For as long as I can remember, I have always called myself a Christian. From a young age, I had been sent to a Christian school in Hong Kong. Yet somehow in Year 10 I was still under the impression that Christianity was just about believing that God exists.

When I came to the UK for sixth form, I finally started going to church, but my faith played little role in my life apart from Sunday mornings and I suppose the bedtime prayers. I had taken the Bible with me to the UK, but with little intention of actually reading it; I treated it like some sort of lucky charm instead.

Then in the Upper Sixth I thought I was winning at life: I was doing well academically, I was leading the school orchestra, I had a nice group of friends, and I even had a relationship. My friends told me I had become exceptionally jubilant and was just a different person altogether.

But at the same time, I knew that this relationship was pulling me away from the very little faith that I had. I was constantly torn between what I was told in church and what I wanted for myself in the relationship. Every Sunday I would say in church, “We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable,” yet once I had left the church I would plunge back into sin. I treated going to church like washing my hands: get my hands muddy during the week, come to church on Sunday to make them clean, repeat and repeat.

Through all this she, who had once been a Christian but had since become an atheist, kept challenging my faith. I found myself unable to counter her claims about the Bible because I was unfamiliar with it. So I actually started to read it. Sadly, this was not the point that I realised I needed to turn back to God; in fact reading the Bible was part of my hand-washing ritual: a compensation for being unrighteous in my daily life.

Somehow whatever remained of my weak faith hung in there throughout those two months, until finally the relationship ended. It was a few days before Christmas, and I remember that night, sinking into my bed and thanking God for putting an end to that mess. I ironically changed my Instagram bio to “Christmas came early this year”, but little did I know that really was the best Christmas gift I had ever received.

For since then, God has done nothing but build me up in faith, hope, and love. I realised that my awful relationship had been a result of me trying to find happiness myself, getting it horribly wrong and going down a hopeless rabbit hole. But more importantly, I realised that God wanted to rescue me and bring me back to Him – not just back, but closer than ever. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

And indeed God provided a way out. I did nothing to deserve this; in fact I went the opposite way. But God, in his mercy, showed his relentless grace, so that I can stand here today and know that I have an eternal hope and an unchangeable source of joy. He declared his love for us 2000 years ago when Christ died on that cross. And 2000 years later, God has finally shown me what it means for me. It means that when God looks at me, he sees not my sins but the righteousness of Christ. It means that I can be called His son, and I have a place in my Father’s house. It means that I have a joy that will not perish, because He is eternal and His power everlasting. So today, I am delighted to offer to Him my whole life.