"If there's one thing you need to understand about God,” says New Zealand television personality Petra Bagust, “it's that He loves you. He loves you, He loves you, He loves you!” She pauses to regain composure.
“He loves the good bits, the bad bits, the annoying bits. If you can't handle the rest of the God-thing, just make sure you recognise how much He loves you.” For some 11 years, Petra has been in living rooms across New Zealand, presenting such programs as Hot Property, Ice TV, travel.co.nz and Time of Your Life.
In that time she's developed a reputation for being down-to-earth, personable— TV's “good” girl. But she's quick to point out that she's as human as the rest of us, that she makes mistakes, that she has bad hair days, that she gets stressed.
One of the things Petra finds most difficult is to say no.
“I think that if I say no, people won't like me,” she says. “I have to remind myself that people will like me a whole lot less if I give them false expectations.” She is referring to the way she's dealt with saying no in the past. “If someone said, ‘Please, can you ...' and I didn't really want to, I'd say ‘Ask me next week,' and when next week comes, they'll get another excuse, until finally, two days before the event, I'll say no, and then everyone is really annoyed.”
She's exaggerating a little; Petra does.
But one gets the gist of what she's saying.
Just say no and get it over with.
Not only does Petra recognise the need to learn to say no to others, she's also learning to say it to herself.
“I'm a great one for looking at people and identifying a problem. I'll know how to fix it, and I'll jump in to help—this is often known as ‘meddling.'” She laughs.
“Did that person ask for help? No, they didn't. I've learned to step back from other people's problems, and give more help to my own two children, who need my help more than anyone else.”
Another of Petra's maxims is to trust one's instinct.
“We have alarm clocks, best-before dates—the opportunities for us to stop and listen to how we feel about things has been taken away from us. If you want to wake up from a sleep in an hour, rely on your body to wake you. If the best-before date has passed, be brave.
"You don't have to automatically discard the product.” She tells the tale of a recent late-night shopping expedition. A big department store had a 25 per cent-off sale. She was tired; she hadn't yet eaten. Her husband, Hamish Wilson, suggested she might like to go and do some shopping.
She didn't want to go, not really. She would rather have eaten dinner, prepared for the next day, sat down and relaxed.
But the sale tags beckoned, and so did the opportunity to do some child-free shopping. As she left, she stood for a moment on her doorstep and thought, I don't want to go. But she went anyway.
At 9.45 she ate her dinner. At 10 pm both the children woke. When she finally fell into bed she pondered the events of the following day and wished she were more prepared. “Why didn't I trust my instincts?” she says. “Why did I choose to do something I didn't have to do?”
Saying 'Yes' to God
Petra was 14 years old when she decided to trust God, that He would always be a part of her life. “I went through a stage where I'd pray prayers like, ‘If it rains tomorrow, I'll know You're real.' In the back of my mind was always the thought that 50 farmers were probably genuinely begging God for rain, and so my bargains didn't have any great importance in my mind.
“Ultimately I weighed up what I knew about God and the option of living without Him, and decided that He was so real and relevant to me that I didn't want to [live without Him].”
One of the significant events in Petra's life has been the publication of what she thought was an off-the-record comment.
She said she intended to remain a virgin until she married. The media and the public went wild, speculating about this attractive Christian girl with this amazing attitude to sex.
“After that story came out, every single article referred to me as ‘Petra Bagust, Christian virgin,' and I started to feel a bit boxed,” she says. “But the whole Christian virgin thing had a really positive side to it and, as soon as I married, half of that label became irrelevant. The media is constantly looking for ways to define people, and I would rather be seen as Christian than not.
I know I'm a role model for some people because mums and kids tell me so. As soon as you're on television or in the public eye as a presenter, pop star or sportsperson, you're a role model. You can either fight it or accept it.”
Life is full-on in Petra's household. With two young children— Venetia, three, and Jude, one)— Petra finds herself relishing the role of motherhood over her career.
“Being a mum means I am physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally responsible for everything that happens to my children. It's up to me to feed their minds and hearts, so I've got to be making good decisions all day long. I have to be ready to respond to the latest upset or a bad attitude, or just a simple request to make things more fun.” When the stress of mothering threatens to overwhelm her, Petra says her Christian faith helps her refocus.
“I say something like, ‘God, I need Your help here,' and that gives me a sense of peace that isn't logical. I know everything will be OK and it relieves the pressure of trying to be supermum and wanting everything to be perfect all the time. Having children has been this amazing catalyst to stay connected to God."
“I look at my children and I love them so much, but my love is imperfect. If I can love my children this much, I cannot begin to comprehend how great God's love is for us."
“Most people don't think of love first when they think of God, but that is how I see Him more and more.”
God is Love
The Bible says that "God is love" (1 John 4:8). But how can we evben begin to understand that truth? Of the many passages in the Bible that give us God's deinition of love, the most well known verse is John 3:16:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.."
God's only Son died so any person who puts his/her faith in His Son will spend eternity with Him. This is an amazing love, because we are the ones who chose to be separated from God through our own sin, yet its God who mends the separation through His intense personal saacrifice. All we have to do is accept His gift.
In Romans 5:8, te apostle Paul writes: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." There are no conditions placed on God's love for us. God doesn't say, "I'll love you when you get your act together." Niether does He say, "I'll sacrifice my Son if you promise to love Me." He does the exact opposite: God wasnts us to know that His love is uncondtional, so He send His son, Jesus Christ, to die for us while we were still unlovable sinners.
We don't have to become perfect, and we don't have to make any promises to God before we can experience His love. His love for us has always ecisted, and becuase of that, He did all the giving and sacrificing long before we were even aware that we needed His love.