The sun was setting across the dazzling Pacific as I contemplated my life. Was I happy? I was a success – that much was obvious. Successful in the eyes of my parents and friends back home in the UK.
I’d effectively ‘made it’, if the objective was to get as far away from my birthplace of Bradford as possible, to secure a job as an actress on a hit US television show, featuring a world-famous rock star.
I was a young starlet with sights set on Hollywood. I was 24 and no longer the spotty, shy teenager I once was. I’d left behind my flat-share in London to pursue an acting opportunity in LA after years of starring in adverts in the UK.
My goal was to be a famous actress – adored, praised, and proving wrong the people who had me down as a seat-filler while growing up (due to my lack of academic flair).
My acting career had seen me travel to amazing places including Israel, South Africa, Hungary, and the US. And as the sun set on Santa Monica beach, I found myself in another dream location.
It was perfect. Except it wasn’t. The void that had been forming in my gut for years was now palpable and throbbing. Is this it? Is this all there is?
This was the dream – so where were the fanfare, the crowds of people chanting my name, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
I refused to acknowledge that a dream I’d had for so long and had shaped my decisions for years now felt so unsatisfying, even boring. Yet there I was, sitting on the sand and feeling hollow.
It was time to address the void. Ok void, what is missing from my life? I decided to fly home to Bradford to live with my parents.
I decided to be honest with myself and acknowledge that some life goals, even once achieved, are not what we hoped they’d be.
I learned to drive, got a job at a local art gallery, and muddled through, all the time wondering what life was really about. A year later, God gave me the answer.
While I was working in a clinic in Leeds, a man walked in. Still suffering from extremely high self-confidence I questioned why he wouldn’t look at me or ask me out for a drink. Some months later, out of frustration, I questioned him about his behaviour when our paths crossed again.
He graciously explained that he was a Christian, that he loved the Lord Jesus Christ, had a personal relationship with him, was forgiven by him, given new life by him – and he couldn’t accept my invite of going out for a social drink.
I was taken aback! Over the years I’d had the odd Christian try to share the gospel with me, but invariably pulled a face or giggled. Such thinking and practices were surely irrelevant today.
Especially to me. What was important was being skinny, wearing make-up, going clubbing, having a laugh, seizing the moment, drinking and smoking, earning my own money, and putting my skills to good use.
Despite this outlook, I did agree to listen to his testimony and read the Bible verses which he emailed to me. I began to understand something which changed my life.
There is a God – a holy God – and we are all sinners before him. He created us for a relationship with him, but we, marred by sin, made this impossible. We needed our sin to be dealt with, but how?
God sent his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to live the life we could never live. He was sinless and blameless in the sight of his Father, then put to death on a cross, taking the sins of the world on his shoulders.
God punished him instead of us. Sin’s penalty removed, we are now free in Christ – the slate wiped clean, our hearts made new, the Holy Spirit able to dwell within us and make us more like Christ each day.
This truth spoke to my heart. I felt my eyes opened for the first time, my sin illuminated as well as my need for the cleansing blood of the risen Christ.
I prayed the Lord’s Prayer as I remembered it from school. I begged God to forgive me, to take my heart and make it new. I pleaded with Christ to come into my life and make me a new creation in him.
I could feel him near. The next day I explained to my mum that I needed to find a church and that I was eager to hear more about Christ.
It was a shock for my mum to hear: the girl she’d known for 28 years was suddenly a new person with a new zeal for life and a new hope in Christ Jesus.
I found a local church on the first Sunday morning since my conversion, but lingered outside. I didn’t want to go in because I’d never set foot in a church with the intention of listening to a sermon before, but felt strongly that Christ wanted me to go inside; and eventually I did.
It was a blessing to sit through that first sermon and to join in with Christian fellowship. What a blessing those early years were at Church on the Green in Baildon (near Bradford)! I could focus on my new relationship with the Lord and grow in my faith.
God changed how I thought about myself. Formerly, I measured my value in terms of my looks and achievements, but now my value was rooted in my relationship to Jesus.
The man mentioned earlier still has a role in my story. God brought us together as husband and wife and we were married in 2012. We have been blessed with two wonderful children, Elsie and Edward.
We worship together at Mirfield Evangelical Church in West Yorkshire. I have been blessed to be able to help the church in terms of youth work and evangelism, bringing to the local community the same wonderful message that changed me.
People sometimes ask if I miss my old life. I’m confused about exactly what they are referring to – my acting career or being dead in sin? But both have the same answer: absolutely not.
I could never associate those words ‘boring and unsatisfying’ with Jesus. One of his disciples said that to know him is ‘joy unspeakable, and full of glory’.