by Anne Marie Lim
I was born in a Catholic family that sought to serve and love Jesus and His church. Growing up, my parents would share about their personal powerful encounters with the Lord. I found myself desiring that same encounter, but also feeling unsure about how to go about it. I thought that encountering Jesus intimately was only for the most holy or spiritual of people who had dedicated their lives to the building of the church through mission.
Following confirmation, I joined a community in my parish and became engrossed with the ‘doing’ – ensuring that the next community session was planned; that attendance was good. Even then, I felt alone in my struggles and doubts in my faith and felt that there was always a need to put up masks. I didn’t know how to be vulnerable with my community – feeling like an imposter and fearing their abandonment. With COVID, community activities ceased to exist and I found myself lost. I realized that I had grown entirely dependent on these outward expressions and activities. I strove to take the lead in my own faith and became increasingly self-reliant, telling myself that I didn’t need my community and ironically, even God. In this scramble for control, I found myself drifting further and further out to sea; and it took all I had to will myself not to drown.
At the end of last year, in addition to COVID, I had my major IB exams, and a lot of family struggles which culminated when my Godmother passed away in December. It proved to be a hugely stressful period for me. I couldn’t help but unconsciously cement the belief that God was a distant God that was not present in the suffering of my life and of the people around me. I believed that He was a God who took away and that I couldn’t trust Him. I found myself emotionally isolating from my family and friends and turning to everything else but God.
I came to SOW with the intention of encountering the Lord in an intimate way and in a desperate attempt to feel something in my hardened and numbed heart.
Physically, God took me away from my familiar environment of hopelessness and brought me into SOW where I came to know the Lord in a more relational way. I gradually grew excited by the feeling of intimacy that I finally felt after having been so distant from Him before the school. I learned how to take the time to listen to Him and through reflection, Jesus revealed the emotional barriers that I had built, which prevented me from fully trusting Him. During the inner healing week, a reflection exercise on our River of Life revealed that these barriers had been built from my false belief of God being untrustworthy, as well as my fears of His abandonment. These beliefs had developed because of my own experiences of loss and grief as well as feelings of inferiority that had stemmed from suppressed hurts and rejection. These wounds had made me feel the need to protect myself by running away from the pain and choosing to numb myself to the hurts. However, Jesus invited me back into the crashing waves of painful memories, this time, holding my hand and guiding me safely, step by step, across the waters.
During a worship session, I was overwhelmed by the familiar, old feeling of being lost. In my sobbing and wretchedness, I called out to the Lord and He pieced me back together, telling me (through prayer) that I didn’t have to hide anymore: He sees me as I was and continues to love me in spite of it all. The Lord gave me the opportunity to release deep feelings of hurt, grief, and fear, and told me that He is still present in the midst of everything. The Lord knew precisely what I needed and revealed to me an image of my Godmother smiling peacefully at me as well as another early childhood memory of me with her. I found myself feeling completely overwhelmed by this image as my last memory of her had been watching from a distance as she lay on her hospital bed with the nurses bustling around her and finally, the complete unfamiliarity of her face as she lay in her coffin. The Lord reminded me that He has claimed victory over my grief and even over death. This experience helped me realize that He is a truly compassionate God who comforts me in my sorrow and who is the warmth in the coldness around me. He is not a distant God or a God who takes away but a God who is ever close and whom I can trust and turn to, even in the lowest moments of my life. With Jesus’ reassurance that He is the lover of my soul who understands my needs and loves me, this broke down my emotional barriers that my false beliefs and fears had constructed. The people around me have observed that I have also changed noticeably – I stand taller now and have more confidence and conviction in my proclamation of Jesus as the Lord of my life. The Lord has given me His freedom, peace and quiet joy. I know I will never be able to experience this anywhere but in Him.
Even when I thought that His work in me was over, He continually reminds me that He still has so much more planned for me and that His plans for my life are still unfolding. I have found myself learning to live my life more intentionally: to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His victory over every area of my life and to commit to continue desiring Him. In these two months, the Lord has claimed victory over my fears of abandonment, and over the false beliefs of His untrustworthiness. While I recognize that I’m still not fully healed of the wounds, I claim the promise that He revealed my wounds with the intention of healing me and that I can trust in His promises and victory over my life. I hope that like the character of Job in the Bible, in the face of loss and uncertainty, I will be able to proclaim wholeheartedly in trust: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The Lord invites each of us to put our trust in Him. There is no darkness too overwhelming or grief too deep that He hasn’t already claimed victory over. Trusting Him doesn’t necessarily involve a huge step; He rejoices over every small step that we take towards Him; He runs the rest of the way to us with open arms, desiring to pull us close into His forever embrace. Thank you Jesus. Amen.