Faith story: Redefining passion

News | January 24, 2019

Editor’s note: Emma Tews is a senior in high school. She recently shared her faith story during Sunday Night Live.

If you know my family, you know that I have two sisters and we look and act very similarly because we are so close. I grew up as my older sister’s sidekick. I was her little pet horse or do, ever her little reindeer named Antlers when she would play Mrs. Claus. I grew up thinking that following in her footsteps was the right thing to do. She was well-liked, and everything she did or made was beautiful, and I wanted to be like that. She was involved in dance, volleyball, band, tennis, and worked hard in school. So, I began dance classes at the age of 3, I joined volleyball, I took tennis lessons, I played the flute, and I worked hard in school.

But then I realized that this wouldn’t help me create my identity. I wanted to be noticed, and I wanted people to know Emma as someone who was more than Marah’s little sister.

One day my mom compared me and Marah to the right and left sides of the brain. If you know anything about psychology, the right side is more creative, the more colorful side (Marah), while they left side is the more logistical, disciplined side (me). I embraced this difference and decided that disciplining myself in literally every aspect of my life would help me stand out.

With music, I decided to try out for an honor band in 8th grade, and made myself practice every single day. I vividly remember my dad coming into my room one day to drop something off as I was practicing. “There’s the daily scales,” he said.

With dance, I perfected every movement and focused on the dance part more than being a part of the community of friends.

With school, I gave 110 percent effort for all of my projects, even if it was just a simple brochure in health class about what a healthy lifestyle looks like.

Yes, all this hard work did pay off. I was accepted as the second chair into the band, I received my studio’s inspirational dancer award this past year, and I maintained all As in school. The feeling of accomplishing something I had worked so hard on felt good, but only for a moment or a few days. The work that I was doing was more draining than it was fulfilling. There was an evident lack of self care. I was always sleep deprived, and didn’t have a clue about what a healthy mental health routine looked like. But my attention wasn’t focused there. I strove to make my difficult lifestyle look effortless. I didn’t want anyone to see how overwhelming it could be, and how thinly I was stretched.

I haven’t even brought up God once yet, but that’s because I don’t believe that God was really present at this point in my life. As a little kid, I believed God existed, but didn’t form a strong bond with God. Same with confirmation. Then all of this was going on through the early years of high school, and I left God out of the picture.

God re-entered my life when God knew I reached the breaking point. It was a Wednesday night. Let me tell you about my Wednesdays in the spring of junior year. It was a time when three sports (tennis, dance, and volleyball) overlapped. I woke up at 6 a.m. to go to early bird weightlifting, then would go through school, then tennis immediately after school, then headed to volleyball, then dance, and then arrive home at 10:30 p.m. But of course I couldn’t go to bed without studying and playing my flute. I would say a quick “hey” to my parents, shower, study, play my flute, and go to be around 1-2 a.m., sometimes even 3.

I was caught up in this relentless cycle, and my body finally tapped out and said “I’ve had enough.” During this Wednesday night, I looked over my to-do list, and my body just said no. All of the reminders written down started repeating themselves in my head, and I started to shake, and couldn’t take a deep breath, and the tears started coming, and it was all too much. I started thinking that I wasn’t going to be able to do this anymore, but then I was afraid that people would see me as weak, and that I was slacking off, and that I would lose my only sense of identity.

I looked up above my bed and saw this picture that Marah, my older sister, made for me when we redid this room. On it, was a quote. I finally understood its meaning.

I finally understood there was help, that this is how I form a relationship with God. God created heaven and earth together, and they are within one another. God meant for people to build real relationships, and to be happy with their lives, and to not be perfect all of the time. This picture brought Marah back into my life, but I know used her difference (being artistic) to help me with my difference (being overly disciplined). In that moment, I found a release of stress, and tension, anxiety, and realized that there was a different way to live life.

I realized that before, I was just skimming the surface of life, even though I was dedicating my whole self to every activity. If you imagine the floor of a desert, I was just trying to cover as much land as I could to reach an oasis/relief. But now, I realize that you’ll only find the sweetness of life within its cracks, like the relief the cracks of the desert floor bring to something trying to escape the intense heat of the sun. I finally understood the definition of grace, being lenient when you’re pushing hard. I realized that I needed to incorporate real passion into my life and not focus on being so disciplined and rigid.

Now, I’m still doing the same activities, but I find it easier to live in the moment, and appreciate the art of music and the art of dance, and the relationships I build with each one. I’ve redirected my energy to make life meaningful, and slowing down rather than just trying to accomplish and perfect every little thing. In doing so, I’m not drained, I get energy out of socializing with others and out of feeling proud of how beautiful something is, not necessarily how difficult it is.

While creating these more meaningful relationships in the communities that used to be the foundatino of my stress – school, dance, and band – I realized that people will love me regardless of what I achieve or don’t achieve. I know that yes “I look to the mountains, but my help will always come from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.”

4 Comments on “Faith story: Redefining passion”

  • Joan Bruce

    January 26, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    Oh, Emma, how beautifully written is your testimony. I can relate to so much of what you expressed. I found your words to be very inspirational and comforting. You possess so much insightful wisdom for such a young person. Thank you for sharing your beautiful end quotation.

  • Lynda Gradert

    January 25, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Wow, Emma! I’m still drying my eyes after reading your testimony! It was so heartfelt, and by telling it with such transparency, I’m convinced that the ripples will be used by God in someone else’s life in a most amazing way! Your sharing blessed me! 😊

  • Nancy Hultquist

    January 24, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    I loved reading your story, Emma. You are a beautiful child of God with so much potential and gifts to give to this world. I’m very proud of you!

  • Pamela Spear

    January 24, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    Congratulations on making changes in your life. It is not always easy. I so appreciated your faith story and the wisdom it exudes. It is very easy for people of faith to get over involved and not take care of themselves. We need to practice compassionate care giving for ourselves and then we are more present to others.

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Deuteronomy 30:15-20

15“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;16in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.17“But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them,18I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.19“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants,20by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Psalm 1

1How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the path of sinners,

Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

2But his delight is in the law of the LORD,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

3He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,

Which yields its fruit in its season

And its leaf does not wither;

And in whatever he does, he prospers.

4The wicked are not so,

But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.

5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

But the way of the wicked will perish.

Philemon 1-21

Luke 14:25-33

25Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them,26“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.27“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.28“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?29“Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him,30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’31“Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?32“Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.33“So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

Exodus 32:7-14

7Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.8“They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’”9The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.10“Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”

Moses’ Entreaty

11Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?12“Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people.13“Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”14So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

Psalm 51:1-10

1Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;

According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity

And cleanse me from my sin.

3For I know my transgressions,

And my sin is ever before me.

4Against You, You only, I have sinned

And done what is evil in Your sight,

So that You are justified when You speak

And blameless when You judge.

5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

And in sin my mother conceived me.

6Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,

And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.

7Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8Make me to hear joy and gladness,

Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.

9Hide Your face from my sins

And blot out all my iniquities.

10Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

1 Timothy 1:12-17

12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,13even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;14and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.15It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.16Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 15:1-10

The Lost Sheep

1Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.2Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3So He told them this parable, saying,4“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?5“When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.6“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’7“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

The Lost Coin

8“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?9“When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’10“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The Prodigal Son

Amos 8:4-7

4Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land,5saying,

“When will the new moon be over,

So that we may sell grain,

And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market,

To make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger,

And to cheat with dishonest scales,

6So as to buy the helpless for money

And the needy for a pair of sandals,

And that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?”

7The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob,

“Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds.

Psalm 113

1Praise the LORD!

Praise, O servants of the LORD,

Praise the name of the LORD.

2Blessed be the name of the LORD

From this time forth and forever.

3From the rising of the sun to its setting

The name of the LORD is to be praised.

4The LORD is high above all nations;

His glory is above the heavens.

5Who is like the LORD our God,

Who is enthroned on high,

6Who humbles Himself to behold

The things that are in heaven and in the earth?

7He raises the poor from the dust

And lifts the needy from the ash heap,

8To make them sit with princes,

With the princes of His people.

9He makes the barren woman abide in the house

As a joyful mother of children.

Praise the LORD!

1 Timothy 2:1-7

A Call to Prayer

1First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,4who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.5For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,6who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.7For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Luke 16:1-3

The Unrighteous Steward

1Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.2“And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’3“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.

Amos 6:1-7

1Woe to those who are at ease in Zion

And to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria,

The distinguished men of the foremost of nations,

To whom the house of Israel comes.

2Go over to Calneh and look,

And go from there to Hamath the great,

Then go down to Gath of the Philistines.

Are they better than these kingdoms,

Or is their territory greater than yours?

3Do you put off the day of calamity,

And would you bring near the seat of violence?

4Those who recline on beds of ivory

And sprawl on their couches,

And eat lambs from the flock

And calves from the midst of the stall,

5Who improvise to the sound of the harp,

And like David have composed songs for themselves,

6Who drink wine from sacrificial bowls

While they anoint themselves with the finest of oils,

Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.

7Therefore, they will now go into exile at the head of the exiles,

And the sprawlers’ banqueting will pass away.

Psalm 146

1Praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

2I will praise the LORD while I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

3Do not trust in princes,

In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.

4His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;

In that very day his thoughts perish.

5How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,

Whose hope is in the LORD his God,

6Who made heaven and earth,

The sea and all that is in them;

Who keeps faith forever;

7Who executes justice for the oppressed;

Who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free.

8The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

The LORD raises up those who are bowed down;

The LORD loves the righteous;

9The LORD protects the strangers;

He supports the fatherless and the widow,

But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

10The LORD will reign forever,

Your God, O Zion, to all generations.

Praise the LORD!

1 Timothy 6:6-19

6But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.7For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.8If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.9But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.10For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

11But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.12Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.13I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate,14that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,15which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,16who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

17Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.18Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,19storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

Luke 16:19-31

19“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.20“And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores,21and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.22“Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.23“In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.24“And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’25“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.26‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’27“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—28for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’29“But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’30“But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’31“But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”