#OYP200for200 | From the Inside Out

I am Jeffrey and I am a teacher at St. Stephen’s School. Through my vocation as a teacher, I am continually experiencing the redemptive work of God.

Growing up, I was deeply insecure of my identity. At different points of my life, I believed in various lies that shaped my identity.

The first lie was that “I am not good enough”.

Living in a meritocratic society here in Singapore, I grew up thinking that fulfillment was found in success. Since success was often measured relative to my peers, life became a constant competition. I always felt the need to compare myself to other people. I thought that my worth depended on the opinion of others. My grades were not great. I was not particularly talented in music or sports. I was hardly ever picked for leadership positions. I started to believe that I was not good enough. 

The second lie I believed was that “I am perfect”.

During my teenage years, I started experiencing some measure of “success” in my life. This taste of success also introduced pride into my life.  To protect my already low self-esteem, I convinced myself that I was perfect. I spun the narrative in my head that the reason I did not experience success was because the world failed me. When things didn’t go my way it was always someone else’s fault. I refused to take responsibility for my flaws. Instead of seeking growth and correction, I was stuck in my own prideful ways. I became the god in my life. There was no space for God to teach me because I was unteachable.

Psalm 25:4 says “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths”. Before I entered university, I encountered God in a retreat and there he revealed to me how foolish I was to think that my successes came from my efforts alone. God humbled me and showed me that He was God over all. From that experience I vowed to follow and learn from the Good Shepherd as a committed disciple. I decided to join my university Catholic community and was committed to journeying with other “disciples” in OYP. I experienced Jesus discipling me through the many “teachers” placed into my life. These people showed me what conforming one’s life to Christ looked like. 

An important revelation that helped me to experience God’s love was recognising that Jesus came to earth not primarily to teach us theology but he came to reveal the love of the Father. Jesus showed me how much he loved me by dying on the cross. He also showed me that the love that led him to the cross was the love of His father. Before Jesus was “Saviour” or “Teacher”, He was first and foremost the beloved “Son” cherished by the Heavenly Father. I knew that God was also calling me to be His beloved son and to one day lay my life down for others, following the perfect example that Jesus has set for us. Encountering this love of God through my faith in Jesus I began to see past the lies. I thought that I needed to do great things to be loved, but really God wants to love me so that I can do great things to glorify Him. 

This relationship with God was what led me to pursue a vocation as a teacher. Interacting with my students, I saw how they are constantly inundated with lies that lead them to think their worth depended on their achievements or failures. I too knew what it felt like being in their shoes, my identity was sometimes reduced to my utility towards society. However, as I pondered about God’s merciful love for me, I realised that loving my students, the way God does, is the best education I could ever give them. 

I used to believe that I needed to be perfect to be loved. Now I know that God’s love for me transforms me from a sinner into a saint. God in his infinite mercy, loves me first as His beloved son so that I can be perfected. Since I have experienced His grace and mercy, His love drives me on mission to show what God’s love looks like in this world. For me it starts in the classroom. Beyond good pedagogy, God reminds me to first love each student as He loves me. If you have experienced God’s love, my proposition for you is to invite others to experience His love, especially the younger generation, so that they too may live in freedom.