#OYP200FOR200: Coming Home (Jean)

During a season of doubt and uncertainty in my faith, God revealed Himself to me and welcomed me home. A bible verse to describe this would be Nehemiah 8:10, “do not grieve, for the Joy of the lord is your strength”.  After discovering Him, I found a group of fellow brothers and sisters in a community call “Lighthouse” who continue to encourage, inspire and walk with in this journey called life.

When I was young, I often felt excited heading to church. I recalled choosing my favorite clothes to wear the night before and attending catechism classes with my friends. We would head for mass after, and it was an enjoyable weekly routine. 

However, after graduating from secondary school, there were no longer any catechism classes. Having few catholic friends that I could turn to and share about faith struggles, I eventually became a Sunday catholic- one that went to church physically every week, yet whose heart was far away from God. Heavily influenced by the secular world, I placed my studies and social life above God. 

Following that, many  nights were spent lying in bed and pondering on God’s existence. I felt doubtful of whether God truly exist and questioned my intentions behind going to church weekly. My prayerful and pious younger self was a stark contrast from what I felt then confused and lost. I had also stopped my daily practice in reading the bible as well as saying my night prayers. 

The question of God’s existence was one which I continued to dwell on, even as I graduated from polytechnic. Hearing from my Christians friends about the retreats they have served in and their renewed faith inspired me to google “Catholic Camps for Polytechnic Students”. This led me to joined a retreat organised by the Office for Young People (OYP) named “SHINE”. 

During the retreat, I witnessed many of my peers around me experiencing God through visions and resting in the spirit. Hearing their testimonies gave me hope and I desired to encounter God. As we approached the third and last night of the retreat, I had yet to experience a tangible encounter. Many doubts filled my mind and I felt dejected and small. God seemed so near to others, yet so distant from me. 

Looking back, I realised that I was actually challenging God to send me a huge sign to be convinced of His existence! This had led me to subconsciously block out the many little signs which He was already sending me such as the bible verses from the truth basket, prayers from my cell group members as well as the sharing sessions.

However, God was good and He knew what I needed. He assured me of his presence and calmed my anxious heart through a revelation of His image during a prayer session that very night. During the session, I revealed my feelings of confusion on God’s existence to the facilitators. As they prayed, I saw an image of Jesus welcoming me into a cottage. We sat down to watch the television together before heading out to the garden to dance. When Jesus spun me around, I saw my own face radiating with joy. The image which I received reminded me of the bible verse from Nehemiah 8:10, “do not grieve, for the Joy of the lord is your strength”. Just as how the people of Israel mourned on their failure to uphold the law and were separated from God, God still loved them and welcomed them upon their return. Similarly, God has revealed Himself to me amongst the uncertainties I felt in my faith life and he assures me that much Joy is to come as I reunite with Him. This encounter at the retreat is my most tangible and unexpected moment with Jesus. It is also one which I still cling onto whenever I face obstacles or feel distant from God. 

Till today, God is still very present in my life. In my current phase of life as a working adult, balancing work, part-time studies, relationships with my loved ones as well as growing spiritually often seems daunting with such finite time. However, God has blessed me with a community of supportive brothers and sisters at Lighthouse, who constantly reminds me of God’s goodness and presence whenever I attended sessions and book studies. In times where I feel overwhelmed or felt that I have fallen short of His grace, my community members would listen actively and share little truths with me. These truths gently nudge me to back God and his presence! I am reminded to always courage and strength that God is always here by my side and to bask in His goodness just like the bible verse from   Nehemiah 8:10, “do not grieve, for the Joy of the lord is your strength”. 


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