By Brandon Wong, NUS; Illustrated by Natasha Koh
Hello brothers and sisters, I am Brandon Wong, and I would be sharing my testimony on how the Lord has been moving in my life.
I grew up in a family where heavy emphasis was placed on academic excellence – in primary 2, I got 92 marks for a math exam and my mum caned me 8 times for the marks that I lost. That instilled in me a deep fear of not meeting my parents’ expectations, and thus not being enough to earn their love. This chronic sense of inadequacy led me to overdrive – I felt the constant need to prove myself through worldly achievements in every place possible – in my academic pursuits in school to leadership positions in CCAs and in the army. Though I gained a name for myself, I was clueless about who I was, what I stood for, or where I was heading.
I first came to encounter the loving presence and light of Christ through the OYP School of Witness programme last year. The Gospel story of the prodigal son returning to his father struck deep into my heart – it was then that I first internalized the simple yet fundamental truth that God loves me, that I did not have to prove my worth to be called His beloved child. His love was starkly different from whatever I have ever experienced. That experience of God’s unconditional love became a turning point for me as it planted a deep desire and conviction to live my life for the Lord who loved me.
Though it has only been quite a short journey of rediscovering my faith, living and growing as a disciple has already proven to be rather challenging. I was especially afraid of starting this university journey, because after all, it was my previous academic pursuits which distanced my relationship with Christ. Old wounds and lies immediately resurfaced and I was tempted again to prove myself worthy of this course that I study; to take things into my own hands and strive for what excellence means to me.
Yet through all these, Jesus has been gentle in re-inviting and reminding me that fullness of life and excellence is only possible through Him, and the call to stand for and remain in Him permeates through all trial and testing.
An image that was relayed to me while being prayed for, was of myself holding an umbrella in the middle of a thunderstorm. I was thinking to myself “Hey actually I’m doing fine here with my umbrella. Even though my shoes, my socks, the seams of my pants, and my shoulders were soaked, I guess I was generally dry. The umbrella was doing a pretty good job.”
However, not too far away from me was a huge pavilion where I can be totally protected from the thunderstorm around me. Jesus was inviting me to take refuge in Him as my sure shelter. He didn’t want me to make do with the mediocre protection of the umbrella. In this journey of trusting His unfailing providence for me, He has given me the gift of courage to live in a new way.
I am learning to live with courage in the small things. For example, choosing to spend time in silence with Jesus in prayer when the world tells me to be productive. Wearing this cross around my neck each and everyday, to remind myself daily who stands for me and who I stand for.
Courage is choosing to enter the deep waters that Jesus invites me to. One such instance was choosing to respond to the call to serve as the Science faculty coordinator. My chronic fear of inadequacy and doubts on whether I would be able to meet the expectations that were placed on a Christian Leader set in quickly. I too feared the demands of this call and how I would cope with the demands of dental school. However, in my discernment on taking up this role, the Lord assured me with His peace and faithfulness. He reassured me that this was specifically His call of love and growth for me. Since then Jesus has continued to empower me with His grace to take leaps of faith in the various challenging situations that come my way and through the people who I journey with.
I am learning that courage is not being gung-ho and battling the thunderstorm alone with my umbrella but recognizing that my umbrella of self-reliance was born out of my fear of inadequacy and the need to prove myself can only do so much. Courage is the humility to die to my own designs and to surrender these to God. It is to acknowledge that He is infinitely wiser and His plans are infinitely greater; that I am in need of Him.
Every day is a reminder and an opportunity to live in courage for Jesus our redeemer. He loves each and everyone of you perfectly and He desires an intimacy beyond all measure. As he calls and invites you into fullness in him, how would you act in courage to grab His outstretched arm?