Rags to Riches: Living A Double Life
I’m excited to share this week’s post in the series with you, because once again it shows the immeasurable transformation that takes place when we surrender all to Jesus. He takes our rags, in this example insecurity and anger, and transforms them into His riches. Have a great week! Nadia x
Once upon a time, a raging perfectionist and total failure finally clocked that fullness of life was not met by personal achievement, or moralism, but in Christ. This is her story.
Most people assume that a girl like me - enthusiastic to the point of insanity and who currently desires to work full-time in Christian ministry - must have been brainwashed by her parents, a product of her cultural context.
Yes, there was Christian influence around me. I went to half-term Bible clubs and did the worksheets for the prizes, not because I was enthralled by the stories. And when I didn’t get the answers right, couldn’t prove myself, I kicked off. Being a church kid was about being a good kid. Bring your Bible, get a point.
10 points and you get extra sweets. Learn a memory verse (in the car on the way), get a point, get 5 points and you get a prize. I was in church because I wanted rewards for my good acts.
Yet, I believed that I really was a Christian and reassured myself with all my knowledge of the Bible. But in reality, things looked different. I retaliated to school bullies with violence. It was satisfying, getting someone back who had done you wrong; childish justice. In my moments of uncontrollable anger, where was Jesus? He was for Sundays and He helped me win prizes.
I moved to secondary school, vowing to change myself. I soon faced the crippling realisation that I couldn’t just change. Within months I found myself cyber-bullying friends, throwing chairs, and forcing my hands around a throat of an innocent classmate.
My anger was a sickeningly satisfying outlet for my sense of inadequacy and failure.
I wasn’t achieving, I wasn’t the perfect girl, and I was lashing out. Still I wondered: where was Jesus?
That year, I went to a Christian conference in the Easter holidays. It was there when I was first confronted with the moralism that I had confused with Christianity. I knew the sin of my anger and violent outbursts, and I could no longer reassure myself that my other good acts were ‘good enough’ for God.
Knowing that I had failed to change myself, I began to understand the depths of my sin and rebellion against God, and my desperate need for Jesus; in His great love, descended to die for me: the girl who thought she had it sorted; the girl who thought she didn’t need anything but a good knowledge and religious looking actions to be right with him; the girl who had tried to justify actions which were deserving of God’s righteous anger.
It was a slow slog from there. There were many issues that still seemed too big for Jesus to handle. My view of God was quite small. I wanted to read my Bible, but verses on anxiety and anger seemed patronising. I tried to ‘live the good life’ in my own strength. I’m not sure my heart believed what I proclaimed with my lips. If Jesus really did die a death to atone for my sin, so that I could be called a child of God and be given a new status, why was I still trying alone to make myself a ‘better person’?
I became angry at myself, and soon, at God. It took years, after counselling, therapy, bouts of anxiety and panic attacks, and a suspension from school, to finally understand and apply what I knew of God, and particularly the significance of Jesus’ death.
A summer of no friends after I reacted with my fists was a low point. For once, my tears were not merely self-centred shame, but shame before God, and a cry of forgiveness from the Creator and Father I had rejected. I saw the depths of my sin and the consequences of my rebellion, but found on the cross Jesus’ offer of mercy and grace for failures.
I experienced the joy of forgiveness, and learnt to forgive those who I had in the past blamed for triggering my anger and anxiety.
And, finally, my story changed direction. It changed direction because I knew, understood, and accepted a better story – the Gospel. I recommitted to following Jesus, and it wasn’t on the agreement that I was fixed up, but on the agreement that I would surrender my life to the King.
Within a year, the counselling and therapy was no longer needed. It was nothing to do with me. I had been trying for years and falling flat. He alone orchestrated the change in my heart by His Spirit as I read His Word with open eyes and a longing to know more of God’s truth. He alone could rescue me from the depths of my insecurity, inadequacy, anger, anxiety. I experienced such drastic and lasting change that I often wonder if I ever was the person I remember from my teen years.
Every day, I remain a sinful failure, but I am assured that this has been dealt with on the cross of Christ. By God’s mercy, I have accepted the offer of life to the full, of true joy, of perfect love, magnificent peace, everlasting hope, and future glory. My story continues now, trusting and boasting only in Christ.
Antonia is in her second year studying English Literature and Ancient History at Durham University. She was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease a year ago and rejoices at the sight of good, gluten-free food that doesn't taste like sand. She has had the privilege, and joy of seeing friends come to know and trust Jesus for themselves this year and is astounded at the power of the Gospel for salvation! In her spare time, she annoys her housemates by singing (loudly), or indulges in a good crime drama.