My Story: How My Life Changed

A Masking Smile and a Guilty Heart

Emma Puloka with Emilie Vinson
My Story: Emma Puloka (main photo)

Life can be messy. Slowly you learn to hide the mess inside, where no one else can see. Just you. And don’t forget to smile, they’re watching.

That was how I thought for a long time, even as a Christian.

I put my trust in Jesus to save me back in 2003. Despite this, I had a lot of lust, emotional chaos, pride and fear that were so rooted in me, and I hid it all. But I thought I could balance my dark thought life with a super bright outward life, so I formed a resume to prove it.

I was a top student, head girl prefect, involved in Christian clubs, in sports, the whole lot.


I was always trying to make sure I had the approval from others that I feared I didn’t really have from God.


I did have a genuine relationship with God, but there were areas of my mind that I thought He couldn’t handle. So instead of giving them to Him, I walked around with a burden of guilt… and a masking smile.

When I put my trust in Jesus years ago, I knew I had received that gift. But in 2008, I heard more about this grace that completely changed my understanding. For the first time, I genuinely understood that at the cross, where Jesus died for my sin, everything that’s wrong with us was put on Jesus, and Jesus’ perfection was put on us.

I read 2 Corinthians 5:21 and it blew my mind!


All my bright and shiny actions didn’t earn this love – God loved me before I had a chance to try and earn it.


Later down the road, God helped me to share my struggles with other Christians who prayed hard for me and I saw God deliver me in a mighty way. I learned that His grace can handle all of me. And each day God continues to shape my heart as I experience and understand more deeply His approval and unchanging love for me in Christ.

Student Life, Cru’s ministry in the UK, has helped me grow in this and share the same freedom with others. The truth of God’s love displaces the lies in my mind, and now I can really say I am free in Christ… and really smile, too.

Emma attended school at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

Learn how to receive the gift of God’s unchanging love and acceptance in Christ Jesus.

Have you received God’s gift but struggle to understand how to live it out, like Emma? Find some guidance on what it means to live out your faith day-to-day.

What’s your story? Did you become a Christian through Cru or any ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ? If so, tell us more at

©1994-2024 Cru. All Rights Reserved.