Hi, my name is Matthew. I am 21 years old and live in Auckland, New Zealand.
I grew up in a Christian family in Johannesburg, South Africa (SA). I am the eldest of three children and was fortunate enough to live with both of my parents.
Even though I grew up in a Christian household, there comes a time for any Christian where they must decide to claim their faith as their own. For me, this wasn’t a decision I made in a moment. Rather, it was a series of small choices I made overtime that helped me claim my faith as my own.
One of those defining choices I can remember was when I decided to read my Bible regularly when I was 12. It played a big part in building the foundation of my belief. Also, it involved a personal sacrifice of my time beyond just going to church on a Sunday with my parents.
Through that time of regularly reading my Bible, along with other choices I made, my faith became firmly mine.
Move to NZ
We moved to New Zealand in July 2013. Moving here remains the hardest, but best thing we have done as a family.
My dad left in search of job in February of that year. He only had a 6-month window in which he had to find a job. After 6 months, he would have to return to SA for another 6 months before trying again.
He eventually found one about 3 weeks before the 6-month window was up. As you can imagine, it was a stressful time for the family. We had sold our house, packed a shipping container and I was being home-schooled in preparation for this move.
Yet, that time of waiting remains one of the most influential in my faith. It formed the foundation of my understanding on Biblical peace.
Often, we think that peace is mutually exclusive to suffering, pain, and confusion. During those times, when the flood waters rush in and it feels like we’re drowning, it can feel as if God isn’t there and that He doesn’t care. But sometimes, instead of sending us a rescue boat like we might want Him to, God says: “Trust me and keep swimming”.
Instead of complete relief, He offers us peace. Peace, as I’ve come to realise, is regardless of the circumstances or the outcomes, knowing that with God everything is going to be okay (Romans chapter 8, verse 28).
The waiting, the uncertainty, the unknown is still worrying and scary. Treading water is never comfortable. But you know, God’s peace gives rest and comfort amongst the discomfort.
I like to think of my journey to where I am today as a hike up a mountain during an overcast day. Those days that are so overcast that you can’t see the summit. During days like that, the only choice you have is to take it one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.
Eventually the clouds will clear, you’ll look up at the summit, and it might be so much higher than you anticipated. So much so that you might think to yourself that you wouldn’t even have started if you knew how far you had to go.
But then you also look back, and you see how far you have come, and it gives you strength to keep going.
It reminds me of the verse in Psalm 119: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light to my path” (verse 105).
The lamps in those days were only strong enough to illuminate a small area around the holder. Only showing them their very immediate surroundings. When it comes to God leading us, He often only reveals to us enough to illuminate our next step, but not enough to show us how high we have to climb.
It is less daunting that way, and it forces us to have faith. Without complete knowledge of what lies ahead, we must put our faith and trust in God with each step.
I know if my family knew all that was ahead, we probably wouldn’t have made the move. But we are so grateful we did.
I began writing in high. Initially, I felt nudges to write during times I felt inspired. I would write whatever came to my mind and send it to my youth group leaders for feedback.
About three years (2018) into me writing casually, I felt this sense that there was a real opportunity on the horizon. It wasn’t long after that my senior pastor put an ad for writing for Christian Today. When I saw it, it all clicked, and I jumped at the opportunity. I’m so grateful for the growth I’ve experienced through writing.
I’m currently in my third year of five studying an engineering/commerce conjoint degree. I really struggled to decide what to do after high school, but now I feel as if I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Yet, being in this position is not my own doing. I hope that my story is a testament to God’s grace and provision in my life.
Even though I don’t know what the future may hold, I’m glad I have God on my side. Knowing how far He has brought me allows me to move forward in freedom and in hope.
[Editor - Last year Matthew Thornton was awarded a BRONZE in the new writer category from the Australasian Religious Press Association (ARPA) and this year the Tronson Award from Press Service International NZ young writers for both consistency and participation as one of the coordinators in the Kiwi young writer program]
Matthew Thornton is studying at the University of Auckland, Matthew finds that writing is one of the prime ways he connects with and grows closer to God. He loves seeing the way in which God has wired everyone uniquely and finds immense fulfilment in seeing others discover who God is to them. He would love to hear from you: email@example.com