Hi, I'm Nicole and my story starts like this…
I from a very young age of 5 years old put a very high value on how I achieved academically. My entire identity was whether I was getting the highest marks out of everyone in my class and that's where I found my worth, in whether people were praising me or not for those marks was what was the most important thing to me. Even as a 5 year old, that's what I valued, which is crazy to think about.
That carried out throughout all the years of my education, but when I was 13 I started doubting whether that was enough. I felt empty inside. People praising me and feeling like I was succeeding in school just felt like something was lacking. I had never really been to church. When I was little I heard some things about God, but never from someone who was actually following God. My friend invited me to go to church retreat with her up to these mountains. I was probably the most awkward 13 year old you have ever met, I was short, and chubby and had glasses, and I was in band, and I had the lowest self confidence of anyone. And so it was really awkward and uncomfortable to think about going with a group of strangers to this foreign place and to learn about a god that I wasn't even sure existed. But I went anyways, I'm not sure why. While I was there we were singing some songs one morning to God, and I was just questioning who I was and why I was there, and in that moment, without really even asking for it, I felt God's presence. And to me that felt like peace and belonging, like someone had discovered me for the first time. Someone was seeing me for the first time, and appreciating me. Loving me just for who I was. Not because of anything i was doing or any grades I was getting or what achievements I had done. And that changed everything. In that moment it was everything I was yearning for but had never been able to find in all my parents' praise and my teachers praises and my friends' respect. And I found it in the Lord and from God. He loved me even though I didn't really love myself. And he wanted me and he accepted me the way that i was. From that point on I still have continued to struggle with my identity and continued to sturggle measuring my worth according to my success in what people think of me or my marks in school. But I can now function out of the confidence of who I am in Christ and who loves me and in that I go about and live my life in a different way than I have before, in the confidence that my identity is in Christ. And so I want to ask you- have you ever felt that emptiness and that lacking inside of you, that hopelessness that I felt before?