by Ignasia Hanny, SUTD
As a child, I loved the verse from Matthew 19:14 where Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven”. God has always been a super-hero kind of figure that is also my best friend at the same time. I can tell him anything, ask him anything, and even when he did not give me what I wanted, I could accept it simply because of my childlike faith.
At the age of 15, I moved to Singapore to study. I had to live apart from my loving family who had always reminded me of how important it is to put God in the centre of my life. I tried to keep my simplistic childlike faith, treating it as the convention to do things without questioning or reasoning further. However, the world started to tempt me with its worldly happiness. The heavy emphasis on grades that was never the focus of my life, started to slowly shift my goals from wanting to become closer to God to that of achieving what the world wanted from me.
It all happened gradually and I thought my faith was going to be fine since I tried to include God throughout the journey. I prayed for good grades, for resilience to study for hours, for achievements, for recognition and for acceptance. I thought I knew what was the best decision for myself. I did not realise that I started to drift away the moment I failed to put God as my first priority.
When the painful times came, it only made me drift further from him. Instead of relying on Him, a small part of me started to blame Him, question Him, “didn’t I ask for Your help to resolve my problems? Why did You have to make me go through all this pain?” I stopped letting Him take charge of my life. Remembering how my younger self used to trust God so wholeheartedly only made me feel more guilty. I knew God is always the Way, but my stubbornness in refusing to do what was right made me shy away from Him even further.
I knew what I was doing wrong. I wanted to mend my relationship with God, I wanted to come home, I wanted to feel loved like how I was loved last time. But it was scary. I was away for so long, what if suddenly God told me to throw away things that I had worked so hard to build, or just felt disappointed in me and our relationship would never be the same anymore. I did not know how to start.
Thankfully God had never ever left me even when I did not have the courage to look at him. Through the people around me, he encouraged me to join SUTD Catholic Community, Refuge. I had my doubts and awkwardness at first. I skipped some sessions, but whenever I came back, they welcomed me with open arms, they understood that life can be really busy at times and they did not judge. I always felt at home and it was really comforting to know that there are others who are also struggling, and it is okay, because we will all help each other to become more Christ-like together. The community had shown and inspired me how wonderful it is when you have faith in God, which made me long for Jesus even more.
The peak of my conversion was when I went for Kickstart 2018. During the prayer ministry, I was told that God wanted to tell me that He was sorry for making me going through my struggles and that I should not blame myself for it. At that point, I could not really internalise why would God feel sorry for me, for he is God, and He is always right! However, my broken heart knew that I had heard what I’ve wanted to hear all this while – that in God’s eyes, what He cared for was not me hiding away from him, but the fact that I have the desire to return home.
God was the one who said sorry, but I was the one who felt forgiven.
He never ever left me alone, He loves me so much, and in all of those days of hopelessness, He has always been there, waiting for me to turn my glance at him because the moment I do, He is going to make my life great again. God showered me with his unlimited love, provided me with an everlasting peace in my heart and fill my days with joy. He awaits the moment when I will call him my hero, my best friend, and my God.
This changed my life forever. It was as if time had finally started ticking again and I learned to ask for his help and to rely on him on everything, no matter how insignificant it may seem, and somehow I could cope better with stress and whatever life threw at me.
As time passed and I slowly included God in my days once more, I start to see my darkest period as a part of his great plan. I discerned that there is a reason for all of that had happened. Being hurt made me more sensitive to the plight of others, and to a certain extent it helped me to develop empathy so that I can help to be the extension of his love to those around me who have yet to find their refuge.
Including God in my everyday life was not easy at all and even after such a significant encounter, my faith threated to plateau and stagnate. However, being in a community made me realised that our faith is alive! I have to make the effort to keep renewing it, to deliberately say yes to God in all of my daily decisions. From offering up my pain and struggles to Him, to trusting Him, praising Him, laughing with Him, enjoying my time with Him, loving Him, He is and will always be my hero, my best friend and my God! 🙂