by Francesca Lee (front extreme right, in black)
Before School of Witness (SOW) I was a typical Sunday Catholic, I went for mass every Sunday and also had regular sharings with my community. Yet, I did these things out of habit and tradition rather than an actual love for Christ. I was very self-reliant and prideful and didn’t really see God in my life. I come from a family of six, made up of my parents and three other siblings who are the same age as me (we are quadruplets). Up until Primary school, all four of us were either in the same school or class. One sister and I even shared the same group of friends. In church, I was in the same catechism class as them and even in the same community as my two sisters. I felt like a large part of my life was shared with my siblings. I did not like to always be associated with them. I truly yearned to be acknowledged as my own person and wanted things of my own. As a result, growing up, I really desired and wanted to be independent and to rely on myself, to do things on my own. Eventually, I even came to take pride in myself for this independence, and on how self reliant I was; being the most responsible one out of my siblings. I wanted to be the best among my siblings and increasingly saw my value in such “achievements”.
Unknowingly, this also affected my faith life where my increasing self reliance made it hard for me to let God in. I found it very hard to trust God. Whenever I went to Him for prayer, I felt like it was never answered. As a result, I saw God as subjective, intangible, and all too unreliable. I felt that He couldn’t do anything for me. I felt like God was present in my “church life” but I held on tightly to control of my own “secular life”. I tried very hard to increase my faith on my own, yet my faith was still not growing much and I didn’t know what to do. I thought I wasn’t doing enough or that God simply could not help me. It was that desire for something more, something deeper in life; and the desire to break out of my stagnant Sunday Catholic life that made me decide to attend SOW.
In the first week, I struggled to fully accept His work in my life. I struggled to pray meaningfully and be present for sessions and reflections. But slowly, I felt a change in me that could only be God working in me. In the first week, when we went through the Prodigal Son paraliturgy, we were invited to approach proxy father figures to be embraced. I didn’t know what to do and I kept overthinking. I was so fixated on trying to figure out what to do to get the most out of it. Yet I was reminded by my sharing partner that it was ok to not feel anything and to trust God. That’s when I realised then that I had not given God a chance in my life. I was so fixated on what I thought I should feel and do, that I had put God into a box and dictated how He should act in my life. And because I didn’t experience what I expected from Him, I concluded that he wasn’t there. After coming to this realisation, I decided to just let myself be present to God and receive freely. Through this surrender of expectations, I realised that when I learn to let God lead, He will surprise me. The simple but important message I received from the night of the Prodigal Son paraliturgy, was that God just wanted to give me a big warm hug. It was then that I recognised the Father’s love for me and I knew then that He had been present throughout my life and that I did not have to do anything but to let Him love me.
I am learning to trust God by being still and patient with Him. I claim that He sees and has seen my desire to know Him and is very proud of me. I am slowly learning to trust that God is there even when I cannot see Him and that I can turn to Him with my desires, asking him for help to be still and listen. God reminds me that there is no need to strive, no need to rush or compare with others in this journey of discipleship with him. Whenever I start to get anxious about the future, I remind myself that the Lord will do things in his own time and all I have to do is to trust in His plans and to let him take control. I claim the truth that faith is not about feelings but about holding fast to what is true.
Since encountering the Lord, I have come to realise how present God has been in my life. I have seen Him in the people around me that have asked me how I was when I needed it the most, and the people that gave me hugs when I was least expecting it. I realised that these were the ways that God used the people around me to show me that I could rely on Him. I also recognise that whatever God calls me to do, He provides me the ability to fulfill. Everyday, I see how He is inviting me to let Him lead me in all my actions, whenever I get scared or self-conscious about how to pray, give thanksgiving, or share about the faith. I’ve learnt to come before the Lord humbly and ask Him daily to guide me through the day. I have experienced how our God is a gentleman who goes at my pace and doesn’t do more than what He knows I can handle.
The journey is far from easy and every day brings challenges in upholding such a life but everyday I try to say that yes to God. I’m also reminded that our faith is not one of timidity but one of great courage through our God who has the power to move mountains and bring dry bones to life. As long as we have the desire to love and know our Him more deeply, we can dare to take the first step and He will run the remaining 99 steps towards you. Amen.