity, the insistent voice in the back of my head telling me that I'm not good enough creeps up on me. This can be particularly dangerous in faith too; sometimes I'll hear someone speak at church and feel inadequate, I'll focus on the "I am not worthy", and forget the "he sees infinite worth in me". Sometimes, life as a Christian can feel like one of my to-do lists: I feel pressure to always show my friends how freeing life as a Christian is, or to always do the right thing, holding myself up to some impossible standard that I always quite fall short of.
Because the thing is, I'm not perfect. This statement probably sounds so obvious to most, but I for one struggle sometimes to admit that I do make mistakes. Life can become this constant battle between feeling pain on the inside, but feeling I need to show the world that I am always happy, because I'm a Christian and my life has been transformed and therefore I feel I can't show that I suffer just like everyone else.
But this isn't the truth. Being a Christian isn't about what we do; it's about who we are. It's not about what I'm not, it's about who I AM. The Bible says that when God looks at me, he doesn't see my imperfection; he sees me as he sees Jesus. When God looks at me, he sees his beautiful daughter, perfectly made in his image.
You may have heard this question floated around: "I know that God loves me, but does he like me?" My question looks something like: "I know that God loves me, but is he proud of me?"
Hearing God's voice whisper, "I am proud of you" has been such a comfort to me in tough times. Every time I hear the voice that says "you're not good enough", there's a stronger voice that says "you are amazing".
One of the most significant moments for me in my faith so far was at the end of Sixth Form, when I was seeing a therapist for depression, and felt like no matter how much I prayed to God, nothing was changing. Yet it was at this point, when I spent hours soul-searching, that I spent most time speaking to (sometimes yelling at) God. At one point the book Song of Songs came into my head, which I had never read before, and I found it beautiful. I'm a bit of a poetry-obsessive, but it wasn't just a case of appreciating the words; they really spoke to me in my despair. One particular verse has stayed with me ever since: "Like a lily among thorns, so is my darling loved among women". To me, this image was a perfect metaphor for how I felt; the "thorns", all the negative thoughts, were trying to overpower me, but despite my struggles, I was still trying to pursue God, standing out amongst the gloom.
I was told recently that a testimony of someone going through a hard time, but staying in faith, was just as valid as a transformation testimony, and that completely resonated with me. When I have a hard year, or go through a low spell, I feel like something is wrong in my life, because things don't suddenly get better. I feel reluctant to give a testimony because I don't have a miracle transformation - how can I speak about my faith when I'm suffering?
But God doesn't ever promise that life will be easy; he promises that he will be with us, and that truth is certain. I know that whatever I go through, I've got someone who's gone ahead of me and fought the battle for me.