All the pain, betrayal, hate and everything else that I had bottled up over the years vanished like a popped balloon.
I was raised in a Christian family and although my childhood was happy I was incredibly shy. In my teenage years, my closest friend moved away, my parents split up and a peer group gave me years of malicious bullying.
I didnt ask for any help and food became my comfort of choice.
I gained a lot of weight and struggled with identity, image, acceptance, belonging, love I was very unhappy.
But there were a few glimmers of hope. Even though I didnt confide in my parents, I knew they cared. A Christian teacher cared (I dont know where I would be if it wasnt for Mr John!) and my church's youth leaders also cared. Youth group was great - a place I could escape and simply enjoy something. The leaders Jacqui and Tony became stalwart people in my life.
I left school and a new chapter in my life began - art college I lost weight and found a new inner confidence through the one thing I was good at. Key people stood by me and I got involved in a Christian youth project managed by Tony. This was an opportunity to meet new people - Christian friends who accepted me for who I was. I was happier, I learned to trust again, but I still struggled with identity, image, acceptance, belonging, love
I was 24 when I gave my life to Jesus Christ. The previous five years had been the happiest time of my life but, despite this, my inner anxieties and insecurities would still return.
One evening I hit rock bottom. Never had I felt so low, hopeless, insecure, confused, troubled and desperate. I was well and truly lost and there was no visible light at the end of the tunnel. In a flash all my coping mechanisms collapsed as the tears ran down my face.
I knew that there was only one person I could turn to. The time had come to ask God for help.
I dont remember what I said but Ill never forget what I experienced. Its as though God said, I know and He had been waiting for this moment.
I simply responded, Why?
Maybe I was hoping for an explanation to all my troubles, but God's response was simple and straight to the point. Like a flash God's love pulsed through my body. My soul ignited and in that moment I felt different. I smiled. All the pain, betrayal, hate and everything else that I had bottled up over the years vanished like a popped balloon. In that moment I knew that my life had a purpose.
Six months later I made the bold move to resign from my job and go traveling around Australia to figure out God's purpose for me. As I was walking/praying along Coogee Bay, looking out and admiring the surfers, God confirmed my vocation and two months later I flew home to train as a youth minister.
16 years on and God's purpose is still prevailing in my life. In my heart I know that I have not been the most faithful servant. Ive made mistakes but, like a surfer, Im still dedicated to the cause. Ive been scared and frustrated, have persevered and been willing to get into water over my head and God's reward has been worth it every time - although I dont have a VW Camper yet!
Even though the struggles and torments of yester-year still rear their ugly heads every now and then, God continues to be faithful to me and that alone keeps me steadfast. I often wonder why.
But deep down, I know - just like God said, I know in the quiet of my bedroom - that God loves me and nothing will ever change that.
Dan Jones is Adviser for Youth and Childrens Work for the Diocese of Bristol
Think about purpose and change.
Do you identify any inner-anxiety within yourself, whether its immediate or ongoing?
What kind of surfboard can you ask for from God to ride those waves?
Meditate through the day
Look for the things you've done well and to do things well; look for the people you trust and to trust people. Bless these through the day.