by Isabel Tan, 19 years old
From the age of six, I was made to play tennis and hated it for the most part —especially my parent’s disappointment when I lost a match, and feeling like I wasn’t living up to my father’s name and expectations. As the second oldest amongst my cousins and with thinly veiled rivalry between our parents, I was set to be the frontrunner, meant to succeed and to be the best. I worked hard so that my family had a daughter to be proud of and portrayed myself as someone who had their life together, someone untouchable. I was content striving for perfection, seeking to polish an already whole self. But my faith life felt empty. My faith was tremulous and based on fear— would God strike me down with a tragedy that I deserved after 18 years of a seemingly perfect life?
When I signed up for the School of Witness (SOW), I was ready to become the perfect prayer powerhouse, speak in tongues and rest in the Spirit on command. I was ready to become a perfect Catholic, to add SOW to my list of accomplishments, another checkbox that I was living my life “right”. The problem was, I didn’t even know where to begin to let God into a heart that was clogged with pride, one that had little to no space for Him.
In week 6 of SOW, I felt displaced and inadequate. As I reflected on these negative emotions, I was horrified as the Lord revealed painful memories I didn’t even realise I harboured. I grew frustrated, wondering why He didn’t reveal these hurts during inner healing week a month ago but instead, when we were learning to share our conversion with others. That night, I wrote in my journal, “I pray that You drag me out of this mess ASAP, please Jesus” and went to sleep feeling annoyed and resigned.
The next morning as we listened to testimonies from fellow SOWers, a simple line from a sister’s testimony completely unsettled me. She shared that the meaning of confidence is to believe and have faith in someone. It hit me hard— the someone should never have been me, but God. My pride led me to pursue perfection instead of wholeness, to compensate for the unworthiness I felt. I buried this fear of inferiority under layers of self-reliance and willpower. As I cried, I realised that my insecurities, buried deep within, manifested in my relationship with God. Even though I have grown deeper in love with Him at SOW, there was still a part of me that clung on to my self-reliance. Before, I reasoned that it was selfish to seek healing when others had been through more trauma than me. But as I cried, feeling painfully vulnerable, He began tearing down the final layers of brick and concrete around my heart to make room for His living water. This living water waters my barren soul and revives the areas that were dead, filling the holes of brokenness with hope and renewal.
More testimonies on the image of God and identity:
Now I claim that our God moves in unexpected ways. Where I wanted him to fit into my ideal “Jesus experience”, he sought me when I least expected or wanted him to. God moves in his own time when we wait for him with expectant faith, even if we don’t feel that He is moving. The Lord reminds me time and again to bring my fear into the light to Him. When the voice of the enemy tells me that I’m undeserving of love, God’s voice cries louder, that He is with me always, to the end of age.
I also now know that my endurance won’t be enough without God’s fortifying grace. As I continue to battle with anxiety and fears about my future, God speaks truths to me through the people in my community. Truths which I would have once rejected, are truths I now want to cling onto. When doubt and fear enter my mind, I’m reminded that Jesus died for me, that I can gaze on the crucified Christ and remember the ransom he paid for my life.
Brothers and sisters, you’re never going to be able to predict the coming of God into your heart, but are you ready to prepare a place for him in there?
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