By Zachary Quek, Singapore Polytechnic
SP Community, Zachary Quek in the middle row (blue shirt)
Before I joined the Catholic community community in SP, I was focused on being perfect in the eyes of the people around me. I wanted to be a straight A student, lead my table tennis team to victory in competition, be a funny and caring friend and a dutiful son. I tried to get into the others’ good books and to please my family through my academic performance and co-curricular activity (CCA) involvement. Whenever I failed to achieve a certain grade or standard of behaviour, I grew insecure about my worth and upset about disappointing others. I found my fears turn into feelings of anger, sadness and envy toward the friends whom I thought had their lives sorted out. I felt lonely and tired but I kept my mask on as I felt defined by other’s approval of me. I constantly wondered where God was in all that I was going through. He seemed like a distant, controlling and judgemental figure than a God who loves me. I was too blinded by my own pursuits that I could not allow His word to speak to me through family and friends.
My encounter with God came when I attended SHINE retreat in 2018. During the retreat, I uncovered the hidden hurts and insecurities that I had been clinging on to. The theme of the retreat, “Jesus the True Vine” (John 15) was God’s invitation of homecoming and welcoming love to me. It made me realise how He had actually been present and was running after me while I had been lost chasing things that could not satisfy me. I remember the Lord saying to me as I knelt before Him in the Blessed Sacrament, “My child, I love you. You are not measured by what others say of you or by your abilities, you are my beloved Son. Come back to me, and let us start anew”. From this experience, I grew more convicted that he is not a judgemental God, but a loving Father who cares for me. I was able to release the burdens I had been carrying and was relieved that I no longer have to chase goals that made me feel empty and constrained.
After SHINE, I decided to start journeying with SP CSS more intentionally. Each week, we would gather to pray together, share faith, and encourage each other to grow in our walk with the Lord. It is a community that reminds me of God’s loving and guiding voice, especially when I experienced struggles both past and new ones. The community kept me in His Word and helped me to say boldly “Jesus, I trust in you. Let your will be done and not mine.” It was an environment where I could come as I truly was and be affirmed of God’s loving presence be it during exams, projects and even during the COVID-19 circuit breaker where we still found ways to come together.
My faith in God was further deepened by the call to leadership in 2019. I attended the EMPOWER retreat, where I reflected on Jesus the Good Shepherd (John 10) who lays down his life for his sheep. During adoration of the Blessed Sacrament He asked me “Who do you say I am, Zachary?” and I replied, “Jesus, you are my Lord. I am afraid, I may be unworthy, but it is You who calm my fears and cast away my doubts. Give me the courage to be a vessel of your love to others as well. Nurture in me the heart of a good shepherd also.” God had called me out from my unworthiness and insecurities into His light. I realised that since God had chosen me to shepherd the community, when I am faced with doubts, I should proclaim louder with confidence that He is my Lord.
As a shepherd, I grew deeper in prayer, more intentional and sensitive to the needs of the community. There are times when my insecurities from the past would cause me to stumble again. But the Lord continued to be faithful and His saving grace for me continued to be made present through my co-leaders who prayed and journeyed with me. My eyes were opened to new and memorable experiences too. For example when I led SP CSS in a Catholic Heritage Tour. This was organized by the school for all students for the chance to explore the Catholic faith by touring the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. We had an opportunity to share our faith with friends outside of SP CSS what the faith means to us. God has set a fire ablaze in our hearts for him, and when we share, our faith comes alive through community, extending the hope, joy and freedom of Christ to all of us who pursue him. As a shepherd, I find no greater satisfaction than this.
Now that my polytechnic journey is coming to an end, I wonder what more the Lord has in store for me in time to come. I may not know what the future holds, but I know simply that by His love, I have and will be saved and made complete. Therefore friends, how will you respond to Christ? Do not hesitate to receive the great love that he has for you, he wants to begin anew with you in your polytechnic journey too!