"What's my purpose?"
From 5th grade on, I can vividly remember struggling with self identity and learning how to love myself.
I have felt this way for many years, thinking there was no escaping it. There would be weeks at a time where I felt great, even working through those thoughts at summer or winter camp, leaving with that “camp high,” and then it would slowly fade away. I’d go back to comparing myself to others, telling myself they were better looking and smarter, and I never saw myself the way God sees me.
With my self-loathing thoughts and jealousy of others, I felt that all hope was lost and I didn’t deserve to live anymore. I thought that this world would be better without me.
Back then I didn’t see that God had and has been there for me all along through all my trials and all my troubles. Though I grew up in a Christian household, I hadn’t physically attended church in so long that I couldn’t remember much about it.Once I started attending student ministries, I had no idea the amount of support I had, but looking back now, I can see there have been so many people loving me and supporting me. I didn’t know that my family, friends, and church leaders saw something in me that I had never seen before. God was with me.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
In sixth grade, I shared with a friend via text message that I thought it would be better for me to not be around. My mom’s friend saw my messages, reached out to my school, and I was brought to the principal’s office to discuss how I was feeling. An empowerment group was created for students struggling with similar thoughts, and that group helped me to see a different perspective on life.
God was so faithful and present in this season. I had thought that nobody would be affected if I was gone, but I started to realize that my life is valuable. He sees me and He cares about me. I’ve come to learn the true meaning of being loved by God and what it looks like to extend that love to others.
“We love because he first loved us,” 1 John 4:19
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” Mark 12:31
I remember attending Student Ministries for the first time as a scared, anxious 6th grader, but looking back it is one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made.
I cannot describe to you how different my life would be without Jesus. Life is so much better than without Him. Joining Student Ministries is one of the best moments of my life that I can look back on – belonging to a community, feeling accepted instantly, and hearing from others that I should show up again and again. It wasn’t easy to comprehend that I was loved, but I learned that I needed to love myself if I want to love others, and the only way I could do that was through a relationship with God.
As time went on, I was faithful to my new life in Jesus and showed up to Student Ministries every Wednesday night. I just wanted to get more involved in every aspect of the church every chance I got, which encouraged my parents and my brother to go back to church after many years away.In 2017, I made the decision to publicly dedicate my life to Christ and got baptized. That same weekend in 2017, I started volunteering in Kids Ministry, which I am still doing today, giving me the interest to pursue more.
All glory to God, I am able to stand here today, giving my life to Jesus and living out the purpose He has for my life. Various hardships and death of close family members and friends have impacted me in tremendous ways. I learned a lot about God and His grace, but also of the impact and pain my family would feel if I was gone.
This season of life has been difficult, but remaining a healthy relationship with Christ and having good people by my side has been one of the biggest blessings despite these tragedies. We all go through so many trials in life that make us who we are, and as Christians, we can and will do all things with God.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Even in the midst of my difficulties, I can do anything with God because He strengthens me. Whether it’s been learning how to love myself, how to live my life with purpose, or how to live on the legacy for those that live in my heart forever, it’s become clear to me that the only way I’ve gotten through these difficult times is because of my relationship with God and the people He has placed in my life. Sometimes I wish I had realized earlier on in life that you have an impact on someone’s life, and it’s your choice to have a relationship with God, but without these troubles I wouldn’t be the same person I am today.I know now that I am made in the image of God and He had a purpose for me before I was even born. Our lives are meant to give glory to God, and each one of us has been given unique value and purpose in our lives. God reveals this to us as we follow Him.
By: Taylor Gestl
High School Ministry Senior, Class of 2023
Taylor Gestl is a graduating senior from Alta Loma High School. Her plans after high school are to pursue a degree in elementary education. Her favorite thing to do in her free time is spend time with friends.