Justin Bieber is helping me reshape my relationship with God. He has a cross tattooed on his chest, Jesus’ face on his calf, and Psalm 119:105 on his right shoulder blade. His meaningful tattoos show his dedication to what he believes in. The way Bieber is helping me from afar is the way he brings his tattoos to life and shares with the world his relationship with God.
It all started with an interview Justin Bieber did with Joe La Puma for Complex Magazine’s October and November 2015 issue. (Actually, it technically started my junior year of high school when I would put my head down on my desk, act like I was asleep, and listen to Justin’s song “Pray” when I wanted to cry and felt alone in the world. I just couldn't see what I was really looking for.)
“Love is a choice,” Bieber told La Puma. “Love is not a feeling. People have made it seem in movies that it’s this fairy tale. That’s not what love is. You’re not gonna want to love your girl sometimes but you’re gonna choose to love her. That’s something in life that I had to figure out. I can’t lean on people. I got to lean on God. I gotta trust in him through all my situations. Then, hopefully, my other relationships will flourish around me.”
Later in the interview, Bieber said, “I’m not religious. I, personally, love Jesus and that was my salvation. I want to share what I’m going through and what I’m feeling, and I think it shouldn’t be ostracized. I think that everybody should get their chance to share what they’re doing or where their journey is headed.”
If Justin Bieber can talk about God and ask questions about God, openly to millions of people, why should I be embarrassed to ask my family and friends? To pray more in private? To start these conversations with people who have known me and love me?
And so, I started talking. I went to St. John’s United Methodist Church on Ward Parkway in March with my cousin Jillian. The sermon that day was that there is no such thing as a perfectly well-rounded person, only a well-rounded team. We often hold the higher expectations for ourselves and others than God does. We are all here to help each other, not diminish each other—why can’t Justin Bieber and his music be part of my team?
In April, I spent all of my graduation money on two tickets to Bieber’s Purpose Tour show in Kansas City on April 6. I went with my mom. Something deep down told me that I needed to experience Bieber performing this particular tour. When he sang "Life Is Worth Living," "Purpose," and "I'll Show You," I felt the difference of experiencing life when you believe in something bigger. I bought a shirt there, among his very popular and groundbreaking Purpose Tour merchandise, and on the back of the shirt is written "Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is God’s purpose that prevails." I wear it when I feel especially lost.
I’m on my Purpose Tour, too.
I have always believed that God is real, but I’ve always struggled with maintaining a relationship with my faith. Family and friends who are believers surround me, and they have helped me in their own ways throughout my life. But personally, I have only sought God when facing tragedy. I always thought that I had to be perfect before embarking on a life in faith. In high school and college, I was tormented by depression, anxiety and eating disorders—I would get frustrated when God didn’t show me an immediate answer. I gave up too easily.
On July 1, Bieber posted a note to Instagram that read: “I don’t always feel god’s presence, I feel it may be human distractions or maybe I’m letting lies detour me from accessing it. Regardless it doesn’t stop me from seeking. Although it is frustrating I’m reminded that relationships take work, even with God!”
Justin is the first person who has shown me in a way that has resonated how to live in faith and seek God in joy, in tragedy, in any time of life.
A lot of people around the world see Bieber as something of a god, an idol who has to be perfect all of the time, but I see him as a supremely talented human being trying his best to use his God-given gifts to help other people live their truth in the most purposeful way possible.
In Miami on July 3, Justin told his Purpose Tour crowd that “God didn’t give me something you guys don’t have. We all have a purpose.”
I believe him. I’m going to live by faith and pray for God to show me my purpose.
My cousin Lindsay is one of the most faithful people I know. A few nights ago, I asked her, “Do you think it’s stupid that Justin Bieber’s public relationship with God is helping me reshape my relationship with God?”
“Not at all,” she responded.
“I noticed on Saturday night that I had written this down in my sleep,” I told her, and I showed her a note I had put in my iPhone that reads: “Had a dream I met Justin, and we prayed together.”
“That’s cool,” she said, encouraged. “You know God talks to people through dreams, right?”
I perked up. “Do you think this means something?”
“Yes,” Lindsay said. “Absolutely. God wants a relationship with you. He wants you to know Him. The real Him, not the one people assume or draw assumptions on. (Through Justin) could be the way He gets your attention.”
I'm starting to believe. And now, it's my turn share the message.