I grew up in a volatile household where, like a time bomb waiting to go off, seeming peace would be met trouble. When my mum was pregnant with me, my dad requested to have me aborted. And throughout my childhood, he would intentionally hurt me too.
He was physically abusive to my mother at times, and frequently verbally hurled insults at her. It made me fearful that the same would happen to me. This led me to avoid getting too close to anyone in my friendships altogether.
While I was well-liked within my social circle as I grew up, I was never the goody-two-shoes girl people thought I was. In my eyes, I was pretty much an awful person on the inside – a villain, almost.
Because of my stormy household situation, I longed to release the anger, bitterness, hatred and jealousy I harboured deep within me. I envied my friends who seemed to have complete, happy families and frequently compared their lives to mine.
As a young person, I hid much of these pent-up feelings inside. I never trusted anyone enough to tell them my “secret” feelings. And while I did not terrorise my peers, I found myself putting on a superior front to my classmates, finding ways to manipulate and control them to my favour.
But in my late teens, I began to meet people who called themselves Christians. They seemed so different from me. They wore their scars on their sleeves and were real with one another about their faith and struggles. I kept asking myself, why am I different? So I decided to accept Christ too.
I remember going down on my knees and simply telling Jesus, “I don’t think I know You at all. In fact, I don’t know anything at all. But the Bible says You save. I’ve seen it in the people in the church, that could only be You. So help me with my feelings. Help me to understand.”
Yet, life as a Christian was still on the surface for me. The tension in my family was too great for me to bear. When my mum contracted tuberculosis, a saliva-transmitted disease, my father chose to distance himself for fear of his health. The emotions I kept inside could not be suppressed anymore and I lashed out at my dad.
But my Christian friends helped me realise it was time to grow up and let go of these childhood frustrations. And so I decided to work out my problems with Him little by little.
Painfully, I revisited memories from my past, the hurts and pains, everything. I prayed again, “Help me to let go of what I cannot control anymore – the things in my past. Lord, Your yoke is easy, so take my burdens.” And He did. Each time I feel these feelings inside me fester, I prayed and they left.
Of course, there were times I simply gave in to pity parties, yet slowly but surely, the old wounds disappeared once and for all. I do think about them at times, but they no longer have any hold on me. I also keep a close group of friends who are there for me and cover me in prayer.
I also notice that for a person who used to bear grudges easily, I’m find it easier to let go of emotional burdens. Of course, it all still takes some time. I began to open up and let people around me into my struggles, knowing that they care for me and would not hesitate to speak truth into my life.
I still do struggle with the desire to have control, especially when things go south. I may do things to fix the situation, which I usually regret, and end up feeling guilty and unforgivable. But the Holy Spirit has helped me tremendously in avoiding time-consuming battles inside my head – He is gentle but firm, and never condemning. Each time I fall, He helps me up.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23-24)
Because of God’s faithful growth and guidance, my faith has been made much stronger; and as time passes, I find out more about what freedom in Christ means.
By His grace, I wouldn’t say anymore that I’m a villain, but I have come to realise that the greatest enemy, at times, is yourself. As fallen humans, we all have darkness within us. Mine manifests in a cruel, hardened heart craving control.
Yet thanks to all that has happened in my life, I can proclaim that Jesus saves. I may not be able to overcome darkness on my own, but with the Holy Spirit, as well as the saints who are my friends – and now even my family – coming alongside me, I can press on forward, overcome my fallen nature and reach for the prize (Philippians 3:14).