by Keith Chan
Hello, my name Keith is and I am 21 this year. I am the youngest with two older sisters. I first entertained the idea of coming to SOW after I had completed my National Service. I was living a compartmentalised life, putting on different masks depending on who I was with. I wore the mask of a nice and friendly Catholic boy on Sundays in church, before changing to the rebellious and mischievous youngest child at home, and a professional but indifferent commander in the army. It was like living separate identities and I felt dissatisfied with the shallowness of the multiple lives I was living. I knew that after the army I needed to use the 9 months before university to decide who I wanted to be and to sort my life out. I decided to sign up for the school, knowing that my life needed to change, to either make God a big part of my life, or to not have him here at all.
The beginning of the school covered topics I was already familiar with, but didn’t pay much attention to. I was going through the motions of each activity because in my mind, I thought I already knew that Jesus loves me.
In the second week of SOW, God revealed my wound of inadequacy. It was a series of small incidents that made me feel like I was never enough; teachers telling me that I was not good enough, my parents making passing comments of how my place in the family had to be earned according to much I could contribute. I put on various masks to cope with this fear of inadequacy, and tried very hard to please the different groups of people in my life, in an attempt to earn validation or any semblance of love from them. However, this distorted the way I perceived love. I slowly found it harder to feel cared for or validated by others because it never felt like my authentic self was being loved. This eventually culminated in my struggle to be loved and to love, even with God. My mind knew I was supposed to love, but my heart was numbed by indifference. This numbness gnawed at the back of my heart and mind throughout the rest of the week. It ate at me and I became fearful of the person I was. I feared that the things I had done had changed an intrinsic part of me, and that I may never be able to love deeply again.
So I prayed. In the many nights in the adoration room, I asked God to give me the grace to be able to feel love again, and the trust that He will heal what He reveals. Everyone around me was experiencing profound joy and receiving gifts of the Holy Spirit, but I was faced with what seemed to be an unresponsive God.
Finally, during a session where we were called to release forgiveness via a proxy, I managed to approach a priest, who I treated as a proxy for God. I wanted to go to him and tell him how angry I was at not being healed, and for the silence when I was praying so hard to feel Him. But the instant I wrapped my arms around the priest, he said to me, “Keith, you don’t have to try so hard.” And for the first time in a long time, I cried. I cried not tears of sadness but tears of overwhelming emotion. In that moment, I felt an unexplainable feeling engulf me. As though I was being loved entirely by God who knew me and loved me completely. I spent the rest of the week trying to reflect on and process my experience. God revealed that I can love because I am first loved by the perfect love of Jesus.
After that experience, I know that truly nothing in this world could satisfy me except for Jesus. That my previous compartmentalised life must be replaced by a life with Jesus in the center. And the separate masks I wore must be replaced with a reflection of Jesus to others. Love for Jesus must be integrated and ingrained in my identity. Though this encounter has not prompted any drastic change, I have noticed it in the small interactions of my life. I now control my tongue when I speak to my friends, spouting fewer vulgarities because I want to be more life giving, or finding myself being able to care more for, and be patient with, my parents.
I came to realise that my initial dissatisfaction with life was a product of the God-shaped hole in my heart, that I know only He can fill. I still struggle with feeling, but now I cannot deny the hope I have in my God. He loves me and will never give up on me. With this hope, I am able to keep trying to be like Jesus to others. Through my experience, I know that Jesus constantly pursues and is with me wherever I go. For a God that died for me, I still struggle in believing that he loves me. But I am trusting His process, and trying to fall deeper and deeper in love with Jesus. Till I may one day go wherever He calls me to, and live for Him.
So my dear friends, I invite you to step into the light of Christ with me. To claim our identity as children of God, and invite God into every area of our lives. Because what do we actually lose, by giving control over our lives to Jesus, to the God that ultimately holds everything?