Despite growing up in a family of 4 children, loneliness was an emotion that I often felt from a young age. My parents’ relationship was rocky as I grew up, and as the eldest of 4 children, I often felt the need to be strong for both my parents and my three younger siblings. In school, I struggled to forge close friendships with my peers due to some encounters with bullies that left me feeling excluded. When I did make friends, these friendships never lasted very long. Instead, I often felt like the single outsider within my group of friends. These incidents made me feel misunderstood, and I could not find anyone to turn to when I was struggling. The loneliness that I felt was exacerbated by my childhood struggle with trichotillomania, an obsessive-compulsive hair-pulling disorder that left me half-bald and too ashamed to face the world.
As a result of these experiences, I began to internalise the lie that I was abandoned and all alone in the world, with nobody to depend on. I thought of myself as being the ‘common problem’ in all of my faded friendships, and began to subscribe the lie that I was worthless, and that people were better off without me. To save myself from being hurt by others, I began to close myself off from the world around me. However, in choosing to retreat and hide in my own darkness of self-condemnation and self-pity, I inevitably also shut God out from my life. God became a mere distant, apathetic figure in my life – yet another person that I could not truly depend on. This eventually led me down a spiral of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts as I lost sight of the value and purpose of my own life.
By the grace of God, I said ‘yes’ to attending the School of Witness 2018 after completing Junior College. Through sessions, prayer ministry, and 1-1 journeying in the school, I encountered God’s overwhelming and unceasing love for me for the very first time. I learnt how to reject the lies of abandonment and worthlessness that the evil one was trying to feed me, and instead came to encounter a God who always sees me and hears me, who loves me for all my brokenness and imperfections. I was encountering for the first time the perfect Father and perfect Lover, who had chosen to adopt me to be His child; a child of light. At one of the lowest points in my life, the grace of God pierced through the darkness that dominated my skies. My Father had never once abandoned me; instead, He moved mountains to save me. My encounter with Christ at the SOW opened my eyes to the deep and beautiful significance of my life, and softened my hardened heart to receive love not just from Him, but from the brothers and sisters in Christ He had surrounded me with. I had my first taste of the ‘fullness of life’ that Jesus offers, and my heart was set ablaze with a desire for more of Him.
Caitlyn at SOW’18 with her cell group!
Little did I know it then, but SOW18 was just the beginning of a beautiful story that Jesus has been writing in my life. Over the past 3 years, Jesus has continuously challenged me to deepen my faith in Him, and increase my confidence in my identity as His child. Through the call to step into leadership in my university community, NTU Catholic Students Apostolate, I have learnt to purify my heart of the need to prove myself and earn my worth before the eyes of God. He reminds me that I do not need to earn His favour. He has been restoring my distorted image of God as a distant Father, by reminding me that even in my unfaithfulness and weakness, He sees me, hears me, and welcomes me as I am.
Caitlyn with the NTU CSS Community at Combined University Retreat
Through the difficulties of university life, the Father has been my comfort and my solace; He slowly strips me of the fear of depending on anyone other than myself by proving time and again that He is a God who can be trusted to take care of me in all things, be it academics, relationships, family, or my future. By turning more and more to the Lord, I am prevented from spiralling down into a pit of self-pity and condemnation. Instead, I allow myself to be seen, heard, and comforted by the greatest Lover of my soul.
Caitlyn’s CSA Exco Fellowship
In his letter to the Ephesians, St Paul writes “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light,” (Eph 5:9). This is the exhortation that continues to challenge me to live for more, particularly when I am tempted to give up and remain in the familiar comfort of an aimless life of self-pity. While there are times where I still struggle to step out of the darkness and into light, I have a Father who will never abandon me. I am not alone. He is the One whom I can count on to chase me down, fight till I am found, and bring me home once more to Him. Brothers and sisters, we are not orphans; we are children of the most High. Will you join me in running to our Father to live in fullness and light?