by Gretel Lim (front, right)
My life before School of Witness (SOW) was pretty ordinary. In many ways I tried to live a good Catholic girl life and tried to do what good Catholic girls would do. From my Catholic education to the type of extra-curricular activities I did, I tried my hardest to live my life the “right” way. Each time I found myself at a crossroad I would turn to prayer and ask the Lord for guidance, though I had always assumed that He would never respond in the way I would need him to. Slowly, as the choices in my life started becoming less and less straightforward, I started to lose patience with God. In each conversation with Him, I asked for the pieces of my life to fall into place; I prayed for an easy path and simple answers. But each time I prayed, I was left without answers, and feeling even more confused and lost.
Growing up as the second oldest of five kids, the eldest daughter, and the only child without learning disabilities placed a lot of pressure on me as a child. For much of my childhood, my parents’ limited time and energy was focused on the needs of my siblings. Each need of theirs was considered more urgent than mine, and I was told since young that I would be the glue that holds this family together. I had to be the one to give in, sacrifice, and compensate for whatever the rest lacked. Naturally, I stepped into the role of the responsible child: playing the capable and present sister, the attentive and available daughter, the understanding friend, compassionate community leader and the person I thought God wanted me to be.
I had conditioned myself to find my worth and value in the things I could do. My extroverted personality and general capabilities and achievements were all indicators to me that I was doing well in life and perhaps God was pleased with me after all. And while I appeared confident externally, I knew that there was something broken in me, something missing. I was constantly angry and irritable, and felt like a fraud with most people in my life. I struggled with my depression silently, and I had no idea what I had to do next or even where to begin fixing myself. The Sunday before coming into SOW, I remember sharing with some community members that I was walking into the school with nothing left to lose. I felt like I had swept up the shattered pieces of my heart and life and carried them all to lay at Jesus’ feet, and asked him to help me.
During one of the first prayer ministry sessions that we had here in SOW, we were asked to read a love letter from God the Father. We were asked to highlight the things we could claim in it and the things we were still struggling with. While I could not articulate this for myself, the letter brought to my attention that all I could claim in it was who God was to me. I could not claim who I was to God. When I was asked what I wanted prayers for, I remembered saying: I don’t know what more Jesus wants of me. I don’t know how else to hear His voice and to live His plans for me. I don’t know if the Lord’s goodness is meant for me. The questions, “Do you believe that you are enough as you are? That you are loved as you are?”, made me realize that I did not believe I was enough.
My sense of worthiness had been solely dependent on my capabilities and achievements. My coming to Jesus was contingent on me being good and holy and perfect. And since I was a work in progress, there was no way I could receive His Love. I had lived so much of my life without having known or realized the Father’s immense love for me. But kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament that night my prayer to Him changed drastically. I didn’t need any answers, I just asked the Lord to pour out His love upon me so that my hardened and unfeeling heart would come alive in Him again. I fell prostrate before the Lord and wept because, as His love poured out into me and overflowed from the cup of my heart, I could finally begin to see that I am worthy, unique, irreplaceable and loved by the Father. And how He has lavished His love on me that night and ever since. A vision that a sister had was of me in a maze. I was lost and getting flustered, but Jesus reached out for me to hold his hand and asked, “Gretel, do you trust me enough to wait with me? To wait with me and to walk with me in every wrong turn, every dead-end and mistake?”
The labels that I placed on myself that I was incapable of love, undeserving of affection, that I was disgusting and unwanted melted away in the face of God’s love for me. Suddenly, I no longer needed the blueprints of my life handed over before I could give God control. Now I know He loves me as I am. I can run to Him in everything, truly free, truly home and truly in surrender to His plans for me.
Through SOW, the Lord has revealed and is continually healing the wounds from my childhood, the deep and dark sadness of my depression, my self-loathing and self-reliance. I have been unlearning the old me, unraveling the layers of self-defence I had built up and all the lies I had allowed myself to believe. I’ve embraced my authentic self and stepped away from who I thought my family, friends, and community needed me to be. I am stepping more into who I truly am in the eyes of the Lord. While learning to move in a different light and to claim my worthiness will take time, the Lord’s truth and goodness in my life is unceasing. Every day I will choose to run home to the loving arms of our good good father; to wait with Him in the wrong turns, dead-ends, and mistakes, knowing that nothing is impossible with God. Dear friends, will you too say yes and take Jesus’ hand? He waits for you at the foot of his cross.