by Matthew Christee (above photo, middle), 24 years old
Growing up, I never felt special or important. My parents quarreled constantly and home never felt like home. Spiritually, I felt I had no gifts. Even though I was active in my parish, I felt like my absence wouldn’t make a difference. I was envious of others for their talents, good looks, seemingly perfect families and charismatic gifts. I felt like another face in the crowd, insignificant and replaceable. Even when I received affirmations, I belittled them. Often, I felt that prayer was a waste of time and God was like a watchmaker who had no interest in me.
When I began to do well in school, I felt that I finally had something to be proud of. I wasn’t ordinary Matthew, but Matthew the top scorer, head of his CCA, student of the year. However, amidst all my academic successes, I still felt empty. In my emptiness, I fell into the sin of lust. But this didn’t satisfy me and instead drew me into an endless cycle of sin and shame. I felt like a hypocrite as I continued to serve in Church while still bound to these chains. In 2019, my mother told me that I was almost aborted. I told myself that it was in the past and didn’t matter. However, it fed the lie that I was a burden and expendable. Thankfully, God in His infinite goodness, led me to SOW20.
During one para-liturgy, we were invited to return home to God the Father. I had expectations for God to embrace me in an excessive manner to “prove His love for me”. Instead, I was welcomed home by the proxy Father with a small hug and the words “Welcome home. You are precious.” I felt frustrated. Was that all He had to say to me?
Later on in SOW, the memory of my mother telling me I was nearly aborted came up but I brushed it aside. However, a few days later, a school staff shared her testimony about a similar event. As I listened, I cried as Jesus ministered to me. He told me it was okay to feel upset and that He holds me close. I went to speak to the staff who said to me, “You are precious”. The same words I had shunned now began to speak life to me. Jesus reminded me how valuable I am to the Father and that I was not inferior, replaceable and hopeless. I am reassured of the Father’s faithfulness to me – from my conception (Ps 139:13-14), I have been on His mind and He holds me safely in His arms.
Jesus also gave me new lenses to view my parents when I received an image of me helping my father, who had an injured leg, to walk. I am reminded that my parents are not perfect and they loved me the best they could. The same healing which Jesus has extended to me; He desires to extend to my parents too. And because Jesus has first loved me in my own brokenness, I can learn to love them in theirs.
More testimonies on identity and the Father’s love:
Jesus has rolled away the stone from my tombs of envy, pride, lust and self-pity. He calls me to new life of gratitude, humility, self-control and self-acceptance with Him. Jesus tells me that I do not need to run around searching for love because He has already found me. In becoming more secure in my true identity in Jesus Christ, I am learning to accept affirmations from others and to celebrate with the people around me. Jesus also reminds me that He has not forgotten about me and that I do have gifts. During a prayer ministry session, I was affirmed of the gift of faith – that even though I felt forgotten and abandoned by Jesus, the fact that I did not give up and chose to be at this school was an act of faith. I choose to claim this gift of faith that I have been blessed with.
So, “What makes me unique?” – I am loved uniquely by a unique God. My brothers and sisters in Christ, you are not just another face in the crowd. Today, Jesus extends His unique love to you. Will you respond to this love?
More artwork and photo-reflections: