by Christabel Neo (above photo, left), 26 years old
Since encountering Christ three years ago, there has been ups and downs in my faith journey. I constantly strive to be a good catholic, and desired to love as how God loves me. Yet in the striving, I was quickly worn out. Coming to fall in love with Christ had a cost. For me, it was the persecution and growing abandonment I faced at home. Though I am a cradle Catholic, my entire family do not practice the faith. Being the youngest child at home, I felt that I lack the power to evangelise. My attempts to evangelize only pushed them away from the church. My commitment in community was seen as an unhealthy obsession, and my decision to enter the School of Witness (SOW) was also received with great disapproval.
I grew resentful that God chose me, the youngest and the weakest, to face these trials alone. I felt envy when I saw families united in Christ. As I looked at them, I would ask Jesus “Did you forget about me?” With every rejection, every failure to evangelise, and every harsh word received, I started to believe the lies that I will never be good enough daughter to my parents, and that I’m the reason my family is so resentful of God.
During the opening mass of SOW, I felt alone as I watched the families of other SOWers come to support them, whereas mine didn’t. It’s not their fault though, because I didn’t invite them. I figured it was easier to believe that their absence was my fault, than to know they didn’t want to support me. Some claim that Jesus was always with me, but honestly I couldn’t see how. I was desperate for God to reveal himself to me but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t. At one session, the speaker shared that love is an act of the will and not just a feeling. I didn’t like it but I immediately recognized that God was speaking to me. Upon reflection, it struck me how desperate I was for love. Despite knowing that Jesus is the source of all love, I still sought love elsewhere from affirmations and unhealthy relationships.
One night, I stared at Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, saying “Jesus, help me to surrender to your will. I am tired of fighting alone, restore me into a greater intimacy with you”. At once I felt a sense of peace and joy. I realized I had been relying on my own strength, and this was the source of my woundedness. This humbled me. God struck me off my high horse and into His loving arms. It was not earth shaking, yet with this little faith I attempted to offer, God strengthened me. He assured me that He’s never late in His plans for me. He has never abandoned me, even when I was hurt by my family, when I didn’t feel loved, when I had no place to rest and loneliness and envy overwhelmed me. The Holy Spirit came like a calm breeze assuring me of the Lord’s presence in my life. In that moment, I felt like there was only God and I. God was healing me, gently turning my gaze back to Him.
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During the first few weekends, returning home was scary. I feared words spoken that may wound me again. But God has placed a new heart within me – a heart that is confident in the love of Christ. In Ephesians 2:8 it says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” This verse sums up my SOW experience. Indeed, the Lord has saved me by His abounding grace. When I go home, I now bring with me the joy and confidence of the Lord. Even in the trials, God constantly comforts me and tells me to take heart and have faith, for He has revealed to me that He has and will always go before me into the battlefield. He stands on the frontline where the fighting is fiercest so that I can be free. Today, I choose to say yes to God again. Will you?
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