If there was one place in the world Chéri-Lynn Steyn loved to be, it was basking in the glow of her own limelight. Arrogant and full of pride, smart and accomplished, she believed she was better than others.
Her achievements, both academic and sporting, became her idols and she worshipped them.
"I was an academic achiever from the day I walked into primary school," she says in a friend's blog 'In Pursuit of the Beloved'.
On the rare occasion she scored less than 100% in any test, she says the shortfall only inspired her to work harder.
Sport followed very much the same trajectory. Although she never reached the heights of international fame, Chéri-Lynn, who grew up in sports mad South Africa, did well enough at provincial and national levels.
"Losing was never an option," she says, revealing again the rigid plumb line she held herself to. "Extreme measures were taken to minimise the risk of losing. I was very hard on myself. Inadequacy was not tolerated in my world. My biggest fear was mediocrity."
Another area Chéri-Lynn enjoyed being queen of all she surveyed was religion. Raised in a Christian home with good values, she was careful to observe all the requirements of the faith. She went to church regularly, prayed and studied the Bible.
She prayed and even saw people she prayed for get miraculously healed. She was thoroughly impressed with herself.
It never occurred to Chéri-Lynn that her success had more to do with God's help than her own cleverness. At the time she may even have felt God had a lot to be grateful to her for.
Then came a family vacation at a resort named Klein Kariba. By this time, Chéri-Lynn's older brother had become a Christian. Chéri-Lynn hated the holidays when her older brother was present because she knew he would challenge her about her pride and self-righteousness.
"He confronted me about parts of the Bible I had never read, or thought were not applicable to me," she writes in the blog. "For a very long time I convinced myself I was going to heaven because how could God send ME to hell?"
During that holiday in Klein Kariba, as she and her brother inevitably clashed, he asked her the question that changed everything. "If Jesus is your Saviour, from what did He save you? Did He save you from sin? Who are you when no one else is around, when it's only you and God?"
Chéri-Lynn said she had no answers for her brother.
"That night was the worst of my life," she says. "I could not sleep, try as I may. Every time I closed my eyes I had sexual fantasies as I did every night...I realised then that if I would die on my way home from the resort I would certainly be sent straight to damnation.
"How could I be so arrogant, such a big sinner and claim to be a Christian preaching to people?"
Chéri-Lynn finally admitted she was lost and a sinner. She realised her achievements would not matter on the day she stood before God for judgement. "Yet without them I felt like nothing. Humiliated, I admitted I had lost at life."
Realising her own good works could not save her, she said that the following morning she pleaded for forgiveness and asked God to save her. "Not because of who I am or what I have done but because of the cross and the blood Jesus shed at Calvary."
She stood up that morning from the bed in her grandparents' caravan a "new being".
She realises now her achievements had made her haughty. "I believed I was better than other people; in my own eyes I was perfect - or close enough," she admits. "I would see people receive healing after I prayed for them, but in my heart it was always because I prayed for them.
"I am convinced to this day the Lord blessed so many people through my life for the sake of His name. I misused God. In reality I blasphemed His name. While I preached the loudest, I was the most hypocritical. I used the cross as an excuse to sin in certain areas because, I thought, I was doing all of the other things right."
Chéri-Lynn is a vastly different person today. Now she acknowledges God in everything she does, saying "everything I achieve today is simply a praise offering to Him.
"My life is not my own but lies safely in the hands of my mighty heavenly Father. I am forever grateful that He called me by my name and never stopped calling until I answered."
She says the hardest part of being a Christian is knowing many people have yet to ask Jesus Christ to become their personal Saviour.
"But the best part about being a Christian is when someone you have prayed for multiple times finally tells you they have received Jesus into their lives. That is truly a good feeling."
She says the five years since becoming a Christian have meant more to her than the 18 she lived before she submitted to God.
One of her favourite verses is Isaiah 1:18 - "Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool."•