It was my dream to become a doctor for the poor, inspired by a documentary on Operation Smile, a non-profit medical organisation supported by volunteer doctors who provide free surgery for children born with cleft lips and whose families cannot afford corrective surgery.
I held this dream close to my heart even as I got older, and for some time it looked like I was getting closer to achieving it, as I soared academically in my secondary school and polytechnic days.
When it was finally time to apply for a place in university, I was insistent on getting into a medical school in Singapore. Thinking that God had to grant me the desires of my heart, I remember telling Him, “God, it is all or nothing. If I don’t get into medicine, then …”
I didn’t even complete my ultimatum, because I was so convinced I would get into the course of my choice.
To my disbelief, I received my first rejection letter, and in the same week, a second rejection letter. I was devastated; I felt like something in me died.
God, did I hear wrongly? How could a dream that was so long-lived not come from you?
With no other options to choose from, I decided to take a gap year.
The nights following my double rejection letters were difficult, to say the least, and I would cry myself to sleep. But even as I grappled with the hard truth, I didn’t want to waste that year away. I eventually faced reality, albeit somewhat grudgingly: Ok God, now what?
Those few words, though uttered not quite submissively, would be one of the most powerful prayers I’ve ever seen answered.
I began to work two part-time jobs, and started preparing for my second attempt at a medical school. One day, as I was preparing for my examination, I felt God’s assuring peace wash over me out of nowhere. I knew, without a doubt, that I was experiencing His love.
I was encountering Him.
” … And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’” (Genesis 32:26)
I finally saw that I too had been wrestling with God. All these years, I was wrestling hard to force my own ideas of my calling on Him. And now that my precious plans had been “put out of joint”, like Jacob, there was nothing left to hold onto but God Himself.
I was ready to just hold onto Him and His love, even if it meant that part of me – the dreams of medical school – had to die.
He didn’t promise me the success of my second try, but my desires for me started to mean less than His desires for me. I repented of my wilfulness and pride, for thinking that I knew better than Him.
I was ready to take on university not just for the degree, but to also be His vessel of love to the people around me in this next phase of life.
With faith and assurance that God would somehow come through for me, I prayed and asked that He would show me a rainbow in the sky as His green light. And indeed, I caught a glimpse of a rainbow as I submitted my applications for university.
I did not get into medical school.
Instead, I got into the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Life Science programme. This couldn’t be further from my hopes of providing healthcare for the needy.
But though the perceived means of my dream had died, my dream itself had not.
One day, I stumbled upon NUS’s School of Public Health’s webpage. After the introductory lecture by the school’s dean, I found that the information he told us actually checked off my mental checklist for what I wanted to study.
I applied for Public Health as my minor, and with every subsequent lecture and module that I took, I realised that my dream of working with the poor through the healthcare sector could be fulfilled! God had provided a means to my dream!
I realised that He heard my prayers, and more than that – that He loves me. He cares about what I care about.
Though the perceived means of my dream had died, my dream itself had not.
As Psalm 66:18-20 puts it, “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.”
Thank You Lord, for being so good to me even though I was a wilful kid. You didn’t attend to me in a way I wanted it to be, but You definitely heard my cries. Thank You Lord, for loving me. I don’t deserve it, but it is not about who I am; it’s about who You are. With you by my side, I look forward to seeing this dream unfold.
For those who are disappointed by their “A” level results or perhaps a rejection letter from somewhere, I pray too that you would receive comfort from God, and have faith even when things may not go the way you’d like them to.
Don’t give up on your dreams, and most importantly, don’t give up on Him.
This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway. From now till the end of March 2018, we are giving away a pack of limited edition Thir.st “Greater Love” Stickers in exchange for every story. Stories must have a personal/local angle and be of 800-1000 words. Send us yours here.