From being her first boyfriend's "everything" to the heartbreak of insignificance, Tina McAlees' thought that reinventing herself would fix her world.
"I remember not eating," Tina recalls. "I figured perhaps if I were skinnier he would want me back. I remember the never-ending pep-talks from my best friends, telling me that he's a loser and that he doesn't deserve me and that I was too good for him.
“While I felt loved by my friends and family, I asked myself, would I ever feel loved again? What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t he want me?”
Heeding the advice of friends to have a fresh start, she spent her first year of university reading dozens of self-help books and searching for an elusive feeling of happiness.
"Surrendering to the messages of society, I gathered this: that happi-ness, success and fulfilment meant having heaps of friends, being part of the party and clubbing scene, getting good grades, plenty of exercise, making myself desirable to the opposite sex, splurging on the latest make-up and fashion and setting goals to keep me going.
“All other girls became competition as to who was more desirable and the prettiest.”
“Fitness and fashion”
“Making myself desirable”
“Friends and clubbing”
“...I just wanted more, it was never enough,”
However, it was difficult to embrace these expectations. In other’s company, she recalls being “all smiles and laughs”, but “depression hit hard when I was alone”.
She also realised that the long nights partying were not worth the body-clock battle afterwards, and when “splurging” on things she could not afford, she says, “I just found that I wanted more or the next thing. It was a never ending cycle. It was never enough.”
Feeling numb about her life, Tina thought, “Surely God has answers”.
Her religious experiences had given her an image of a cold scary God, scrutinising and judging her every move.
However, she reasoned that if God did create her with this desire to know Him “there had to be more than just following rules and going to church every weekend.”
A few days after praying an honest prayer to God, asking Him to show her exactly what He wanted from her, she was invited by a Buddhist friend to attend an “Introducing God” course held by her friend’s English tutor.
“The very first session explained from the Book of Genesis that God created us to have a relationship with Him.
Something inside me clicked and I knew this was the answer I had been searching for all along.
“From that day forward I wanted to have a relationship with God just like the people who were hosting this course.
“A few more sessions in, I learned about Jesus, God the Son who became a man 2000 years ago. I learned that God had to punish sin (rebellion against Him), and that I was a sinner. But, because He loved me, instead of punishing me, He punished Jesus so that I could have this relationship with Him.”
She felt challenged when the presenter asked “What will you live for?”
“I’d lived for friends, family, boyfriends, for the weekend, even lived for acquiring things.
“I had NOTHING to lose, I had gained the world and found it meaningless. I was empty and broken I figured if my sole purpose in life is to have a relationship with God, then I want to live for Him.
“One night I asked God for His forgiveness, that He would cleanse me from my impurity and help me to please Him.” Tina says her priorities changed overnight. She deferred university for a semester to focus on this new relationship with God.
“I have been filled in a way that I never had before, filled with joy and hope and purpose. Now I want to please God with every fibre of my being, with every decision that I made.”
Now when she feels “not good enough” she gains encouragement from Romans chapter 8, verses 38 and 39, from which she concludes “It doesn’t matter how much I might hate myself at times, ‘nothing can separate me from God’s love.’ My self worth is not from achievements, skills, abilities, popularity or even looks, but from God Himself and His love.”
This unconditional love of God has also guided Tina to cease seeking happiness in other places.
Instead, she explains, “I love God. I think about Him, talk about Him to my friends, and I love reading His Word and praying to Him.
“When I’m not spending time with Him and go my own way my life crumbles. It becomes purposeless. I get depressed. I can’t go back to the way I used to be, to the way I used to live. His ways are perfect.”
Publicly declaring her relationship with God through baptism in water in 2012, Tina told witnesses, “It is said that until you’ve found something worth dying for, then you’re not really living. I’ve found something worth dying for!” ?