by Lim Zhenting
I went into the School of Witness feeling like I had it all together. Like every part of my life, my spiritual life was also something I kept under control. When I say under control – I actually mean to strive and be excellent in – it was all I knew about living. For context, I was born into a family of 5, and I have 2 older and very naughty sisters who always got into trouble as kids. As the youngest, it became part of me to be the good one under control.
I learned to be self-reliant very early on: I studied hard for my PSLE and in JC, I worked very hard to get a scholarship so I could attend university without adding on to the financial burdens of the family. In university, the striving continued: I had a perfect GPA, served in leadership positions, and eventually graduated from SMU business as the valedictorian. To nobody’s surprise, I continued on autopilot mode in the workplace: I entered into the top management consulting firm globally. Even amongst the brightest people from all over the world, I strove for distinctiveness and accelerated promotions, and I got there. I went from the person my family could not provide for, to a provider for the family, and it was good. Except – it was not. I knew something was still lacking: perhaps it was true fullness and joy. So, I came to School Of Witness to do more – to fill what I thought was a tiny gap in my already pretty perfect life.
My illusion of this perfect trajectory started to break down during the week we covered healing. In my prayers, God brought me back to the memories that I’d locked in a box labelled Childhood: already resolved – do not open. There were many: my sisters calling me an accident, and an unnecessary and unwelcome drain on the family’s limited resources. Times when I was fulfilling my duty as the servant of the house, when my family told me I could never bring the remote to them quickly enough, never clean the plates quietly enough, just never be good enough. Finally, the most painful memory of them all: when I was about 5, my sister, in her childhood ignorance and angst, pinned me down on the bed, put a pillow over my face and tried to snuff the life out of me.
The words were unspoken in this memory, but each time my sister pushed the pillow down on my face, the labels were slapped into the mind of little me: burden, unwanted, unloved. Eventually, it sank into my belief system: I am so bad that I don’t deserve to live. In that moment, the light of my life was snuffed out. Little me decided to hold my breath, to stop breathing: I wanted me to die too.
In reality, what happened after that moment was me gasping for air, grappling with surviving, and grasping at everything I could in my life. Suddenly all the striving in my life made sense: I believed so deeply that I was unloved and unlovable, and that no one should be burdened by having to take care of me – so I made a vow to take care of myself. I believed so deeply that I didn’t deserve to live, so I tried very hard to earn and justify my existence.
But in the memory that Jesus revealed to me, something different happened: Little me was turning blue from holding my own breath on the bed, condemning myself for my existence. Then I saw Jesus the man, crowned with thorns, bruised and bleeding from his side, embracing me. He was weak from all his injuries, but with his last bit of strength took the blows from the pillows, held on to me, and said “Zhen Ting, it hurts me that you are hurting. You are not bad, because I made you good. You deserve to live just because I willed you into being. I will never abandon you, and I will always protect you, even unto death. Please keep breathing, because I love you”, and there Jesus was, a frail and weak man, in the arms of little Zhen Ting, breathing his last.
I realized then the gravity of Jesus’ death on the cross. He is God, but He is also man – a man who loved me so much that he gave everything to save me from my self-condemnation. To let me know that I’m truly beloved, truly his. I should never need to justify my existence, He is my reason for existing. I breathed the precious last breath that Jesus gave for me. When I awoke from that memory, the spark of my life, snuffed out 20 years ago, finally returned.
Today, with each new breath, I’m continuing to discover what it means to live in this newness, to claim the truths that I am loved and lovable over and over again. Like a new baby, I am learning how to receive love with open arms, no afterthoughts, no doubts, no questions asked.
Even when new lies surface from these old wounds, I no longer need to rationalize and convince myself that I have it all under control, but am able to be okay with not being okay – I only need to put it at the foot of the cross and allow Jesus to cover me in truth again. I no longer need to rely on myself, to earn, grasp, and strive. I came to SOW to do more – but I see now that it is not doing more that can fill the emptiness in me: It is in doing less, to do nothing except to love and to be loved by Jesus, that brings me to the fullness of joy that nothing in the world can give me.
Jesus has truly breathed life back into me again – into a seemingly impossible newness I never could have imagined. My friends, will you allow Jesus to do the same for you?