'My plan was to hang out with friends and ignore all the Jesus stuff'

Ellie’s story | A people pleaser reaches the pinnacle of life and …

“Throughout my high school years, my aim in life was to make people like me. I wanted to do well at school, have good friends, and go to the right parties. By year 12, I was doing pretty well at all that. My teachers liked me, I had good friends and my parents were pleased with me. It felt like I could people-please my way into most relationships.”

“Then, half way through my final year of school, I went on a Crusaders study camp. My plan was to study, hang out with my friends, and ignore all the Jesus stuff. Up until then, my friendships had always been transactional. It’s how we operated. I’ll lend you my geography notes and you’ll invite me to your party on Saturday night.

“So I went on the camp and approached it much the same way. But when I got there, I heard the Gospel presented clearly for the first time and I saw people living it out, in sacrificial, not transactional love. They said that Jesus was their Lord, and they lived like he was. I could see they were living a coherent life. They treated me differently. They were actually interested in me personally and for the first time, it wasn’t transactional. They just wanted to get to know me. I kept thinking … but don’t you want to know who I’m friends with, what I’m good at, why it’s worth getting to know me? They didn’t.

“After the camp, I went away thinking that I needed to figure out who this Jesus was. Perhaps he’s not as dismissible as I thought. Back then, I had two friends at school who were Christians, so I asked them if I could go to church with them. They said yes and I went to church and I started to piece together a picture of Jesus. He was good and holy and powerful. But I still didn’t think I needed him. I was doing well in life. I didn’t need Jesus.

“Then I finished my HSC and I went to Schoolies in Surfers Paradise. It was meant to be the pinnacle of my life, so far. I could tick off all the things that I’d been working on – academically and socially – and give myself a pat on the back. But it wasn’t all great. If the pinnacle of my life was being in Surfers Paradise, surrounded by drunk people who were vomiting in the corridors, then maybe my pinnacle wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be?

“At the same time, the Red Frogs came and knocked on my door. They’re the Christian chaplains who minister at Schoolies. I invited them in because I still had questions about Jesus. They invited me to church in Surfers Paradise and I went with them. There was a testimony and afterwards we were invited to trust in Jesus and to pray. That’s when I decided I didn’t want to run from God’s love anymore.

“I realised, during that year, why Jesus came. We’re not good enough for God. Even though I could people-please my way into most people’s good books, I couldn’t do that with God. I did need Jesus after all, because he is the only one good enough for God.

“The big thing that’s changed for me after coming to faith in Jesus has been in my relationships. I’ve found, over time, that I have a new capacity to love people – not transactionally. I can love people because God has already loved me. It’s been a big change and I’ve had slow realisations. Even in Christian ministry, we don’t meet with people because we think they’re going to respond to Jesus. We meet with people because we love them, regardless. 1 John 4 says, ‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.’ (verses 10-11)

“It’s a challenge for me every day … and I have to keep learning it. My temptation is always to go back to a transactional mindset. But every day, I can love people because love comes from God. I need a fountain of love and I know that only comes from Jesus.”

Ellie’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

Bible verse 1 John 4 10 11

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