I have been a “Christian” since my water baptism in 2009 – quotation marks intended.

The early years of my faith revolved around being holy, such as by not staying out late, not drinking, not going to clubs and bars, and not being comfortable with friends’ pre-marital sexual activities.

Not, not, not.

But I found that being “holy” wasn’t making me happy.

Inside, I was beyond broken. I struggled with anxiety, depression, self-doubt, anger, and a judgemental spirit toward others. I put up a front to be accepted. To be helpful. To be useful, so that I can be loved.

But still I was being mocked for my external expressions of faith. “Stop being so holy. You think you’re so good?”

Piece by piece, I felt as though my identity was being stripped away, and I suddenly didn’t know who I was anymore. I was confused and felt so lost.

Yoga, reiki, meditation, diet, therapy, counselling – I dabbled with anything that promised to heal me.

I was badly affected. I almost became a dropout despite being one of the top scorers in my cohort. Shortly after I was baptised, I stopped going to church, and began my search of love and acceptance from the world.

Yoga, reiki, meditation, diet, therapy, counselling – I dabbled with anything that promised to heal me. I ended up in a community that practices unbridled inclusivity and unconditional acceptance as a substitute for holiness and love.

But in those 7 years of experimentation, nothing I dabbled in could heal the root cause of my pain and suffering. They were acceptable temporary Band-Aids – they kept my wounds hidden.

But the wounds were all rotten beneath the Band-Aids. Without sun and air, the flesh starts to rot. I was as lost as ever, and I was still searching for myself.

I wandered for 7 years – only to come upon the realisation that I am already found in Christ.

Jesus came for me at my workplace, via a random walk-in customer who requested to pray for me.

Jesus came for me when I heard a sermon about Simon Peter’s denial of Christ, and despite that, how he was restored and called back to serve.

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31)

Satan found something in Peter – his self-confidence and self-righteousness – to use against him. Satan found that in me, too, because I held the belief that righteousness and holiness could be earned by my own work. I left the faith because I couldn’t keep up with my own efforts anymore.

Holiness is not about a set of rules. Holiness is about being transformed by Christ. Holiness involves liberation: No longer seeing religion merely in its outward expressions, but in its inward joys, of knowing God as our Heavenly Father, and so wanting to be like him.

I think about how, in my holier-than-thou days, I frequently posted Christian articles, songs and verses, but I never wrote about the One who changed me into this person.

Now I know I should live with only one true audience: Jesus.

I know that it is Jesus’ transforming love that has made me beautiful, just as it is making me holy.

I used to be this awkward, anti-social lone ranger. Right now, I can say that I have good relationships with a diverse group of people. Sometimes they throw compliments my way, as friends will: You’re a blessing, you’re friendly, you’re sociable, you’re real, you’re beautiful.

I know that it is Jesus’ transforming love that has made me beautiful, just as it is making me holy.

But even so, I know this acceptance from the world will not last – there will come a time when we get persecuted for what we believe in. But when that time comes, I will be ready to throw away the identities that the world has given to me. I know who I am in God.