I am the eldest child of an Asian family, whose parents migrated from Hong Kong to pursue a more prosperous lifestyle. As an Asian kid heading into primary school, I wasn’t well received by my Caucasian classmates, often being bullied and the target of racist Chinese jokes; not only so but I was also the target of some racial prejudice by some of my primary school teachers. This made it quite difficult for me to fit into school and find a sense of belonging; it was quite hard to earn the trust and respect of my peers at the time, especially because I didn’t excel at anything they valued (eg: sports). Eventually I found acceptance through some friends because of my academic intellect, which at the same time attracted “nerd” jokes. But at the least, it gave me a sense of individuality, belonging and acceptance.
But that all shattered when I changed schools for Opportunity Class, where my class was mostly full of smart, nerdy Asians; and I was no longer unique or stood out. I lost my sense of belonging and acceptance, and that persisted into high school where (surprise, surprise) I was again surrounded by many high achieving Asians. Nothing seemed to stand out about me to helped me find acceptance in my peers. I wasn’t the smartest, I wasn’t sporty, and I wasn’t particularly talented in other areas. In fact, it was hard to find acceptance from my parents as well, who had pushed me quite hard to study harder. I never really perceived them to have been proud of my academic achievements over the years, and heading into high school was a major downturn for me because in my parents eyes it was “not the best high school in the state”.
The combination of an inability to find acceptance in my peers and my parents brought me into a negative emotional spiral which started in late primary school and eventuated in depression and suicidal thoughts in early to middle high school years. For many of you who know me, I know I don’t talk about the topic of depression and suicide much (or ever), but it was definitely a dark period of time I lived through – seeing every day as bad, and having my mind warped to the point that I had somehow started finding relief in the idea of killing myself. I have to say, on reflection of this, nothing is more dangerous than tricking your mind into thinking that killing yourself is a good thing; but that was where my mind was at back then.
Despite my many years of going to church, to Sunday school, sitting through Bible Studies and doing other Christian courses, even despite the many prayers I gave to God to deliver me from the life I lived, nothing gave me happiness. It was only until one day in year 10, as I sat in my room after another bad day of school, looking through some of the older Bible Studies I had done over the worries, and wondering what value any of them ever had to my life, that I stumbled upon one study which was about God accepting me. The study went through parts of the Bible which showed how God accepts and loves us no matter what we looked like, what we could or couldn’t do, or what we had achieved in life. Not only so, but God accepts us even more through Jesus – His death on the cross paying the price for our sins against God so that despite the fact we are enemies of God, He now accepts us because we have been forgiven through Jesus. The study went on to talk about the implications of these Biblical truths, and one point talked about how we should learn to love and accept ourselves because God now loves and accepts us through Jesus. And at that moment things clicked with me.
Even though I had done that study years and years ago (with my messy year 7 writing), it was a profound truth I somehow had not managed to digest until that day. I asked myself the question: “If God loves me, why can’t I love myself?” Even though I was trying hard and failing to impress my friends, even though I was studying as hard as I could to impress my parents, there was still a God who was looking down for heaven saying: “I accept you for who you are”. I broke down into tears in my room as I reflected on that truth. What I had been searching for all these years since primary school was just someone to love me, to give a sense of individuality, belonging and acceptance. I would’ve never imagined that the person I was looking for had been right there all along – God had always been there with me, and from the start He had always accepted me, I just never realised until that day.
And so today, though I live with a bit of post trauma from all those years of negativities, and though I still bear the scars of my insecurities from my past, I do walk boldly forward in life knowing that I don’t need to do anything in life to impress anyone – because I have a God who already accepts me for who I am, and that alone is enough (and frankly all that matters). I can pursue the things I enjoy, like soccer, diving and karaoke, without a fear that I might not impress anyone because I’m not good enough at those things. I can be free from feeling like I always need to compare myself to someone else and where they are at in life (though many times it is still a temptation). I can be free to live my life in any way pleasing to God, knowing that at the end of the day I am loved and accepted by Him and have a future inheritance in heaven because of Jesus’ promise to me.
And that is why I follow Jesus.
The above is my testimony which I’ve been meaning to re-write over the years – I had still been digesting my darker years in high school, not knowing how to best articulate that in the way Jesus touched my life. I had also re-visited the way we as Christians ought to portray our journey to deciding to follow Jesus – often times it feels like all Christians tell the same story (born into a Christian family, then one day *poof* start following Jesus) such that it’s not unique, and it’s probably not engaging or interesting (particularly to a non-Christian audience). Today’s post is an attempt to re-write my testimony in a unique and more engaging way, whilst preserving the truth of what happened in my life and also portraying God in the centre of it all. Feel free to give me feedback on the way it was written; and feel free to privately message me if you’d like to know more about my story.