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Relationships

My complete, imperfect family

by Pauline Wong | 3 November 2017, 3:58 PM

My Kindergarten teacher often encouraged us to draw portraits of our families.

With squiggly lines and less-than-perfect circles, I produced masterpiece after masterpiece to the best of my 6-year-old ability. I don’t remember most of my illustrations, but I do recall one vividly.

It was a picture of my parents, my sister and I. We were on rollerskates, holding hands and looking happy. In the background, I’d placed a Christmas tree.

I have lost that piece of drawing since then, but something transferred from paper to mind and etched itself deeply in my heart.

A complete family is a happy family.

My family is a complete family.

While some of my peers were born into less than desirable circumstances, I grew up with both of my parents present. I never knew what people meant when they said, “I don’t have a dad/mum”, much less the pain and hurt that separation inflicts.

Overtime, “complete” became synonymous with “perfect”. Of course my family wasn’t without flaws – we had our fights and disputes. But we were what you would call pretty normal. Average. Okay. And as I looked at the broken world as a child, okay became good enough a standard. I had both a dad and a mum, and a sister to boot. Okay was perfect.

Until I came to know Christ. That was when I began to understand how love should truly look like.

I can’t adequately put it into words but it was as though I could finally see. Everything became crystal clear yet, at the same time, everything lost its lustre, too. Kinda like putting on a new pair of glasses – you suddenly see everything with fresh clarity, but that also means suddenly seeing every imperfection that was always there.

I recall now hugging my younger sister tightly as we recoiled in fear, angry voices punctuated by threats of divorce reverberating from the next room.

When I came to know Christ, everything became crystal clear yet, at the same time, everything lost its lustre, too. I suddenly saw everything with fresh clarity, but that also meant suddenly seeing every imperfection that was always there.

As we got older, my mom started to rake up the past whenever she got angry. She would throw in snide remarks about how my dad was unpunctual to their wedding whenever we’re running late for something.

Instead of fighting back, my dad would tune out of arguments, block out complaints, and zone out of confrontations. Taking his cue, my sister and I also detached ourselves whenever we felt a storm brewing.

I had stopped communicating with my dad years ago due to a misunderstanding that I thought had caused him to stop loving me. It didn’t help that he was a man of a few words. Our conversations never lasted for more than 10 seconds, and never deeper than a “What do you want to eat?” He was physically present in my life, but never emotionally.

My family had also stopped eating together for years as it was almost impossible to comply with everyone’s schedule. The four of us ate at different times, at different locations.

From the outside, my family seemed okay – perfect. The issues we face weren’t major enough to threaten our family structure, so we simply brushed them aside.

But when God came into my life, His love illuminated the concealed hurts and frustration that undergirded the way we related to each other.

Yes, my family was intact and worry-free.

But it was far from perfect.

I’m not unappreciative of what I have; my family loved each other in the best way we knew how. I know that I’m blessed to have grown up in a relatively functional family, and I’m thankful for that. It’s just that functional isn’t the end point for God. His is a higher standard of love.

It says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.”

A holy discontentment started to grow in my heart. And while it’s easy to settle for what’s convenient and familiar, I decided that I had to do something, rather than hand down the imperfect love we received, learnt and passed on from generation to generation.

Changing family culture that has been set in stone for decades wasn’t easy. I had to be intentional in striking up conversations with my dad, intentional in planning family outings, intentional in speaking truth and life. All while being consistent.

I remember my parents got into a huge argument once, and my dad moved out of their room to sleep in the living room for weeks. Seeing that my dad was giving her the cold treatment, my mum began to vent her frustrations on me.

Functional isn’t the end point for God. His is a higher standard of love.

I resented it. I hated how my mom tried to use me as a pawn to get back at my dad. I hated how they just threw the burden of being a responsible parent to me, when it was not my job to begin with. I hated how I was suffering the brunt of their conflict even though I was just an innocent victim.

I refused to do anything about the situation, refused to be embroiled into their conflict. It’s their fight, not mine, I reasoned. Why should I have to do the dirty work? But I eventually caved because I knew it was the right thing to do.

I remember approaching my dad in the balcony. I asked him if he remembered his marital vows to my mum.

“Papa, you promised to take care of Mummy. I know how naggy Mummy can be, but when J (my sister) and I eventually move out, the primary responsibility lies with you to care for her.”

My dad didn’t say much – simply grunted. But he moved back into the bedroom that night, and their relationship gradually improved.

My family has come a long way since then. Nowadays, we try to be more involved in each other’s lives. We celebrate birthdays and special occasions. We still aren’t perfect, but out of love, we try.

I think back to the picture I drew as a kid – my family in the foreground, and a Christmas tree in the background.

Very much like the circles my little hand had drawn, we were complete, functional, but undeniably imperfect. I’d like to think, however, that God would have received my masterpiece with joy and stuck it on His fridge.

Without allowing Him into every area of my life and placing my family into His hands, I wouldn’t have known what true love is; wouldn’t know how to truly love.

For He is love’s definition through and through.

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Do you see the treasure in your field?

by Charis Tan | 17 July 2018, 3:30 PM

Giving up everything to buy something that looks like it’s worth nothing is only a joyful situation to someone who has seen the treasure in it.

“Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.’” (Matthew 13:44)

After I read this verse, I mulled over it for days and days. I puzzled mostly over why the man didn’t take the treasure for himself. Why did he cover it up again, then sell all he had to buy the entire field? Who in their right mind does that? Wasn’t the treasure the only thing that had value?

I had no answers; all I knew was that God was challenging me. I had been praying about my workplace and my office, and God imprinted three words on my heart. It felt like they were ringing loudly in my ears. Buy the field, He said. I want you to buy the field.

God is looking for people who are willing to sell all to buy the field. But first, we must see the treasure in it. And God convicted me of this one thing: That my sacrifice is joyless when I don’t have vision. That is, after all, how Jesus was able to commit Himself to the biggest sacrifice of human history (see Hebrews 12:2).

He was able to go to the Cross to die because He saw the treasure that was the souls of man.

Our ability to see the Kingdom of God in what people claim as barren land is what’s going to restore it to its original purpose.

Only recently did I realise the answer to the mystery of why the man in Jesus’ metaphor put the treasure back in the field. It’s because the parable illustrates God’s desire for us to see every situation and environment through the lens of His redemptive plan.

The kingdom of God is in the field He’s sent each of us into. It’s the treasure we must find in it, wherever we are. The field to Him has purpose and destiny, and He knows that finding the treasure in it is what will motivate us to redeem it.

This is what God has always wanted: The souls of man. The souls in your workplace, the souls in your family, the souls in your circle of friends. What will you give to take ownership of where they are found?

Jesus proceeds to confront the Pharisees with this question in Matthew 23:19, “Which is more important – the gift on the alter or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” The treasure in the field sanctifies it. Our ability to see the Kingdom of God in what people claim as barren land is what’s going to restore it to its original purpose.

What field are you standing on that God is challenging you to sell all and buy?

If you’ve committed your life to God’s hands, then you can rest assured that nothing in it is left to chance. I know that if at work I cultivate the willingness to lay down my life for those around me, see the gold in them, and demonstrate the love of Jesus, I form a (possibly crucial) part of His pursuit of them.

When it’s time to be brave, be brave. Don’t settle for love that is anything less.

But before all that, ask God to give you the eyes to see the treasure in that field. Therein you’ll find all the joy you need.

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Thank God I struggle with same-sex attraction

by H.Y | 13 July 2018, 10:37 AM

Yes, you read that right.

It sounded ridiculous – even sadistic – to me as well, when my friend said a similar prayer years ago. But today, these seven precious words have taken on a new meaning for me.

Experiencing and resisting same-sex attraction (SSA) is probably the hardest battle I have ever fought. While I’ve had crushes on guys as well, my attraction towards females has always been much stronger. Throughout the past seven years of resisting the temptation to act on my emotions, I’ve never understood why I had to go through this.

  • Doesn’t God know how disgusted I am with myself whenever I come to Him?
  • Doesn’t He know how difficult it is for me to repeatedly turn away from my most natural attractions?
  • If God really loved me, why didn’t He just make me normal?
  • Why did He allow me to go through so much pain?

Those were some of the thoughts that used to run through my mind. Even as I grappled with these questions, God used a recent infatuation I had to show Himself to me.

SUCCUMBING TO TEMPTATION

I met her on a week-long overseas work assignment and we clicked instantly. She was kind and took special care of me. Soon, we grew closer and started to confide in each other. We often deviated from the group to spend time together and even hung out in each other’s hotel room alone. I didn’t fully recognise my emotions then and hence, set myself up for trouble.

Perhaps it was the extended amount of time that we spent exclusively or the emotional connection we had that led me to develop feelings for her. As much as I knew my feelings were contrary to what constitutes holiness and Christ-like behaviour, I couldn’t help myself. I told myself every day that I couldn’t continue indulging in my feelings, but I just kept falling helplessly into sin.

One day, God intervened and graciously used the situation for my good. At that time, I had yet to share my struggle with my mentor and friends, hence I did not have anybody to turn to. As a result, God became the only Person I could hold on to. But at the same time, I felt far too dirty and sinful for God to handle.

WE CAN ALWAYS DRAW NEAR TO GOD

But even in the midst of my struggle, I was repeatedly reminded of what the apostle James wrote about choosing God over worldly passions. He instructs us to “resist the devil” and “come near to God” (James 4:7-8). It’s a two-pronged approach that we have to take – not an either-or approach – for it is impossible for us to turn away from sin without drawing near to God.

The apostle James also encouraged us in this: When we violently reject the devil, he flees from us. But on the other hand, when we run to God, He draws near to us.

That beautiful and magnificent image of God Himself being with me kept replaying in my mind.

… when we run to God, He Himself draws near to us.

When that realisation hit me, I knew what I had to do.

I had to come to God in brutal honesty, regardless of the state I was in. Humbling myself to realise that I could not do it on my own and raising the white flag in surrender was difficult, but I knew that there was no other option for me. I had done all I could with my human strength but it still did not amount to anything. I saw my helplessness and my desperate need for God.

I remember crying out to God in frustration. I whined endlessly to God in agony. I begged Him to remove my feelings of attraction. It was in these moments of vulnerability that I realised that it is absolutely okay for me to come to our Holy God in filthy rags.

God proved to me that He provides us with the strength to obey Him, so that we can resist even the toughest temptations.

In fact, just like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, He welcomes and embraces us when we come to Him in repentance – regardless of the state we are in. When we become His children, we can never be too dirty, too unholy or too distant to come back to him.

Slowly, I started to feel less alone in my struggle and I knew for certain that God was fighting alongside me. Every time I turned to him, comfort and peace, which were usually elusive to me, suddenly began to fill my heart. I felt reassured that turning to God was the right thing to do.

I also noticed how my prayers shifted from asking God to remove the temptation to asking God for strength to make the right decisions. He became very real to me in those precious seven days when I struggled with that temptation.

GOD NEVER ABANDONS US

For the first time, I was truly convinced that our Father never abandons us. Even in our times of rebellion against Him, He is never too far away for us to reach out to.

God proved to me that He provides us with the strength to obey Him, so that we can resist even the toughest temptations. In Philippians 1:6, He reassures us that He is not done with us yet and that He will complete the good work that He started in us.

… my prayers shifted from asking God to remove the temptation to asking God for strength to make the right decisions.

Since I began this journey, I have found it easier to obey God. By actively distancing myself whenever I find myself developing feelings for other girls and being honest with God about what I’m feeling, I now struggle less to turn away from temptations and turn my heart towards God.

I still do not have an answer for why God allowed me to be attracted to both genders and am far from being immune to temptations, but God has opened my eyes to see how these encounters have become a way for Him to draw me back to Himself.

I’ve seen how weak and helpless I am in the face of sin, and how the Almighty God works even through that.

Now, I am able to truly thank God that I struggle with same-sex attraction, for if I didn’t, I wouldn’t see how God graciously provides us with His own presence and supernatural strength to fight these battles and to ultimately win the war in eternity.


This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.

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The mask he wore to church

by Oliver Kuek | 11 July 2018, 5:47 PM

You know what it’s like being attracted to the same sex as a Christian?

I certainly don’t. And for a long time I lived without knowing what that tension was like – that double-life of fear and shame our brothers and sisters go through. I remained blissfully unaware until a few years ago, when one of my mentees from cell group texted me saying that he needed someone to talk to.

That was nothing unusual. Jonathan* and I had been having regular meet-ups so I figured he just had something a bit more pressing to share that night. We agreed to meet at a park after cell.

Jon was unusually quiet during cell. Not like he was one of the louder ones, but that night he was observably unresponsive – withdrawn almost. And even more so when we sat down to talk after that. By then, his face had taken on the pale and anxious look of a person about to throw up.

So I said, “Hey man, it looks like this is something that you’re finding pretty difficult for you to say. So, take your time alright? Don’t worry about the time, you can share whenever you’re ready and when you want to.”

Even with that word of assurance, we continued to sit by the river in silence. Jon’s eyes were fixed downwards to his shoes the whole time. Some minutes later, he began tearing.

I can only imagine the pain you’ve been experiencing this whole time, not having anyone to share this with.

“Hey. What’s wrong, Jon? You can tell me,” I said. Nervous words started to stumble out as he began sobbing: “I don’t even know how to say this.”

“I’m … Attracted to the same gender.”

Bombshell. For some stupid reason I had never thought about how to respond meaningfully in such a situation. My eyebrows might have raised for a split second before I caught myself and prayed as fast and as hard as I could. God, what do I say?

Seconds later, the words came. “Jon. Thank you … Thank you for telling me.”

I remember saying something along these lines: “That was incredibly brave of you to do, and thank you for trusting me. I can only imagine the pain you’ve been experiencing this whole time, not having anyone to share this with … Your secret is safe with me.”

Jon didn’t have any more words after I spoke. He looked so alone in the dim light which seemed almost to shroud him. I hugged him as he cried hard into my shoulder.

After Jon’s “confession”, we became closer as brothers in the faith. I know he knows I don’t judge him, but I bet he knows I’m just as clueless about this whole thing as he is. I’ve never really had to think about the perpetual tension he lives in: How the heart wants a person, and yet that same heart knows deep down it isn’t the right way forward.

And how do you live as a Christian with same-sex attraction? Unless you’re out of the closet, you basically have to put on a front and lie your way through questions about your relationship status, or just be single and celibate and hope no one asks too many questions.

How tiring it must be to live with these masks. And I believe there are ways we can do better in caring for brothers and sisters like Jon.

Why have I written this? I guess I want to say to the Christian who’s struggling with same-sex attraction, that I probably understand only a fraction of what you live through on a daily basis. From the strained hope of long having asked for this cup to be taken from you, to not knowing why I was born with such attractions – I can only imagine what it’s like being in your shoes.

To see how you have not been faithless in striving towards the godliness and self-restraint God has called all of us to compels me in my own journey. And if I’ve acted out of ignorance or entitlement, forgive me. I am not better than you. We all come from the same fallenness. As such we are all offered the same grace.

How then can we offer each other this same grace as Jesus Christ offers us, whether the struggle be same-sex attraction, anger management, addiction, pride, body image, illness, grief or loving others not like ourselves?

In my view, we can always do better as a Church, one body of Jesus Christ. We are one family, and if we love the family as much as we say we do we have to stand together, with each other; nobody gets left behind.

There is a Jon in every Church – possibly even in every cell-group. I think it’s not so much about how we can change him, but how we can bring each other closer to Christ.


Names have been changed for confidentiality.

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The best lessons I learnt in school

by | 6 July 2018, 5:52 PM

It’s funny how time flies, within a blink of an eye, I am now Year 3 in a school that I still struggle to fully understand. I mean, one moment you’re walking into your very first lecture, the next, you’re well into your final year, taking on a 6-month internship programme at Thir.st.

But one thing has stayed constant for me, and that’s the community I’ve in school. When I was in Year 1, I joined my polytechnic’s Cru chapter. It was the best decision of my life. I’ve made the best friends I’ve ever had, brothers and sisters who’ve faithfully walked my poly journey with me.

As I now stand at the end of my poly life with graduation less than a year away, I can’t help but think back on some of the lessons I had learnt from this community.

3 LESSONS FROM MY CRU JOURNEY

1. It’s okay to be who you are

For an extrovert, I am surprisingly socially awkward. I remember when I first showed up for Cru’s welcome tea, not knowing what to expect or who to talk to.

But as I showed up, again and again, I saw something very different about the community – no one was disingenuous. And while the world says to put on a mask before everyone so no one can tell your true colours, this community laid it all down to be real with each other.

As I saw my new friends revealing who they really were, I felt the need to do so too. But as I did, something strange happened; instead of feeling endangered, I felt a certain release.

It was through this community that I realised how tiring it was to put on the mask of poise and excellence before everyone, and how easy it was to finally lay it all down and say, “This is me, all my strengths, all my weaknesses, all my flaws.” And at the end of the day, still be accepted for who I am.

This community, to me, was a picture of how we can and should come before Jesus. In John 6:37 Jesus says to us: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” If we come to Jesus, just as we are we are accepted and will never be driven out from Him.

2. It’s okay not to be okay


My best friends in community have become my best friends not just because of common interests and fun times we’ve had together, but because we’ve shared our struggles, pains and deepest hurts.

In my recent struggles, I found myself wrestling with the issue in the dead of midnight. After praying over it, I decided to call one of my best friends. Not only did he pick up the phone, he even talked it through with me till the early morning.

Such a sanctuary to be this vulnerable is such an apt image of how we can lay it all down before Jesus. In one of my favourite verses, Jesus gently offers us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus knows how hard it is to be human, He feels our every struggle because He went through it Himself. But instead of standing at a distance, He offers to have us cast our burdens on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

3. It’s okay to be different

Cru communities are usually made up of people from many different churches, denominational beliefs, socio-economic backgrounds and sometimes even nations.

Yet, I realise that the closeness of this community is not founded on the ignorance of our differences but in spite of them. Whenever we don’t agree on a particular issue, we always take the time to communicate and, as much as possible, compromise so that we can dwell in peace and unity.

Each time I step into this community, I am reminded of the hope to come. In Revelation 7:9-10, the Apostle John saw a great multitude of every nation, tribe and tongue, and they were all praising God as one.

What a beautiful sight it must have been, and what a glorious hope. As believers, there will come a day where we no longer pick out the differences between each other – we are only going to see each other as God’s fellow children; we are going to praise and worship Him together.

Even now as I look back at my two years with Cru, I can’t help but be in wonder of how this community has not only grown me but also given me a glimpse of Jesus and the future hope I have in glory.


Don’t believe me? Come and see for yourself. If you are a polytechnic or university student looking for a Christ-centered community to be a part of, why not join me and see for yourself what change being a Christ-centered community in school can do?

Contact @polycrusingapore, @np_crusade, @sp_crusade, @nypccc or @ntucru on Instagram. 

/ junheng@thir.st

JunHeng is a 100% extrovert who loves caffeine – lots of caffeine. He also likes HTHTs, jamming and eating good food. Did he mention he loves caffeine?

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Pornography was my escape

by Jerald Tan | 3 July 2018, 2:56 PM

I had my first girlfriend, A, at 18.

It was wonderful. I loved her and accepted her for who she really was. We were happy until the day I realised that A was seeing someone else without my knowledge. I didn’t know how to react. I felt betrayed that my trust was broken. I felt angry because how could a Christian do such a thing?

At 20, I started getting closer to B. I loved being around her. It was fun. I’ll never forget the nights we rocked out at concerts, watching Arsenal matches or the late night drives spent just hanging and talking. But we never got together, and one day she started to avoid me. I never knew why until 2 years later when I found out that she was dating a guy who I mentored.

I was furious for being a fool again.

Then at 22, I met C. It was going well and there were plans to ask her to be my girlfriend. We jammed to music together and geeked out to our favourite anime. I still remember Thursday was my favourite day because I’d get to send her home and spend time with her. But yet again, I was betrayed by C because of another guy.

Three times, I was betrayed and cheated on.

The betrayals broke me. I knew only fury and anger towards these people. I wanted justice. Furious, I let rage consumed me.

So I turned towards porn. In particular, a genre called “bondage.” Bondage binds women with ropes and “punishes” them by sexually abusing them. I felt satisfaction and release seeing these women suffer. “They deserve it,” was what I thought to myself each time I scrolled through page after page of bondage porn.

Pornography was the only twisted form of justice I knew. I wanted to see justice being served. I couldn’t bring myself to forgive them and let go all of the emotional hurts I went through. True release was forgiveness, but I wasn’t even close.

Forgiveness is a conscious day-to-day decision and not a one-off thing.

But I think one of the great examples of forgiveness of all is found in the Gospel of Luke.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

It’s mind-boggling how Jesus could forgive the people actively killing Him. Forgiving means releasing a person from the debt owed to you, even if they will never come to understand the depth of the hurt they’ve caused.

Forgiveness is a conscious day-to-day decision and not a one-off thing. It is both letting the debtor and yourself off the hook. It’s surrendering the post-traumatic emotional baggages to God for His healing.

I’ve caught a glimpse of how Jesus feels when we betray His love for other things in life.

It must be excruciating when one person betrays Him, let alone 6 billion people on the planet betraying Him each and every day. It puts my pain in perspective.

So I constantly pray and acknowledge that I am a sinner and because Jesus forgives me – I choose to forgive others.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Till this day, I struggle with the vast head knowledge that cannot yet be translated into the heart. I still struggle to forgive every day. The events that I went through keep replaying in the wee hours of the night. The emotions become alive and intensified and yet the most ridiculous decision of all is the best one: To lay it all down at the throne of grace.

This pain is something I have to live with for now, but I know that He is patient and He is there for me.

So what now?

A was just happily married 5 days ago. B is happily engaged and just graduated from university. C is trusting in the Lord and working in the mission field.

But now my heart feels strangely warm typing this, knowing that they’re fine.

For myself, I am thankful that I am loved by Jesus. I am loved by my family, my partner and my community. I’m thankful that even though I have so many baggages, my girlfriend loves me and is there for me and accepts me for who I am, that she is willing to give me a chance to go through life together with her.

I’m thankful to Jesus that even though I’m a broken vessel, I am still “crowned with glory and honour”. I still struggle with pornography and forgiveness, but I am pressing on towards righteousness as God’s work-in-progress.

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Article list

My complete, imperfect family

Do you see the treasure in your field?

Thank God I struggle with same-sex attraction

The mask he wore to church

The best lessons I learnt in school

Pornography was my escape