by Maximus Tan
My name is Maximus. I am 21 this year and I’m currently waiting to start university. I’m a cradle Catholic and come from a family of two children. Being the elder brother, I had to be responsible for myself so that my parents didn’t have to worry about me. I sought to please my parents and be the perfect child but I felt that I was not able to meet their expectations due to comparisons with others.
Despite being in a community and serving in a ministry, my faith was lukewarm even though I thought that I was pretty holy at that time. I relied on my own strength, and I based my identity on the “work” that I was doing because it seemed good. I wanted to show my parents that I am actually a good boy, tand hat I’m worthy of love. I showed others the good side of me so that I could be loved. I did not know how to place my identity in Jesus so I placed it on others and their opinions. This is because being loved by others tends to be a tangible experience compared to being loved by God.
Outside of Church, I struggled with my identity because of the masks that I was wearing. I also struggled with my priorities as I tended to choose other distractions, like Netflix and YouTube instead of putting Jesus, although that was what I needed to do since I wanted to bring others to Christ. All in all, I felt the need to project the image of a ‘good’ boy to others more than to please God. In the end, I felt more frustrated with the emptiness in my life.
I attended School of Witness (SOW) because I was searching for a deeper meaning in life and I saw how my friends lived their lives with purpose and conviction after attending SOW, and I wanted to be like them. In the initial weeks of the school, I struggled because I expected to encounter the Lord and yet, there wasn’t any tangible experience for me. God wasn’t present in the way I wanted. There were no fireworks or any emotional highs. I felt like I was in the desert and that I had been deserted. As I confided in my sharing partner about what I was going through, he revealed to me that, I love God. But, I struggled to claim this truth.
As I contemplated my feelings, I questioned if I really love the Lord or if I just love his gifts. At one point I was pretty frustrated with the Lord because I felt Jesus inviting me to be with Him in this school, but I was still waiting for my ‘big’ fireworks moment which did not happen. I questioned my being in the school should nothing happen. However, one of the staff challenged me by asking if I would still love the Lord if I did not have a tangible encounter or receive anything from the Lord after the 8 weeks of the school. I knew the answer in my heart and I broke down because it felt so painful. This was because I could not reconcile what I wanted with what God wanted.
During one of the sessions, I was reminded of the truth that we should hold fast to Truth rather than emotions. This caused a stirring deep down in my heart, and I knew my answer was a resounding yes because I couldn’t imagine living my life without God. I knew that I wouldn’t be at peace. Like Peter, I said the same words, “To whom shall we go? You (Jesus) have the words of Eternal life.” That was when I realized I love God greatly and not just for His gifts.
One night, I also received this truth from scripture, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12). It was only then that with God’s grace I realized God is also present in the mundane and ordinary. There was no need for me to seek him in the fireworks anymore for God is always present with me!
All these things changed my perspective on life and everything that I did. In all that I had to do throughout the school, I no longer focused on what I wanted to or expect to receive. Instead, I was prompted and encouraged to simply allow the Lord to reveal whatever He wanted to me. I was able to just enjoy every moment with Jesus and He continues to remind me that the cross was His personal act of love for me and that I am worth it.
Through the weeks of sessions, reflection, prayers and living in a Christ-cent community, the Lord has given me new lenses to look at people without being critical and , to be selfless for the people of God. I am now able to root my identity in Christ and I no longer do things out of obligation or to please others or because it is the good thing to do. I do it because I am in love with the Lord who is always faithful, and I do it lovingly.
At home, I have begun to help out with the household chores without complaining so much and I was able to help others because I want to love and not with the intention of getting something in return. My eyes were also opened to see how God loves me through my cell group who are considerate and affirming. I am also able to recognize that we all are wounded in one way or another, and I am starting to learn to be more compassionate and more aware of the way I speak.
God is love, and love has become the main driving force of my actions. I experienced more freedom in my life because I am much less self seeking and calculative in everything I do. There is joy when you love and live for others. There is freedom as you dance with the Lord and you are part of this love story that Jesus wants to write with you. As I grow in my walk with Jesus, I know that I am moving from false certainty and true uncertainty. I pray and claim that I will embrace this every day of my life. Brothers and sisters, Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come so that you may have life, life in abundance.” My question to you is, ”Would you allow Jesus to pursue you – our greatest lover, the way of love, to give you fullness of life?”