Reflections of a former K-pop addict: “What am I even living for?”
by Valerie Chua | 5 April 2018, 3:09 PM
My teenage years can be summed up in 2 words: K-pop.
A total fanatic, I spent most of my adolescence fangirling over boy bands. I would save up money just to attend their concerts. I was obsessed with my Korean idols because they gave me something to live for.
I also loved to hang out and catch up with my friends over meals every weekend. While there’s nothing wrong with meeting people, I soon realised that I was simply using them as a form of entertainment. It was simply a way to fill up my time.
I thought life was about surrounding myself with friends and fun. But I was never satisfied – I quickly became bored of all the temporary pleasures I enjoyed.
It began to wonder: Is chasing after temporal pleasure all there is to life? What was I was created for?
I started to strive for perfection in terms of how I looked – I was trying to match society’s standards of beauty for a sense of approval.
Yet no matter how hard I tried, I still felt lost and empty. Insecurities and inadequacies gnawed at me, but I simply pushed these negative thoughts aside – unwilling to confront the fact that I didn’t know what I was living for.
Around this time, one of my classmates began to reach out to me to attend her Church events. It took a year’s worth of persuasion before I finally agreed to attend one of them. I had never celebrated Christmas before, but I felt a great assurance that December night: I no longer needed to live a life which revolved around myself.
I had found another way. I received Christ, and my life took a complete turn: I now had joy and hope – a love that always reaches out to me. With His Love, God covered all my insecurities and all the feelings of insecurity and self-condemnation.
Thank God that I also read Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life early on as a Christian. It gave me so much clarity about what God’s purpose and destiny for us.
That was 8 years ago.
Certainly, there were dry spells and times when I felt like throwing in the towel – but God carried me through it all. He blessed with me brothers and sisters who constantly spur me on and cover me in prayer. I have overcome relational, financial and emotional struggles and I can confidently say that God brings me through every season.
And here’s the most important thing: I no longer just go through the motions – the utter drudgery of life. I’ve put my K-pop days behind me. And I know that there is so much more to living than just eating, sleeping, working – and repeating all of it!
Are you going through life aimlessly? Are you seeking for more?
Don’t shortchange yourself. Find your God-given purpose in life.
This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway.
Recently, a good number of my brothers and sisters-in-Christ — people who are close to me — are beginning to have their doubts about their churches on a number of issues. Some weeks it’s about something the preacher said. On another, it might be about a reckless choice of song during worship.
While it’s crucial to keep standards and be sensitive to audience feedback, upon reflection I honestly find that a lot of the criticism comes from a place of pride.
We all care for our church to varying degrees, but I find myself wishing more effort was spent on ensuring there’s edification and encouragement after a disagreement rather than a pat on the back for saying something theologically clever.
Because there’s always going to be something to disagree about, we need to learn how to disagree without causing dissension.
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Timothy 6:4)
Whether it’s theological differences or wrong song choices, there’s a great deal in the Church today with the potential to divide us if we let it. But there’s also a lot more common ground than we realise.
So how can we have unity without uniformity? How do we disagree within closed ranks? If we want to call ourselves a united body of believers, these are questions we must have answers to.
PRIDE AND POSTURE
Recently, I attended my church’s bi-annual camp in Malaysia. Going with a group of young people, it was actually my first time attending such a camp and I didn’t really know what to expect.
The camp turned out to be very heavily focused on family issues like marriage and fatherhood, so a lot of the singles quickly felt left out in terms of content and context.
By lunch, it had gotten to a point where I had been in multiple conversations about the sheer irrelevance of the sermons. That sort of conversation really fed into my bitterness about the camp. I worked my socks off last week to clear assignments, paid $500 and took a 9-hour coach ride to be here for this?
That attitude of mine lasted until the night service, where I repented for being so stuck up and insistent on my own way. As the speaker ambled up the stage, I told God quietly: “I know You didn’t bring me here to waste my time, and I don’t want to waste Yours. You have something here for me, and I really want to learn it. Help me to be humble as I listen.”
And everything changed after that. When I pressed in to learn humbly, something clicked. And I began to listen to what the speaker was saying — the importance of getting marriage and fatherhood right. And so I learnt.
My personal belief is that a lot of our reactions today stem from entitlement.
Marriage, fatherhood, motherhood and family are not things that singles get to ignore. In fact, until that night I was tempted to believe that holiness in the home was just something that happened once I got married.
Nothing could be further from the truth — it takes the real hard work of fathers to be the spiritual thermostat of their homes. It takes discipline and time today. As men, our spiritual disciplines and walk with God must be on point if we want to lead a godly family.
I can’t speak for my whole generation, but my personal belief is that a lot of our reactions today stem from entitlement. At least for younger Singaporeans, you want anything — you snap your fingers and there you have it. Instant gratification in just the way you desire. So I find that we tend to react poorly when we don’t get that.
We’ve gotta respond instead. When we encounter a situation we’re uncomfortable in, we need to stop complaining as the first recourse. I know how much I need to shut up for a second and ask God what He’s doing; I’m scared to think of how much wisdom I’ve missed out on just by merely dismissing it before I really hear it.
And if you know me, you’d know I have a very binary view on life, in that every decision either takes you closer to God or further away from Him. So the next time you start openly disagreeing with a sermon or song, check your posture. At the heart of it, do you just want to sound right? Do you just want people to agree with you?
Or do you really want to lovingly build up the body of believers God has put you in?
Unity is generally an easier thing when we agree. But do we want people to also end up closer to God even – especially – in our disagreements? At the bottom line, it’s all about the net kingdom profit.
HUMILITY AND HONOUR
What if you decide that unity is the highest value in your church? What would your conversations sound like? How different would the way your ministries are run be?
Conversations either honour leaders or dishonour them. Conversations about members either respect them or belittle their concerns. Regardless, if they don’t have love in them, the harsh truth is they are just words meant to make you sound smart.
But if they are spoken in the love of God, they build up the church, its leadership and members.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
We don’t do honour very well, but we desperately need it. Especially when we disagree, we need to be able to have conversations that still encourage, edify and exhort. We are so frequently doing the very opposite, that Satan might as well recline on a deck chair given how terribly efficient we can be at his work.
We need to whip out Ephesians 4 a little more, and be mature enough to have conversations about the things we disagree with without being stumbled, or worse – stumbling others. Even if we don’t like a particular sermon, speaker or song, we need to be able to talk about these things in a way that still honours the brother or sister, that still allows for mutual edification and unity.
If it’s not mutual edification or unity, then it’s disunity and dishonour. And if you’re leader, you have the added responsibility with your words. The younger ones are looking up to you, and they will either watch your weekly disdain of the speaker or follow in the culture of honour you are making.
Recently, I came across an article in which the writer chronicled her experiences of sleeping with married men.
The author wasn’t looking for a long-term relationships, and since married men have obligations to their family, she decided that they would be ideal one-night stands for her with no strings attached.
Through her hookups, the author learnt that men typically commit infidelity because their partner stopped having sex with them. And these men found it easier to get their sexual needs met elsewhere rather than to ask why. Other men confided that their wives were bedridden, but they had chosen to not leave their partners.
As I read on, it struck me that these men weren’t looking for a relationship – they already had that with their wives. They were simply looking for sex. In the author’s words: “But the other husbands I met would have preferred to be having sex with their wives. For whatever reason, that wasn’t happening.”
I was appalled when I read the article. How could a husband cheat on a wife and still claim to love her? How could anyone betray their loved ones like that? How dare they! But as angry words turned over and over in my a mind, a small voice broke through the internal rant.
Don’t you cheat on Me too?
It’s easy to point fingers and play the blame game. But it’s more productive to understand that cheating happens when we succumb to temptation.
All of us face temptations in our everyday lives. Some of us check girls out (Matthew 5:28), others watch pornography or even engage in forbidden relationships. And sometimes as singles, we may think we’re not cheating anyone when we cave in – but we are.
We’re cheating on God.
… fidelity and self-control aren’t things that just automatically start after we’ve utter our marriage vows. They start now.
Temptation is universal. I have friends who have given into temptation, I know some who were betrayed by their partners. Likewise I also face temptations, when I was single and now also as someone who’s attached. And I’m pretty sure I will continue to face temptations even after I marry.
As a married person, you choose and fight to stay committed to one person. As a single or unmarried person, you fight to remain pure. So whatever your relationship status is, fidelity and self-control aren’t things that just automatically start after we’ve utter our marriage vows.
They start now.
Temptation is that tension between the heart, mind and will.
In the heat of the moment, it’s all too tempting to simply give in. We rationalise and deceive ourselves – anything just to convince ourselves that it’s okay.
We need conviction.
A friend shared with me a passage from Jane Eyre which had helped her to overcome her struggle with physical intimacy. Jane had fallen in love with a man who she later found out was married. The man begged Jane to stay by his side, a plea which caused her great emotional turmoil. But Jane produces a remarkable response to the temptation.
“I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad — as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth — so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane — quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.”
… if we stay where we are tempted for too long, the temptation will overtake us. So we must also flee.
Many of us already know what the right thing to do is. We just lack the determination to see it through when the test comes. But that’s human nature. So beyond deciding early what we will stand for, we need to flee when temptation comes.
We plant our foot on our convictions when trials and temptations come. But if we stay where we are tempted for too long, the temptation will overtake us. So we must also flee.
In times of peace, prepare for war. Feed yourself with the Word. Strengthen your beliefs. Pray for your spirit to grow. If you ever stumble and fall, repent and pick yourself up again. God’s mercies are new every morning.
Purity, integrity and our relationship with God – these things are priceless. So fight for them.
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.
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.
What do you do with the mad that you feel When you feel so mad you could bite? When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong … And nothing you do seems very right? – What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel, Fred Rogers
From 1968 to 2001, Fred Rogers hosted a children’s TV programme called Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood. It was important to Rogers that his young viewers (aged 2-5) were shown care, and taught that every person deserves to be loved.
Rogers’ message is one that even adults find difficult to hear. You deserve love. What happens to children who were bullied – who were never told they are loved? Well, they become adults who struggle to accept and receive love.
The absence of love leaves a lot of room for fear to grow. And perhaps it’s not said a lot, but we all have fears. Some fear the dark, some fear dying unaccomplished, some fear being alone forever.
Fear is real, but so is love – even in the midst of all the problems we face in life. Love is the great displacer of fear. How is it that love – a word so overused and underused at the same time – holds the key to so much in life? Yet it does.
“Fear was so important, because fear left untreated becomes anger, and hatred, and resentment, and all the toxic things we have,” said Morgan Neville. Neville directed Won’t You Be My Neighbour, a 2018 documentary about Fred Rogers’ legacy.
… when the tide of negative feelings rises beyond our level of control, we need to know that it’s okay to hit the “stop” button.
A child once asked Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, what to do with the “mad” that he felt. We’re people, and we feel things – anger, sadness, happiness, hurt, envy, brokenness – but what do we do with it?
Rogers turned the child’s question into a song to help children know that their feelings are both “mentionable” and “manageable.”
It’s great to be able to stop When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong, And be able to do something else instead
“When you grow up, you mask your feelings, hide your intentions, you become cynical and have no patience for any of that,” continued Neville.
I realise it’s counterintuitive for us to slow down to “catch” our feelings, to think of what we should do with them – these things don’t just come with age. So when the tide of negative feelings rises beyond our level of control, we need to know that it’s okay to hit the “stop” button.
So it’s not ridiculous to pause to take a few deep breaths, to examine our anger, and to displace some of those feelings with love – for yourself and for those you’re angry at.
And think this song: I can stop when I want to Can stop when I wish. I can stop, stop, stop any time. And what a good feeling to feel like this And know that the feeling is really mine.
Mister Rogers called it “the good feeling of control.” It belongs to us. He wanted to help children to understand how to understand themselves, to give them the tools they needed to engage with the world we live in.
Who was the person you dreamt of becoming when you were younger? It’s not too late.
When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong and nothing you do seems very right, take a deep breath and hold good words to heart.
Know that there’s something deep inside That helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a woman And a boy can be someday a man.
Who was the person you dreamt of becoming when you were younger? It’s not too late. We’re all on this journey of becoming who we can be. And we’re not all that different after all – none of us has all the answers.
Wherever we go, we can carry in our pockets a little bit more compassion, and a little bit more forgiveness – both for ourselves and for the person we’re sitting across the table from.
“And where is this voice in our culture today?” Neville asked. “Where are the grownups in our culture? He (Rogers) was the consummate grownup voice I’d been craving. There was nothing in it for him. He was empathetic, he was looking out for our long-term well-being.”
The road is long, but the road is worth taking. Make it to the glorious end. Because at the end of our lives, I hope we will be able to look back and see that we grew to become grownups who looked out for the long-term well-being of others – just like Mister Rogers.
We can make the whole wide world a little better just by caring for someone.