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Faith

I was looking for love in all the wrong places – until love found me

by Thir.st | 22 November 2016, 11:01 AM

There is a peculiar air about Jaime Wong – speaking to her, it feels as if she does not have a care in the world, while still being deeply engaged with it.

The tennis coach is an accomplished woman, having won multiple awards in sports and school. Yet as she sits down with Thir.st to tell her story, it is clear that life hasn’t been an endless victory parade for her. She bares her scars not as trophies, but as testimonies, of God’s goodness and grace in her life.

“THE SINGAPOREAN DREAM”

Top student. Top athlete. Jaime Wong had it all. At 12, she was Singapore’s youngest national tennis champion; at 17 she received an athletic scholarship to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“It almost appeared on the surface that I was living the Singaporean dream – top student, top athlete – but beneath the surface it was a very different story.”

Without her parents around to keep her in check, Jaime got addicted to pornography while in the United States, and began to embrace the notion of the freedom to love.

In 2003, upon graduation, she fell in love for the first time while on a short trip back to Singapore.

“Usually falling in love is not a bad thing. But this person was a woman, and she was a Christian. In other words, a recipe for disaster. And my mind told me: Don’t pursue this, walk on,” she said.

“But my heart was a bit more stubborn.”

In pursuit of love, Jaime gave up her life in the US – only to have her world crumble beneath her. Her friend told her: “I’m so sorry, I love you, but I love God. And I cannot walk down this path with you. I will love you as Ruth loved Naomi, as Jonathan loved David, but I just cannot be the person that you want me to be.”

This enraged Jaime.

“Just imagine the heartbreak that I felt. I gave up everything to get this in return. I could not believe this friend actually chose God over me,” she said. “I was not prepared to let go, so I thought the most logical thing for me to do was to prove to this friend of mine that there is no such thing as God, and that the Bible is nothing but a book of lies.”

HEART OVER HEAD

For two years, she was relentless in her pursuit, attempting to debunk God through the study of science, logic and history. But at the end of it, she came to believe that everything pointed to Jesus as the son of God and the Saviour of the world.

“I was prepared to accept any God except for the Christian God, but everything pointed to Jesus at the end of the day. So in 2006, I became a very unwilling Christian in 2006.”

This also meant that she could not continue pursuing the friend she fell for, the friend who shared the love of Christ with her. Jaime said she knew early on that she could not act on her same-sex attraction, but it took her seven years to completely embrace the truth.

“I hated God for suddenly becoming a high authority in my life. I was always on my own, living life without parental influence or much guidance, so I made a lot of decisions on my own. And here, suddenly, I have this book of rules telling me all these things,” she said.

Jaime made multiple attempts to stop viewing pornography, only to fall back into the habit a few days later – a vicious cycle that was eventually broken after an encounter with God.

“It was always this battle – trying to do what is right, but not being able to. And as a result of that, I fell deeper and deeper into pornography. I was angry with God, and I continued doing what I was not supposed to do,” she said.

“On the surface it looked as though I was doing the right things: Going to church, going to cell group, serving in church. But behind closed doors, everything was raging. Emotionally I was raging; physically I was not getting what I wanted. It was a really tough time.”

Her struggles drove her to contemplate suicide several times. One particularly poignant period stands out: Jaime had fasted for 40 days, thinking things would get better after that, only for her situation to continue to look despondent.

“One day, as I looked out into the ocean, I thought: ‘This is it’,” she said.

Yet before she could act on the suicidal impulse, she caught a glimpse of a message written in a book her friend had given her.

“Hang in there. One day your mess will become your message,” it read.

“I completely broke down because the timing of it was impeccable. I just said to God: ‘You know God, I give up. I don’t want this life. Take it, do what you want with it.’ And that prayer became my defining moment. It became the moment where everything just turned – the amazing transformation came.”

AMAZING GRACE

After that act of surrender, Jaime said she was miraculously healed of all her sicknesses. All mental illnesses, all physical ailments – including a diagnosis for Ulcerative Proctitis, which doctors said was incurable – were gone.

“God didn’t just stop at that. He did more for me. He set me free from this prison of sexual immorality. It’s been two and a half years now, or more, and I’ve been completely free from pornography. And I’ve turned away from same-sex desires,” she said.

“I realise that I have lost my sexual appetite for the unclean because my heart had just received that pure, perfect love of Jesus.”

That moment when God truly entered her heart turned her life around. Where she once feared public speaking, Jaime now wanted to tell the world about the transformation that could only come through God.

“I was suddenly filled with this new purpose, this new desire that God has put in my heart, and there was new ability that He gave to me to tell people about what Jesus has done for me.”

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REAL LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL 

While it was initially difficult to open up to others on the issue of same-sex attraction, Jaime has found herself slowly being drawn into the topic during different conversations with different people.

When asked about what she would say to someone facing similar struggles, she said the answer is always to go back to the Word of God.

“It’s not about what I say to the person about this issue, but what the Word says. And so my duty to God is to love the person the way Jesus has loved me and to give them a glimpse of His love, and to share the truth and love them. At the end of the day, it’s to let the Word speak – God will speak for Himself – and to let the Holy Spirit convict them.”

In fact, it was the friend she was initially attracted to who demonstrated this love to her.

“She became a friend to me in the way that I couldn’t understand. On one hand, I felt rejection but yet on the other hand, I sensed a love that I could not comprehend – love that stood by me and stuck with me. She didn’t walk out of that friendship; she stayed there even though I put her through hell,” Jaime recalled.

She admitted to stalking and verbally abusing her friend, who chose not to walk away and to love her like Jesus did.

“For all the things that I’ve done to her, I didn’t deserve any of it, yet she gave it freely and she loved me wholly and she loved me, and she gave me a glimpse of what God’s love is like – enduring and longsuffering and waiting with hope that one day I would turn around,” Jaime said.

While it was ironic that she sensed both rejection and love at the same time, Jaime said this was how real love revealed itself to her.

“I felt loved in a way that I could not explain and I believe that is the kind of love that I want to mirror. The love that Jesus had for me – I want to mirror that and to love those who are broken,” she said.

READ MORE ON JAIME WONG: IT’S NOT ABOUT HOW MUCH MONEY WE MAKE. IT’S ABOUT HOW MANY LIVES WE IMPACT

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The day I lost my dad

by Jolynn Chia | 18 October 2017, 1:06 AM

I have been a control freak most of my life.

My core belief was in the importance of control. If I lost control, I’d lose everything I’d ever worked for and wanted. I believed I deserved everything I had because I’d earned them with my very own hands. I didn’t have a personal relationship with God then, and it was a false sense of security.

That life fell apart the day my Dad had a heart attack and passed on.

Even during the funeral, I was still trying to control every aspect of it. I had to. Who could blame me? My Mum was so depressed she couldn’t do anything, my two younger siblings barely knew what was going on and my relatives were either overseas or busy with work.

In reality, I was reluctant to do anything because all I really wanted to do was to sit at home and cry.

I especially hated having to arrange the funeral because I found Dad’s sudden death unbelievably ridiculous. He was just cycling two days ago, and he had never complained of any heart issues. I was so angry at God. How could He punish me like that? Why?

I tried my best. I wrote the eulogy while settling endless administrative matters. I hosted guests whom I appreciated but could not welcome heartily because I had just lost my parent and felt utterly deprived of space to weep. I was exhausted sharing anecdotes of my Dad to people who might not have met him in person. I even tried to ensure that the eulogy was delivered calmly, yet mildly humorous so as not to bore my audience.

Control, control, control. I didn’t sleep a wink.

But even in that dreadful week, God showed His faithfulness to me. Every day, I received encouraging and comforting text messages. Friends and church mates whom I thought I never had a connection with came regardless and grieved with my family and me.

The second night, I dreamt of my Dad queuing at Heaven’s gates. And when choosing the Bible verse for my Dad’s plaque in the niche, my sister and I searched randomly on the Internet until we chose Daniel 12:3 for its beauty. A week later, I found out that chapter features the archangel Michael, which is my Dad’s name.

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)

If you’ve ever had to purchase a niche position, you’d know that the eye level ones are the hardest to get. All the eye level niches were crossed out from the availability chart by the time we received it.

Nevertheless, the day we went down to the columbarium we learnt that the number “0414” was the only eye level niche not taken up. April 14 was Good Friday, the same week my Dad passed away in. I think he would have liked it. It was a divine gift.

I knew all these things happened because God wanted to reassure us that even the suffering of life is part of His divine plan, and He is with us every step of the way. He would never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

But this truth felt far away on the darker days.

I came to harbour a quiet bitterness towards people who did not understand my pain. I mean, how many people in their mid-twenties have had experienced their parent dying overnight of a heart attack with no warning signs at all?

How many people could truly comprehend, empathise with and relate to the deep regrets and self-hatred I had in my heart? How many friends could I cry with? How many people saw how it fractured my life?

Even my Mum and siblings had different ways of dealing with grief, oscillating between denial and distraction.

My grief was uncontrollable. It would come like a thief in the middle of the night, in the day, during bus rides.

I did not trust that anyone would understand my experience, and most people understandably did not have the courage to probe. My grief was uncontrollable. It would come like a thief in the middle of the night, in the day, during bus rides.

But just when I thought the darkness would never end, God mercifully brought two sisters-in-Christ who had similar experiences to journey with me. They graciously saved me from falling into the Devil’s crafty lie that no one cared – not even God himself.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Over the months that have passed, God has met me personally in my grief and hopelessness. He’s been there in my loneliness, purposelessness and anger. I can say this with all my conviction: It has been an arduous process, but He has not let me go. Though my whole world might fall apart – I know I will never fall out of His love.

As a former control freak, I’ve now accepted that I cannot control everything that happens to me. But I do know that all that has happened is of His divine will, and I’m letting that be enough.

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Take me, take this life

by Esther Lo | 17 October 2017, 4:41 PM

When the Holy Spirit came mightily on the day of Pentecost, it was in a room where the people of God were assembled together.

“…they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:23-31)

Powerful things happen when the people of God assemble together in unity.

It has always been on my heart to write something with the songwriters in our youth ministry for God’s glory. I believe that my church is called by God to write and produce songs that glorify Him and equip the local church to worship together.

Some of us from the youth worship ministry in my church had gathered to write a fast-tempo song for our upcoming album. Having never worked together before, this was the first time we wrote a song together. As we were brainstorming, we thought of what Jesus did at the cross: He surrendered His life for us.

And just as He sacrificed His life for us, we want to give our lives back to Him as our response in joyful surrender.

We ended up writing this song more quickly than anticipated. We were pleasantly surprised at the result and fascinated by how organic the process was. It started off with just a few chords. Then as we sang melodies over it, along with a few placeholder phrases, the lyrics somehow developed and we had a full, fast tempo song which all of us fell in love with.

It eventually became one of the key songs for our church album. Today as we pray over it, we believe God can use it to bless many other young Singaporeans.


Generations Worship is the youth worship ministry of Cornerstone Community Church. Their album “Lean On” will be released on November 17. Pre-order starts October 21. A night of worship will also be open to all on Nov 17 at Cornerstone Community Church to celebrate the album launch. Follow their Facebook page for more updates. 

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Am I still a female if I’m unfeminine?

by | 16 October 2017, 12:37 PM

I was never a feminine girl.

Just ask my grandma. She’ll confirm that I used to be punished with the boys for being a nuisance during kindergarten. We’d face the wall as our punishment – and I would invariably be the only girl standing among a row of boys.

At home, my mom would often berate me for being chor lor (uncouth) as I liked to sit with one foot propped up on my chair. She wasn’t a fan of the habit I picked up from my Dad; it made me look like a Chinese coolie, she said.

More recently, in my university days, my female friends would laugh at my lack of empathy. Memorably, I once dozed off in front of a friend who was droning on and on about her problems.

Aiyah, Siqi thinks and acts like a guy lah,” my friends joked. I laughed along. I really didn’t mind the label they slapped on me. I thought it was accurate.

Until I became the leader of an all-female cell group.

IDENTITY CRISIS

I became painfully aware of how different I was after I was thrown into this group of girls. Having to intentionally reach out to them on a regular basis, my stunted emotional intelligence in the realm of feminine conversation proved to be a barrier in relating to my cell girls.

I just wasn’t girly enough.

Soon, I began to question something I had never thought about, something I had never cared before: My identity as a female.

That night, I cried myself to sleep. I was afraid there was something wrong with me. I felt like a disappointment and a failure. I was even afraid of what God would think of me.

Comparing yourself to others is poisonous for the soul.

In an attempt to become more feminine, I began to imitate my other female friends. But I could never measure up; I wasn’t as gentle as this girl, as relational, as patient. I found myself constantly miserable and tired from chasing other people’s shadows.

Comparing yourself to others in this way is poisonous for the soul. I ended up feeling even more confused about my identity. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

That was when it hit me: I was worried about going against God’s design, but I was now doing it all the more.

God didn’t create me to impersonate others. I’m unique (Psalms 147:4) and crafted with a specific purpose (Ephesians 2:10). I was dead wrong thinking I could “create” my identity by trying to be like someone else.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t model ourselves after our Biblical heroes. There’s a difference between imitating people and imitating Christlike values. While I can’t express compassion the same way my friend does, I can learn from her to be more empathetic in my own way.

I’m called to imitate Christ, not to be a poor copy of somebody else. When I try to imitate others, I’m only losing out on how I was uniquely created by God and what I was designed to offer (1 Corinthians 12:18-20, 1 Peter 4:10).

CHRIST IS IDENTITY

It took me a long time to understand that my identity is only determined by my Maker.

People may say that I act like a tomboy, and some days I feel like the most unfeminine person on earth – but ultimately it’s what my Creator says that truly matters.

It took me a long time to understand that my identity is only determined by my Maker.

I’m a female because that’s what God made me (Psalm 100:3).

All I need to do is to simply abide in God, obey His Word, and I know He will lead me to become the person He created me to be (John 15:5, Romans 12:2, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Sure, I may not be feminine – I still sit like a coolie when I eat my meals at home – but I’m me. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Me.

/ siqi@thir.st

Siqi loves to eat. Except for peas, egg yolk, cucumbers, livers, intestines. Among others. She also happens to be a writer.

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How often do you talk to someone you love?

by | 16 October 2017, 12:07 PM

My cell leader recently asked us this question: How do we build and maintain a relationship with God?

His answer: The same way we would with a romantic partner.

When you’re in a relationship, you talk with your partner throughout the day. You send them little snippets of what you’re up to, update them on your plans, get their opinions on which dress to buy.

When you love someone, they maintain a strong presence in our mind. You want to know what they’re up to, and you want them to be involved in your life. You talk about anything and everything. Even if they’re not there physically, you stay connected by phone, Facetime, WhatsApp.

I’ve had seasons of my life where I knew what it meant to be in love with God. Hope – confidence in the things to come – is a byproduct of this intimacy.

Shouldn’t this be the same way we look at our relationship with God? Since a relationship is built on intimacy, how can we say we love someone when we don’t even talk to Him much — or at all?

How many of us pray as a last-ditch attempt to get help? When we’re desperate and have already exhausted all other options? How often do we reduce God to a mere emergency hotline?

My relationship with God has seen me through some of the darkest and toughest times in my life. I can’t deny the love that He has for me; I’ve seen His promises come to pass.

I’ve had seasons of my life where I knew what it meant to be in love with God, not from afar. This kind of love is invigorating. It gives everything clarity, and it helps me to make sense of things even when things aren’t going well. Hope – confidence in the things to come – is a byproduct of this intimacy.

But if I have to be honest, I can’t say that it’s like that now. But in such seasons I bring to mind the joy and peace that were my constant companion during those seasons of intimacy. I want to make it a point to intentionally pursue Him, hopefully with the same passion that He pursues me with.

So I pray.

I take these prayers as mini-conversations with God. Rather than fixate on fixed slots and the ritual of prayer, I’ve come to learn it can happen anywhere and everywhere. It can happen on the way to work, when I’m in the middle of a meeting, when I’m on the bus home.

Wherever, whenever. The point is to stay plugged in.

WHY SHOULD WE PRAY?
It’s our gratitude to God for all that He has done and will do (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
It’s the walking out of our faith (1 John 5:14).
It gives us His peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
It gives us His wisdom (Jeremiah 33:3).
It’s how we acknowledge HIs sovereignty, and surrendering our lives to Him (Proverbs 3:6).

God wants to know everything about you, so feel free to tell him about anything that’s on your heart. Prayer doesn’t have to be long or repetitive (Matthew 6:7), it can be without any agenda apart from just being with God.

Praying calms the raging seas that are our hearts. The stillness that Psalm 46:10 talks about is not just about some physical silence. Instead, it’s found in the silence of our hearts’ whims. This comes with the assurance that He’s got everything under control.

Make prayer your lifestyle, not a checklist.

If you haven’t been making time to talk to God, try doing it today. Talk to Him about whatever you’re doing, and share with Him whatever is weighing on your heart — the same way you would with someone who’s close to you.

And if you’re praying for a breakthrough, take heart. Keep pressing in, trusting that God won’t let you down (Luke 18:1-8). Constant prayer is our best shot against doubt, discouragement and fear.

Make prayer your lifestyle, not a checklist.

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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I was looking for love in all the wrong places – until love found me

The day I lost my dad

#THIRSTACOUSTIC: Take Me

Take me, take this life

Am I still a female if I’m unfeminine?

How often do you talk to someone you love?