In the past 5 months I have had an immense change of perspective on life, which started when I attended the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia with Blackhawk CAM. I’d like to think my close friends have noticed and some have specifically said I have become more “religious.”

Going to Passion at the Georgia Dome was basically stepping into a space of 55,000 college-age students on fire for Jesus Christ. Most people at UW-Madison are probably more familiar with the mention of that name in the form of a swear word, but here people were tearing up at the beauty of such a name. Passion is a three day Christian conference that consists mainly of worship and hearing from world renown speakers about faith. The speakers talked about things like God’s love, enduring hard times, finding joy amidst difficulties like death or disability, and much more. My favorite was a talk by John Piper about empty cisterns.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”  Jeremiah 2:13

Piper went into depth on how without God we are all searching for happiness, desperately creating our own cisterns and constantly being disappointed. I reflected back on my past two and a half years in college, as well as high school. I saw how I put so much energy into my body image – and at that, way too much – I have recently been going to therapy for an eating disorder. I realized how much attention and worry I put into whether or not I had a lot of friends or was a part of a group. This led me to partying hard in college because it was “cool” and an easy way to make friends, especially at a place like UW. I noticed how I would base my self worth on whether or not I was noticed, or given attention by men. I desired so much to have a relationship in college, but whenever an actual nice boy tried to pursue me, I’d run away – fast.

Not surprisingly, none of my “cisterns” held any water and my eyes were open to the reality that although I had become a Christian and put my trust in Jesus in 7th grade, He was not the center of my world at all. That talk along with many others, and the amazing faith-centered friendships I acquired on the trip, gave me the fuel to decide to live my life out differently. From then I vowed to move forward with my eyes fixed on things unseen and eternal, with a heart for God above all else.

With that explanation out of the way, I’d like to reference back to my title. I say I am not religious because I know that no rituals or rules are what will dictate my life after death. It’s my relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit within me that allows me to move forward with certainty that I have a purpose and I am loved. The God of the universe created each and every one of us with such detail and joy and admiration, but so many decide to only make God a Sunday thing or a duty to say the same prayers over and over. Prayer is supposed to be a way to talk to God, cast your anxieties on Him, seek guidance, and express gratitude for everything. Reading the Bible is how we can hear God’s voice and in doing so I’ve definitely heard His truth. It is best said that,

“Religion tends to substitute the heartless observance of rituals for a genuine relationship with God.” Gotquestions.org

Since Passion, I’ve stopped getting blacked out drunk, being obsessed with talking about guys or having a boyfriend, being anxious over the future, swearing (or attempting to), and I really have felt a strong desire to engage in the Christian community in Madison. By no means am I at all close to perfect (and that is the point!!), but there’s definitely been a difference in how I live my life. These differences stem from God changing my heart, which changes my actions. Ultimately, I believe it’s Him working through me, not me being a “better person” on my own. I’ve seen so many prayers answered that I didn’t think would ever be worth my time even asking for. It’s absolutely beautiful to see God work in the way I have started to notice – and that is the thing, He is always working, it is just whether you choose to see it or not.

So, I have not become more religious in 2017 – I’ve become closer to God, a Christ follower, and realized the real purpose of humanity – to love. Instead of trying to find my identity in the approval of other people, I find it in knowing I’m adored by the Maker of the universe, and that makes me enough.

Lexi – Senior at UW-Madison
Story originally posted on Lexi’s blog: A UW BADGER’S THOUGHTS.

Learn more about the Passion Conference Trip