Tom's Story

What do you love most about Oxford?

My favourite part about Oxford is being amongst wonderful, caring and talented people.

 

What’s your story?

If I was to sum up the last year in one word, it would be: change.

 

Undoubtedly, the biggest of these was the transition from sixth form to university. Like many, I walked into Oxford with great anticipation and excitement: meeting new people, getting to know a new place, studying a subject that I really enjoyed. However, persistent thoughts of my own undeserving – and my own inability – continued to swirl around.

 

Most of my life I’ve been going to church and heard countless times about how my identity in God was not dictated by academic or sporting achievement but simply through that fact that he loved me and died for me on the cross 2000 years ago. And when you’re listening to these words, it’s so easy to nod along and accept it, without taking in the gravity of it.  Before coming to Oxford, I’d never realised how much of a bold claim this was, nor had I truly understood the extent of this challenge. My perceived lack of ability to match up to what Oxford seemingly expected brought out a fear about how I was letting everybody down: my family, my friends, God.

 

The first few weeks, consequently, proved to be of real difficulty: who was I? The guy constantly pushing on to achieve the next milestone, the better grade, the coolest friends. Or the guy who knew he was deeply loved and knew that was enough. I certainly didn’t feel like the latter.

 

I really struggled to see the truth in words I’d heard so much in church as a child.  I began to think a lot more deeply about it than I had before. There is poem in the bible, called Psalm 121. It starts by saying: “I lift my eyes up to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”. Over the next few weeks, I slowly realised the joy of simply being able to live with the confidence of who I am in God. Not by my own skill or strength, but only through Jesus who died so that I may live, and live life to its fullest.

 

Those mountains that were surrounding me in those first few weeks are still very much there, but I can say with utter confidence that I have ‘The Lord, the maker of heaven and earth’ (and of me!) in such circumstances.

 

Working hard, playing sport, and being sociable are all very important aspects of who I am, yet they are by no means the features of life that define me. I am loved, cherished, and free. In being part of such wonderful communities in college, and in church I am constantly remind of this.

 

For me, being human is all about who I am in Jesus: so often I mess up and am so easily led astray but I have been forgiven. The very essence of who I am as a human is rooted in how Jesus calls me to follow him first and foremost. Undoubtedly, my difficulties are unlikely to just disappear: but thankfully he knows my struggles and loves me just the same.