As a child Olivia Ward truly believed she would one day meet her prince charming and live a beautiful life together, happily ever after.
Years later, she realised, "Life is not a fairy tale, but that did not stop me from seeking affirmation and significance from guys."
By the end of high school, Olivia believed she was in love with a guy with whom she had a lot in common.
"It felt right," she says, "because I didn't want to be lonely for the rest of my life."
Although they anticipated marriage, Olivia confesses that lust soon became the focal point of their relationship.
"We were desperately pursuing the excitement of intimacy and pleasure at the expense of each other," she recalls.
"Over time I equated physical intimacy to love. Greed and selfishness took over our relationship – it became a cycle that always has an empty ending."
As that empty feeling increased Olivia reluctantly responded to a friend's invitation to a "cool" Christian meeting, hosted by on-campus university ministry Student Life.
"I didn't want to go because in my mind Christians are weird... [who] bash you with Bibles and holy water.
"To my surprise this wasn't the case. Everyone there was normal and even some were actually cool."
“I found out the hard way”More surprises followed. Her impression that you need to "do something to get something" was shattered.
"It was about a personal relationship with a personal God. I'm hearing about this Jesus who gave up His life – all because He wanted to know me and relate to me – even when I didn't deserve it?
"Instead of a 'distant good-for-nothing god' who ignored you", Olivia recalls, "Now I'm faced with a God who was motivated by love so that I didn't have to bear the burden of all the rubbish in my life.
"And it didn't matter what I've done or where I've been. All I had to do was believe."
That day, Olivia says "was the beginning of my relationship with Jesus."
As she responded by surrendering her life to Jesus, Olivia also committed to some changes.
"I had to learn to trust that Jesus was the only one who can truly satisfy my need. This meant putting boundaries in place that would stop me from short-changing myself from having healthy relationships.
"I had to make some tough decisions in my life about who I hung out with and even who I was going to marry."
Secondly, Olivia says that Jesus taught her to disassociate love from physical intimacy.
"He didn't promise to remove my desire for that intimacy, but to learn in the midst of yearning for it that He is trustworthy. That He is the one to run to, not into the arms of another man."
Now happily married to another Christian believer, Olivia sees marriage as an expression of God's love.
"God has blessed me with a marriage not so that my needs will be fully satisfied but so that God Himself can express selfless intimacy through my husband."
Olivia rhetorically asks, "Are you relying on or desiring something or someone to fulfil a need in your life, that you know deep down will not be sufficient?
"If you are, maybe you should think twice. I found out the hard way, that lust is a twisted second hand substitute of love that ends up hurting everyone.
"It's not worth it." •