The first time I stepped into a church was when I was 12 years old.
In worship, I heard a song that resonated in my heart. It was as if I had found something I never knew I needed:
The greatest love that anyone could ever know
That overcame the cross and grave to find my soul
And till I see You face to face
And grace amazing takes me home, I’ll trust in You
(“Till I See You”, Hillsong United)
My mind – once a battlefield of laments and desperate cries – had become peacefully silent. I shivered as the ceasefire dispelled the old, familiar anxiety that had been with me throughout my abusive childhood.
HE GAVE ME PEACE
I knew no one in the room, yet they seemed like family. I had never been to church, but it felt like Home. As I sang, it was as if someone was hugging the brokenness out of me – gently mending my many wounds.
In that hour, Jesus claimed the throne of my life and His peace settled within me – silencing every voice which had screamed at me to kill myself.
In tears, I said the Sinner’s Prayer.
I wanted to stay for as long as possible – I was afraid this profound peace would disappear once I left.
Though hours old, this new feeling felt like a familiar friend. It was gentle and reassuring – yet strong enough to hold me in the storm.
For the first time in a long time I saw life rushing through my veins, where it once would only drain away.
In His beautiful presence, I felt deeply known. I was; I am. He understood my life; He had known me from before I was born. I was profoundly loved – I somehow found joy amidst every sorrow of my life.
Who was this God who loved me so? I had to know more. So when a friend gave me a Bible, I read it through from Genesis to Revelation in one sitting. Still in awe, I read it again – I couldn’t put the book down.
Every page was life to me. As I read, I pulled up my sleeves to examine the self-inflicted scars on my body.
I held my wrist and for the first time in a long time, I saw life rushing through my veins. Life flowed where it once would only drain away.
PERSECUTED FOR CHRIST
I had never heard of Christianity until that day. My family were staunchly embedded in another religion.
So when my mother discovered I had converted, she ransacked my room and found my Christian materials. She burned my Bible and threw everything away.
“Choose now. Do you wish to honour God or me? Do you even know what you’re doing? You’re disowning the family by choosing to be Christian. You’re a disgrace to this family.”
Choosing between God and her was a simple decision – but I couldn’t have known the repercussions of my decision.
I was kicked out of the house and forced to kneel at the altar outside. Soon, I left home to stay with my grandparents, only returning home on the weekends.
My parents soon installed window grilles in my room because I used to climb out into the corridor in order to sneak off to church. And when I found a way around that, they confiscated my EZ-Link card – driving me everywhere to keep tabs on me.
Still, I would attend service by walking 2km to church every Sunday morning. I would face the rage of my parents when I returned home – my father would whip me with his belt until I bled. Often, I wouldn’t be able to walk for days.
OUT OF SUFFERING, A TESTIMONY
There were many tears early on in my faith, but God was faithful through it all. His love was real – better than anything I had ever known.
In my persecution, I never felt pressured to repress my faith. Christianity could never be a secret affair for me. I boasted in the power of the Cross no matter how many times I got slapped or beaten up badly. It could have only been God who kept me going.
He kept me alive. He was the only one strong enough to keep the suicidal thoughts at bay. He was the only one who kept me from committing suicide.
Clinging on to God, I could remain calm when my mother would accuse me of things I didn’t do – or when she attacked Jesus verbally, spitting in my face.
Clinging on to Him – I survived.
I survived because He loves me – I survived to testify.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)