Rachel is a first-year Design | Media Arts major who loves doodling, chasing sunrises & sunsets, doing morning workouts, journaling, meowing & watching corgi videos, having one-on-one convos, and delighting in God’s grace!
I’m your typical pew baby—I “said the sinner’s prayer” in elementary school at a VBS-sports camp and was baptized in sixth grade. At school I was labelled as the good Christian girl who never swore, partied, or cheated, who couldn’t hang out because she went to church, and who got to miss school to attend retreats. I had fun attending church, serving on music team, and being a staffer for the middle school ministry. I thought that by doing the “right” things, I’d be a good Christian. God blessed me with a functional home life, sheltered neighborhood, and supportive environment. Taking all of these factors into account, I never had a reason to doubt God’s existence or Jesus’ sacrifice for sinners, so I always assumed that I was going to heaven. However, although I went through the motions, I don’t think that I was truly saved. I believed in God, but I also was so numb to the greatness of God’s love. I did not attempt to grasp, for my own soul, the concept of the sufficiency of His grace or the urgency of the Gospel. It wasn’t until my first month of college when I realized that although I had a simple belief, this belief didn’t go much deeper than surface knowledge.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ever since I was little, I knew that I was different from my peers. I didn’t find pleasure in math or science classes. I began to pursue art at an early age—partially because I loved it and partially because I told myself that I couldn’t be successful in anything else. My high school is about 85% Asian, serving many students whose parents are employed by high-tech companies. This environment was a stressful and challenging pressure cooker for any artist. Because I constantly felt inferior to my STEM-oriented, Stanford-bound peers, I worked hard to earn myself leadership positions in artistically-inclined clubs, organizations, and internships. My outward actions proclaimed to everyone that I was 1) a Christian, and 2) an artist. Because I was different, friends idolized my “perfect” and “hipster” lifestyle and my design work. I was labelled as a leader and fell into a prideful cycle of doing everything to find fulfillment in impressing my peers and myself. My mentality was me-centered, and my identity was shaped by my long list of activities.
Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Under this fragile facade of talent and confidence, I struggled immensely with self-esteem throughout high school. Because I grew up in church, I was fully aware that my identity should be as a chosen daughter of God. However, I struggled to turn my head knowledge into heart knowledge by applying it to my life. I knew all the “right” answers in church, but internally I wrestled deeply with my identity. Did I find my worth in the grades which I studied so hard for? Or was my value found in leadership roles at school, or the praise that I received for my art, or the way that I dressed, or my body image? At the same time, I tried desperately to find my fulfillment and worth in approval from guys. Nothing worked; I was left empty and searching for something all-satisfying, eternally-lasting. Someone once told me that happiness is based on happenings, while true eternal joy is found in Christ alone. From the beginning, I knew that the answer to this thirst was God. But a simple awareness wasn’t enough.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Fast forward to college: by God’s grace, I was accepted into UCLA. The college applications process challenged me to know, or at least pretend to know, my identity. After countless long journal entries, stress, and tears, I decided to portray myself as a confident, motivated, and intense artist—what I had always been to my peers. I was shocked at the amount of acceptances that I received, and was overwhelmed at God’s providence. There was no way I could’ve done it on my own! As a result, I recognized that my artistic gifts are completely God-given, that I should be using these talents for His glory, and it is only by His will that I ended up where I am today.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Everything seemed perfect; The Lord sovereignly brought me into a solid Bible-based and loving Christian fellowship called Grace On Campus. I was looking forward to positive conversations and growing in my faith. But about a month into my first quarter, I began to question whether or not I was even saved. Each sermon that I heard and conversation that I had convicted me of my sinfulness, pride, lack of knowledge, and inability to walk as Christ did. I thought I knew what I believed in, but God used college to push me into countless situations which convicted and humbled me because I couldn’t even eloquently articulate the Gospel. If this good truth is so foundational to my values and beliefs, then why do I struggle to share it with others? I discovered within myself a deep fear of man: a fear of disapproval, of being shunned or rejected, of not being able to stand up for what I claim to believe in. No one knew my history, so I had no leadership positions or past accomplishments to take pride in. Feelings of inferiority came flooding back, resurfacing stronger than ever. It was easy to isolate myself on such a large campus, to feel lonely and abandoned. I dug back into my head knowledge from years ago—I remembered that the only comfort that I could find was in Christ. It suddenly dawned on me during those rough weeks that to find His comfort, I had to desire to read His truth. To know how to glorify God and share His good news with others, I had to commit His words to my heart. We have the privilege of having God’s direct words through the Bible (even on our phones)—these words deserve so much more attention and honor and awe!
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work
God has sanctified me immensely in the span of a few months. I’ve seen Him provide and sustain me with his sovereign grace day by day. It’s an indescribable feeling to have faith that His love and joy and peace are so much more powerful than anything that humans can offer. He brings us, imperfect sinners and strangers to righteousness, into His family to sit at His table! Isn’t that crazy in the best way possible? Why wouldn’t I want to get to know this gracious God? While I still struggle daily with fear of the flesh, full satisfaction, and aligning my heart to God’s perfect will, I have learned to yearn to reflect Jesus’ life by reading the Bible and seeking to obey His Word with joy. It is my constant prayer that God will continue to humble me and reveal my true identity as His chosen child, and that all Christians will recognize the urgency of the Gospel then live as lights, to bring the rest of God’s children home.
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.