“I was raised with the idea that you have to earn everything you get,” said Paige Davenport. “So, when I was searching for God in my teenage years, I thought I had to earn salvation and God’s love for me through good deeds.
“My parents raised us in a Christian home, but it was more focused on good morals and values, being a good person, and upholding the image of a great family. We sometimes went to church, and I thought I believed in God, but I’d never heard the gospel clearly explained.
“The focus of my childhood was athletics. I was even homeschooled for several years so that I could devote more time to soccer. I cared deeply about earning the approval of coaches, my parents, and any adults in my life. I would revel in hearing adults tell my parents what a good kid I was or how impressed they were by my success. I thought what people liked most about me was the image of perfection I had created, but I knew I wasn’t perfect. I was terrified of disappointing the people around me or failing in any way and put a lot of pressure on myself.
“My life was defined by people-pleasing, perfectionism, pride, and fear of failure. It was a love-hate cycle where I loved the high of people being proud of me but hated how empty it eventually made me feel. I wanted to be the image of perfection and uphold a perception that my life was fulfilling because of the praise I received. I got all the affirmation, I was succeeding in school and soccer, but I kept thinking, ‘There has to be something else.’
“After a year of convincing, my parents allowed me to quit soccer, and I returned to public high school. But I realized very quickly that all my identity was tied up in soccer. I didn’t know my purpose in life anymore. I became super interested in God and wondered if He had a purpose for my life. I always heard that some God in the sky had a plan, but I didn’t know if He had a plan for me.
“I didn’t relate at all to the people in my high school who said they were Christians. They were partying and drinking, and I was a sheltered ‘good’ kid. All my friends were Mormons, and I related to them in terms of personal morals and values. They believed that their good works would earn them God’s favor and a place in heaven, which sounded great to me. I’d been working my whole life to be ‘good’ to earn approval.
“For a year, I attended a Mormon church every week and studied the Book of Mormon. I resonated with the people and the teachings, and I really wanted to believe it. I had never studied the Bible before, so I thought I knew who God was, but I didn’t at all. I eventually told my parents I wanted to be baptized into the Mormon church and, to my frustration, they wouldn’t let me.
“Shortly after, my family decided to start going to a nondenominational Christian church. It was there in youth group that I heard the truth of the gospel clearly for the first time: that Christ lived a perfect life that I could never live, died for my sins, and rose again to give me salvation, and there was nothing I could do to earn that (Ephesians 2:8-9). It was so different from Mormonism, which teaches that you must perform good works to get to heaven.
“Accepting Christ as my Savior completely changed the way I lived. There was no more pressure to be a perfect person; I could admit my struggles and actually talk about them. It was a huge relief. For the first time I felt I could find my identity in the Lord and who He says I am as His daughter, not in who others say I am. I don’t have to base my worth on whether other people approve of me or not. It was a monumental shift in my perspective.
“I still can fall back into wanting to have everything tied up in a pretty bow and looking like I have it all together, but my worth is no longer on a teeter-totter where I only feel good if I get others’ approval. Now that I know Christ, there’s freedom from needing to find approval from other people. I can take risks without fear of failure and instead walk in faith. I no longer need to portray or strive for an image of perfection – I can just release that to the Lord. Jesus lived a perfect life, so I don’t have to.”
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