by Joshua Ng (right)
My name is Joshua, and I am 25 years old, and a final year university student from SMU. Prior to entering into SOW, I felt that I had made it by society’s standards. I had a good GPA, just entered into my first relationship, and secured a job in a prestigious company even before graduating. My friends and people around me would often affirm me that they felt comfortable around me, and I took pride in being a source of joy and laughter.
However, that bubbly personality only existed outside the front door of my house as I have difficult relationships with my family. In my youth, my parents were often critical, would always take my brother’s side, and I would have to give in to him. I often fought with my younger brother and we were not on speaking terms for more than a decade. My efforts at loving my family were often met with more hurt and as such, I avoided conflict by hiding in my room, and communicating only for logistical purposes.
With that in mind, I entered the school feeling like God had nothing left to fix in my life. I questioned my decision to join the school and worried that God would break my bubble of happiness and safety, and that I would once again be left unsettled.
During the various one to one sharings with my cell group leader, he pointed out that I seemed to have this subtle but firm voice of self-condemnation. I would constantly say things like, “Oh I could have done better here”, or “I wished I had not acted that way”. Even in receiving compliments, I would say thanks but quickly point out an area where I had fallen short. I felt a bit called out and attacked, as I had always thought my reactions would help me to grow, and never become complacent with my achievements.
During one of the worship sessions, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of loneliness and helplessness and I fell into a fetal position, dry heaving against the wall so I would not cause a scene while worship was going on. Old memories resurfaced of my teenage years when I would be alone in my room at night, scrunched up against the walls and crying quietly so my family would not hear me. The scripts of, “I am so unloved”, and “I am alone”, kept playing out in my mind. I remember a staff member embraced me and said, “you are not alone”. That was when I realised the Lord desired to heal this brokenness in my life that I had not even realised.
Because of an incident in my childhood, the lie I came to believe was, “Because I wasn’t good enough, another person did not get a chance to live.” The Lord revealed to me that I had lived my life’s worth by pleasing others. Because of this, I grew up very fearful of looks of disappointment from persons of authority and peers, because every time I saw these looks, I was once again that 8 year old boy fighting to earn his right to walk on this earth. I was so afraid of failing and being not good enough, that I never embarked on anything unless I was very sure I would excel.
Over the ensuing weeks, I acted in a skit of Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb. It was then that I realised how desperately the Lord had been calling me out of my darkness, and how over the years I had lain in my tomb, afraid of what answering Him might mean. During the schools’ creativity practises, the Lord gently healed this area of self-worth. Where I was used to pressuring myself to gain acceptance and love of others, God used the confidence I had to glorify Him. The Lord also used the worship practises to heal me from the fear of making mistakes and not being good enough. Through affirmations from the community around me, the Lord constantly reminded me that I am good, and that He has blessed me with the charism of hospitality, sonthat I may welcome his people with love and joy. Through a brother in SOW, the Lord also reminded and affirmed me that I am his clown, and the Lord delights in me and finds so much joy in my being. Today, I can claim the namesake of Joshua that my parents had given me, which means “the Lord God is my Salvation”. Just like Joshua in the bible, the Lord has given me the miracle of tearing down the walls of Jericho around my heart. Even the parts of me I had condemned and given up on, the Lord saw fit to redeem and breath life into.
As the Lord teaches me to love myself, I also see how the Lord’s love is slowly softening my heart to not only love myself but my family more, as I begin to try and bring that warmthh back into my home. Over the weekends home during the school, I saw myself doing things I would never have imagined. Initiating a conversation with my dad to find out more about his work life instead of just a nod of acknowledgement, and listening to my mom and hugging her when she feel flustered, instead of storming off in anger, and inviting my brother out for a very awkward lunch that resulted in a conversation that lasted for more than a few seconds! These may be little things, but to me it is a sign that while my situation has not changed, I have changed. In 2 Cor 5:17 , it says, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! ”
Brothers and sisters, today the Lord desires to give you a true and permanent peace that the world cannot take away. Even though the first step out of the darkness may be uncertain and painful, I assure you that the Lord will not forsake you in this journey, just as the Lord was gentle and timely in my healing. Will you accept the Lord’s invitation to come out of your tomb?