Top Stories

Sign Up for our newsletter now.

Faith

Born without sight, raised without my parents: Seeing hope in the darkness

by Stephanie Ow | 11 September 2018, 9:15 PM

Born with retinal dystrophy, Stephanie plays the erhu with The Purple Symphony, which comprises musicians with and without special needs, and the Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra, where she is the only person with special needs. This is our first story written by a person with visual impairment.


I have been blind since birth. At infancy, I was diagnosed with retinal dystrophy, which means that by the age of 5, I was almost completely blind. I can only perceive light, which means I live mostly in darkness and shadows.

Around the time that I was losing whatever little sight I had, my mother left me in the care of my father’s sister and her husband. They never heard from her again. My father, an odd job labourer, would visit once in a while, but we barely talked. Over the years, we grew very distant.

My aunty and uncle treated me like their own instead of a strange who suddenly appeared in their home. They even brought me to various specialists, hoping to find out if anything could be done to help me see again.

However, the answer we always got was: “There is nothing we can do. We will have to wait for future research to discover something that will cure her condition.” And my aunty and uncle will be disappointed, even though it really wasn’t a big deal for me. It still isn’t now.

Yet, they never stopped hoping. They still tell me, “You know, if only your vision gets better, you will be much better at whatever you want.”

I have been so blessed to have them in my life, which is why I worshipped whatever they worshipped, and believed whatever they believed.

To me, at that time, God was a distant being who watched over us, rewarding those who did good things and punishing those who were evil. The statues on my family altar and those in the temples were what I knew as gods.

I had Christian friends who told me about Jesus, although I didn’t bother to find out more. But that changed when one of my teachers, a kind and loving woman, shared the Gospel with me. It was then that something clicked within me, a feeling I cannot describe even until now.

It was like a sense of direction given to me, a guide for my life ahead. I wanted so badly to go to church with her, but my family believed it was an “ang moh” religion. We were Chinese, so we should worship Chinese gods!

But I remember thinking to myself – if the Christian God is an all-loving, supreme deity and He alone is God, shouldn’t we all give Him our reverence, regardless of our ethnicity? And if He sacrificed His only Son to save the whole human race from eternal separation from Him, shouldn’t we turn back to Him?

So I decided to persist in my faith. I read the Bible in braille and listened to sermons in my bedroom. My family wasn’t averse to my exploration of this faith as they felt it was good for me to learn about other religions, but they hoped that I would stay true to our Chinese beliefs.

But at age 14, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour. This was the same year that I started going for music lessons.

My uncle always loved traditional Chinese music, so I began with the erhu, a two-stringed fiddle. At first, I wasn’t too happy with this, as I’d always thought this was played at Chinese operas for the elderly. I wanted to learn the guitar or violin instead.

As it turns out, the erhu wasn’t as outdated as I thought. In fact, the pieces I was learning to play were written by musicians in the 20th Century who were trained in western music, but had a passion to write for Chinese instruments. And they did not write for operas.

Interestingly, their music reflected the struggles of native Chinese before the 1949 liberation, and their aspirations for a better future. Within a year of lessons, and with the encouragement of my first music teacher, I sat for an exam and scored a distinction!

This motivated me to keep getting better, and soon I was receiving invitations from various organisations to perform at their fundraising events from time to time. At 17, I had the privilege of performing with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO), and the next year I joined their youth wing.

Being part of the Singapore Youth Chinese Orchestra (SYCO) gave me the opportunity to be tutored by one of the musicians in the SCO, and by age 19, I had also joined the Purple Symphony, Singapore’s largest inclusive orchestra consisting musicians with and without disabilities.

At this time, Deutsche Bank awarded me with a scholarship to study music, which would have been impossible without their help. It was a real blessing from God and a dream come true, as it had always been my goal to be a full-time musician who could teacher the visually impaired to read scores in braille.

In the whirlwind of these happenings, I drifted away from God slowly. I stopped praying, reading the Bible and listening to sermons. Instead, I began to obsess with my current ideals and goals. I felt like I was the master of my own destiny. Whenever I ran into trouble, it was my friends I turned to for advice.

Wasn’t it enough to acknowledge that God exists and that Jesus is the only way to Him?

It took a long while – 4 years to be exact – for me to realise I was becoming more of a lost soul than I was before I became a Christian. It was as though I was holding the Word of God in one hand, and the world in the other.

Fortunately, a senior in the music institution I’m studying at reached out to me. Her father is a preacher, and she introduced me to a phone app that had sermons and hymns for me to listen to. She also invited me to Bible study with other students, where her father would teach us.

Through their mentoring, my understanding of Scriptures and my Heavenly Father became much clearer. I learnt how to put all my hope and trust in the Lord, even though there were times where I had so many questions.

But I would be lying if I said I did not envy other children who had their biological parents with them. I always knew this was something I’d never have in life. But it took a lot out of me to accept that fully.

On some days my mood got very bad; I felt like the whole world was against me. I had no appetite and just wanted to be alone. There were nights I cried myself to sleep as I prayed. But one day, as I was deep in thought, the words of Isaiah 55:8-9 surfaced in my mind.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

A sense of peace, hope and joy surrounded me all of a sudden – it was something I’d never felt until that moment. I realised I did not need to feel sad about not having biological parents when I have a Father in Heaven who loves me in spite of all my flaws, but continues to renew me every day.

Through the difficulties of life, I have the Lord to lead me. Even as I graduate with a diploma in music in less than a year’s time and am feeling anxious about the new season of life to come, I know that He will guide me through this once again.

My family is also warming up to the idea of me being a Christian. I am praying for their salvation, and for God to lead me to a church where I can grow spiritually.

I have never seen with my own eyes, but I believe that God can heal me in His beautiful time. Of course, I might never get to see in this lifetime, but when my eyes finally open in a new and perfect body, the first person I hope to see is my Saviour Jesus Christ.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Flamed for my faith: 7 points on persecution

by Gabriel Ong

Faith

Why am I even praying?

by Eugene Tan

Culture

How to be a person after God’s own heart

by Jocelyn Chen

Studies

What’s the point of education?

by Jonathan Pang with Ai Luan and Chong Tee | 11 September 2018, 5:03 PM

Education has gotten a bit of a bad rap in recent times.

Eastern youths equate it with cramming content choc-a-bloc into their heads for a major examination in order to buy a ticket to future success, whereas an increasing population of their Western counterparts see it as useless given that their current job markets favour skill-building over knowledge-building for survival. Even working within an institute or university is perceived as a fake job disconnected from the harsh realities of industry.

Overall, it appears as though our generation of youth seem unable to find purpose – let alone a sense of passion or gain in formal education. Seems easy to write off formal education at this point.

But what if I told you that education was instituted by God in the first place? Here are my three points arguing why education remains relevant in our present age.

Knowledge is meant to be put to work

3 REASONS FOR EDUCATION’S RELEVANCE

1. Education comes from God

“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 10:2-3)

The perfect knowledge that came with direct intimacy with our Creator was lost in the Fall of Adam and Eve. As such, the impartation of knowledge (through either human or divine means) became necessary given the resultant flawed nature of human cognition.

Knowledge is meant to be put to work – not remain a stagnant or hypothetical affair. Just imagine if Abraham had not acted on the instruction to leave the land of Babel and set out with his family to Canaan, or if Paul chose not to write any letters to the various churches he ministered to.

If Paul hadn’t written those letters, it would have resulted in transgression running rampant within religious communities. That would surely have spelled the demise of the early Church.

Ultimately, if no knowledge of God was handed down through the generations and compiled within Scripture, humanity would have a dimmer and distanced view of God (Romans 1:23-32).

As Christians, experiential and theoretical knowledge do not merely impact the mind but are interconnected with the soul and spirit, and should therefore serve to lead us back to the God of truth as we allow Him to dwell within and nurture our hearts. Here is where divine instruction is needed, to avoid falling into falsehood in life.

2. Education is not to be written off

“Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table.(Proverbs 9:1-2)

On a personal level, I cannot help but notice that within my circle of acquaintances in Christian societies, there are several who forsake their studies and admit to having carried out insufficient preparations for assessments, preferring to allot such time to ministry work.

We would be wrong to presume that human wisdom concerning the natural world – though undoubtedly inferior to divine wisdom – is of no importance compared to the supernatural.

Many longstanding European universities possess mottos glorifying the Creator: one such example is Oxford’s Dominus illuminatio mea (The Lord is my Light). Throughout life, knowledge is meant to nurture and develop us mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It doesn’t end when you’re finished with “Past Year Papers” or “Ten Year Series”.

Knowledge is a trust given to mankind. Therefore, our academic progress should not be taken lightly.

3. Education is our duty to our fellow men

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)

Whether you’re an Arts, Social Science or Commerce major, or in Junior College or Polytechnic … never forget your calling to serve the Lord through what is learnt in school. Education is a privilege – not a birthright – that many of our forefathers never had the opportunity to access.

Aside from using the path you take in your schooling to determine your future career, use it as a means to solve a problem outside your comfort zone – no matter whether it’s your community or country. While it takes many hands to solve the multi-faceted ills plaguing society today, God has given each of us a calling to labour in His love through the talents He has blessed us with (1 Corinthians 12:14-31) in a lifetime’s worth of learning.

Education is a privilege – not a birthright – that many of our forefathers never had the opportunity to access.

In the meantime, use your intellect to guide and coach others who are struggling in their education journey.

Personally it can be as simple as providing consultations or curricular reviews to university friends. This may sound counterintuitive in a rat-race or a bell-curve mentality, yet our “rivals” are simply our fellow brothers and sisters who we can and should reach out to – especially when it is within our power to do so.

We are exhorted in the apostles’ letters to usher in the Kingdom of God during our transitory lives on Earth, that the world will see and know Christ through our good works in His name (Matthew 5:16). So we must go beyond the need to do well in our studies.

We have a divine command to use our education and do good.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Stricken with PTSD and depression after my mum suddenly passed away, I thought my life was over

by Jeremy Chan

Faith

I was obsessed with being self-sufficient

by Eunice Tan

Relationships

Should we move in together before getting married?

by Wong Siqi

Culture

Speaking with my eyes: Living out loud in a silent world

by Isabelle Lim | 10 September 2018, 5:54 PM

Isabelle is a 24-year-old aspiring photographer who has Nager Syndrome, a rare condition. Born with profound deafness, she uses sign language to communicate. This interview was held in sign language, with her mother, Mrs Jacqueline Lim, who also acted as the interpreter.


There are only a few hundred known cases of Nager Syndrome in the world. I was born with multiple physical challenges in the areas of seeing, breathing, hearing and eating.

Besides my sight deficiency and being profoundly deaf, I was born with with a boneless thumb on each hand. Very early on I had my thumbs surgically removed and my index fingers re-positioned as thumbs. I also have fused elbows, as well as limited dexterity in my wrists.

When I was just a month old, the doctors at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) were unsure about how to treat my breathing difficulties but recommended a tracheostomy, an incision that would be made in my windpipe to allow air to flow better.

During those days, Singapore did not have the necessary kind of medical interventions, so we were recommended to a surgeon in Australia. The recommended hospital had more experience handling children with complex cranial-facial issues and jaw operations.

Because of my recessed jaw, it was also difficult to swallow food, which meant I had to be tube-fed for many years. Only around the age of 8 was I slowly progressing to porridge, and I had to carry packets of “Ensure” milk and porridge whenever I went to school, camps or family outings.

But even after my first jaw operation, I continued facing issues with my breathing, and I needed a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine to assist my breathing at night. Together with my packed meals, I would have to carry this with me whenever I travelled.

Of all these physical limitations, being deaf is the most challenging because I need to communicate with people all the time. My parents put in the effort to learn sign language to communicate with me. Not every parent of a deaf child knows how to sign; this was their way of showing their love and support.

I studied at Balestier Hill Secondary School, one of the two mainstream schools in Singapore that accepted deaf children during that time. This meant I had resource teachers who interpreted lessons for the deaf.

Although I scored twelve points for my N-Levels, I decided to go to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to study accountancy. I was told by my resource teachers to be mentally prepared to survive without an interpreter.

I tried my very best to cope with the help of my buddies, but every day was like a battlefield – and I felt like I was fighting three times harder than I ever did. Lessons were like a silent movie! I was constantly chasing after lecturers for help outside classes. This eventually led to a loss of interest in studying altogether.

I had rarely experienced failure in secondary school, so this was a big blow to me. Thankfully, into my second year, God must have heard my cries, because the Singapore Association for the Deaf began providing an interpreter for deaf students in institutes of higher learning.

Finally, lessons came to life. There was progress shown in my results. In the same year, I found myself another buddy. During the next few months, I tried to catch up as much as I could, hoping that I would still able to gain admission into my dream polytechnic.

Although I did not go to that polytechnic, God opened a new door to pursue my new-found passion in photography through LASALLE College of the Arts, having honed my skills through the photography club in ITE as part of my co-curricular activity.

God even provided a three-year full scholarship through the Dare to Dream Scholarship. I was their first recipient.

In the same way, God opened doors for me in church. From a young age, I joined the Special Sunday School ministry at Wesley Methodist Church. I only joined the youth ministry when I was in ITE, as I didn’t feel prepared to transition to a mainstream service before that.

In the first three weeks, my mother stayed with me to show the youths how to communicate with me. She found me an interpreter – my cell leader helped take notes and sign for me! My cell members started volunteering to take turns to note-take every Sunday to support me.

Initially I felt very stressed about bothering them, and worried about whether I would be accepted as the only deaf person in the ministry. However, in the end, they were very warm and accepting of me. After a while, many of them wanted to learn how to sign so that they could communicate with me.

Some of them even registered with our church’s Ministry of the Hearing Impaired (MHI) to learn sign language and become interpreters for our church. I have been so blessed by this community.

I remember when I was in secondary school, I would get jealous of other deaf children who were able to do physical exercises such as stretching and sit-ups.

However, now that I am older, I’ve learnt to turn my deafness to my advantage. Today, I work as a professional photographer, and photography makes full use of my gifts. I can focus on capturing whatever is in front of me without environmental distractions. I also do not need to speak much!

Still, I am faced with a lot of communication barriers in my industry. My mother is usually there to interpret for me when I have client work, but when she or an interpreter is not present, I face issues with people who assume that deaf people can naturally lip-read.

Sometimes, people with special needs may be forgotten or treated as invisible. I would like to see more employers hiring people with special needs in the workforce. What I do not like to see is for the deaf to be excluded and unemployed. It is a terrible feeling.

Whether it is through my deafness or my physical challenges, I want to be a walking testimony for God and an inspiration to others. God is my Father who knows me well – He knows my abilities, my strengths, and He knows what I can overcome.

The size of my camera does not matter. What matters most is using my God-given skills as a medium for my voice, and ultimately to shine for Jesus. I hope to overcome challenges and share the importance of looking beyond special needs, to the person and talent that lies within.

Because of His grace and provision, I graduated with a diploma in Fine Arts (Art Photography) from LASALLE College of the Arts in 2016, with the support of the Dare to Dream Scholarship. That same year, I held my first solo exhibition, “See What I See”, at the Enabling Village.

Photos taken by Isabelle

Last year, I held my second exhibition, “Living with Grace” a photo essay collaboration with my cousin, Tham Yin May, to raise funds for the Today Enable Fund.

To end, I would like to share a quote from Perception, a photography series of the special needs community by ND Chow, a Tokyo-based Singaporean portrait photographer.

“We hope for a world that looks beyond disabilities. A world where disabilities are not perceived as no abilities. A world that is kinder. A world that is free of bias. A world that is full of love. A world that is more inclusive, where everything is beautiful. Perception hopes for such a world.”


Isabelle’s story is from “Call Me By Name”, a collection of 23 stories of Singaporeans with special needs, and their families. It was curated by the Family Inclusion Network, a group of parents and volunteers with a heart to embrace persons with special needs and disabilities. 

The book will be available on Gracework’s online store from September 1, 2018 onwards. 

Conversations

We Recommend

Do Good

This is our God, the Servant King

by Alarice Hong, Awaken Generation

Culture

We found love at PraySingapore

by Samantha Loh

Faith

Why am I even praying?

by Eugene Tan

Studies

So you just graduated, now what?

by Justine Ocampo | 27 August 2018, 3:05 PM

Having graduated  from university, I feel like I’ve come to a halt where a forked road lies in front of me.

One path is called “God’s Will”, and the other is called the “The Worldly Way”. Good Christian girl as I am – I want to go down the first road obediently. But here’s the catch: Real life’s roads don’t have clear signages telling you which is which.

So how do we know whether the road we’re on is in accordance with the will of God?

Well, deciding on a direction is actually really easy, because God’s will can be carried out on both paths.

What is God’s will? So many Christians ask what God wants them to do when the main answer’s already there.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

In weighing up your options, look to choose a road that you will with traverse on with God – one where you’ll be salt and light for His kingdom. Selling insurance? Remind your clients of the greatest insurance plan yet – Jesus. Doing humanitarian work? While you’re meeting people’s physical needs, don’t forget to meet their ultimate spiritual need too – Jesus!

Just because you don’t know what God’s will is for your career yet, doesn’t mean you can’t carry out His will here and now.

Being salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) for His kingdom doesn’t just mean evangelising at every opportunity, it also means living upright and holy lives.

Do you reflect Christ through your words and actions? Just because you don’t know what God’s will is for your career yet, doesn’t mean you can’t carry out His will here and now. As you let God guide you in your career, do what He’s already called all of us to – lifting His name up to those around us.

Some people are blessed with clear vision.

They may have a strong conviction or burden placed upon their hearts for certain communities or marketplaces to serve in – a specific calling from God for a specific people. I think most Christians don’t have that. But I believe that’s perfectly fine.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

Being salt and light is something God has called all of us to – we who are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) God has blessed us all with unique talents and gifts: Some are good at growing plants, others love taking care of animals, and others still, enjoy talking to children. Some are better with numbers while others are better with words or pictures.

Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and God will do the rest.

What comes easier for you? What are you inclined towards?

Note that I didn’t ask, “What comes easier for you as compared to others?” or “What are you inclined toward as compared to others?”

My point is, examine yourself without comparing your gifts with others. There will always be someone who does a thing better than you, but that’s not what God’s about. Your gifts are yours, and He is more interested in your willingness to serve Him than your proficiencies. Have faith and assurance in God’s sovereignty, that He has given you your gifts and talents for a greater purpose.

There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” (1 Corinthians 12:5-6)

So what’s next after graduation? Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and God will do the rest.

I still haven’t found a job, and admittedly it does make me feel slightly anxious. But I know that God’s plan is good and He will open the right doors for me. Whichever door I do eventually choose to step through, I only pray that I’ll continue to be salt and light when I walk through it.

With the assurance that God will use me for His glory, I set forth courageously into this new phase of life.

Conversations

We Recommend

Faith

Worship is not about us

by Lim Jun Heng

Culture

With my rifle and my buddy and my … NS ministry

by Ashley Matthew Teo

Do Good

“The test of a nation is how we treat the vulnerable and less fortunate”: LoveSingapore pastors

by Christina Wong

Studies

How God saved my grades while on exchange

by Amanda Wong | 20 August 2018, 3:17 PM

Everyone said exchange would be a piece of cake: confirm pass, can’t fail. But that wasn’t the case for me.

During my exchange semester in South Korea at Yonsei University, I decided to take a total of 6 modules. They would all be credited as pass/fail modules anyway, so I figured I might as well take more so that I wouldn’t have to worry during my last semester back in NTU.

I opted for 1 mathematics module, 3 economics modules, 1 liberal arts elective and 1 business elective. I thought the examination requirements were manageable, so I didn’t worry much.

When the midterm period came round, I studied normally just like how I would have studied for any other midterm in NTU. I thought that would be fine because I just needed to pass the midterms.

Out of the 6 modules, I had a midterm for everything except the liberal arts module (just a presentation for this instead). And because the economics modules were all theory-based, I assumed I could just write something that made sense related to the theory, so I didn’t put in that much effort.

However, when the midterms came, I came out of every midterm feeling depressed. One of the economics module was a total shocker: the lecture notes were all theory, but the midterm was all calculations! I couldn’t do most of it … all I could do was pray for a miracle.

Because I was failing everything.

I recall trying to finish one of my assignments before church service on Friday night.

I was really struggling, googling books and answers, but nothing was helping. I had agreed to do street evangelism with my church friends, but I was still stuck on the assignment.

So I told them to go ahead without me because I had to finish my work. And even after they had evangelised for more than an hour, I still had nothing written on my paper. I thought I was screwed because all the Korean students would have solved it and submitted long answers … but mine would just be a blank piece of paper.

Funny thing was, I attempted the question again a few days later and finished it in 20mins. Seriously?! I could have done street evangelism with my friends instead of wasting that time away. I should have trusted in God’s providence of time and wisdom, but I relied on my own will.

This made me question what happened to my reliance on God. Because just a month ago, I also had to choose between a school assignment and church. Even though my church leaders told me to focus on my studies, I decided to rely on God’s time and wisdom to complete my assignment.

I got 92/100 for that assignment … How could I forget that?

I realised that God doesn’t bless me because I serve Him. He blesses me because He wants to.

As the finals approached, I started to redo my notes and past papers and attended consultations.

I spent so much of my time studying at cafes that cafe owners recognised me. I tried to plan my time better like waking up earlier to study – or studying between church events.

I tried my best to juggle studying and serving at church because I didn’t want to stop helping out at church just because of my grades (I only had to pass, after all). I really believed in what God was doing in South Korea and I wanted to be a part of it as much as I could before I left.

On the day that scores were released on the school portal, I saw that only 2 of my 6 modules had scores posted. I knew that the scores were not the final grades I would be receiving, but they were indicators if I was going to pass or fail the module.

And it wasn’t looking good. I felt so screwed when I saw my results: 18/100 for Public Finance and 8.5/100 for Money and Banking. My parents would flip if I couldn’t graduate on time because I failed my modules! I tried to play it cool but I was panicking inside.

All that was left was to trust in God’s providence though everything looked impossible. How was God going to help me pass in this situation?

As I waited nervously for my final results, I was planning what additional modules I would take when I got home. But on the third day, I checked my grades to find that somehow I had passed all my modules! None of it made any sense.

The next day when I went to church, my heart was just filled with gratefulness. It was an unexplainable gratefulness. It really made no sense, but everything worked out: I was able to serve at church while receiving the grades I wanted. So of course, I had to ask the important question to God: “What are You teaching me?”

I realised that God doesn’t bless me because I serve Him. He blesses me because He wants to. Having demanded God to bless me just because I had served Him was foolish. I initially served because I just wanted to help the church in whatever way I could. But somewhere along the way I had served because I wanted to be blessed by Him.

And that was what God was trying to teach me: Not to have the wrong starting point. It’s really about reliance on God when it comes to studies because there’s no way we can do it by ourselves.

His grace doesn’t really make sense, but that’s just what it is.


Conversations

We Recommend

video

The Valley

by Christina Wong

Faith

Why am I even praying?

by Eugene Tan

Faith

Being bullied ruined my life, but I found a way out

by Natalie Tay

Studies

What if I’m bad at my major?

by | 20 August 2018, 10:17 AM

I don’t know what I am doing here. I think this is not meant for me.

If you’ve never uttered those phrases yourself, it’s likely you’ve heard it from those around you in school. After all, we live in a country that emphasises academic excellence as a means for future financial security.

The disappointment of not doing well despite having studied hard, or the anxiety that arises from not understanding what’s being taught, only add to the convenience of us claiming that a course is “wrong” for us – simply because we do not excel in it.

As a lover of books and reading throughout my entire life, literature was the obvious choice for me when I entered university.

I especially loved to daydream about the storylines and characters within the books I devoured. I had also consistently done well in the subject prior to university, so choosing to major in it seemed to be a foregone conclusion. In fact, I felt destined for it.

So it came as a shock to me in my freshman year, to learn that my work was only considered mediocre. Literature turned out to be a far more complex and difficult field that I had ever imagined it to be.

… I had wrongly expected blessings in the specific form of good results from Him just for walking with Him.

I tried so hard in the first two years to understand what was even being taught. I strived to write eloquent and insightful papers, but would be invariably crushed by disappointing and lacklustre results.

It was very easy to say that literature was not for me because I wasn’t doing well or enjoying myself. It was even easier for me to doubt and question God, because I had wrongly expected blessings in the specific form of good results from Him just for walking with Him.

God, if You placed this course in my heart, why am I not excelling in it then?

When I think of someone being in the “wrong course,” my mind goes to Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10).

His occupation as a tax collector was socially and religiously “wrong”. Jewish tax collectors were excommunicated from their synagogues because they worked for the Romans and were viewed as traitors (it didn’t help that they would overcharge the Jews for their own profit).

We also know that Zacchaeus was excellent in his work, as he was the chief tax-collector in Jericho. Ironically, his name means “pure one,” yet he chose a career that was considered tainted. But Zacchaeus’ name also reflects how God had chosen him even before he became a tax collector. Zacchaeus took his first steps to becoming a pure one when he climbed that tree to see Jesus.

Although we do not know if Zacchaeus remained a tax collector after his encounter with Jesus, we do know that he viewed his occupation with renewed perspective: “Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).

The Lord is sovereign, He knows the plans He has for all of creation truly and fully, but He is also a gracious God that allows us to make choices.

Though Zacchaeus chose to be a tax collector, God brought Zacchaeus from a wrong course back to Him. God didn’t have to, but He did. That’s mercy.

And just as God allowed Zacchaeus to excel despite being in the wrong place, He can also allow one to fail while being in the right place.

Because nothing will get in the way of God’s plan, and He will never fail.

It took an entire summer break for me to surrender my expectations and ambitions for being in literature at the foot of the cross, where I really made Him the centre of my life. It was only then that I got a fresh perspective on things.

Now as I finish my third year, I see how He’s been calling me to choose literature for a completely different reason. I’m called to more than just personal interests and academic excellence – my imagination and skills are being honed to bring Him glory through my writing.

As long as we turn to God, there is no place He will not bring us out from, to display His sovereign grace over us as His beloved.

/ samanthaloh@thir.st

Samantha is a creative who is inspired by the people and stories around her. She also loves striped tees and would love to pass her collection down to her future children. Currently level 1127 on Candy Crush.

Conversations

We Recommend

A cell leader’s first encounter with the blues

by Carmen Lee

Culture

The pursuit of sexual purity

by Stella Lee

Faith

Shouldn’t you know better?

by Alvin Tan

Article list

Born without sight, raised without my parents: Seeing hope in the darkness

What’s the point of education?

Speaking with my eyes: Living out loud in a silent world

So you just graduated, now what?

How God saved my grades while on exchange

What if I’m bad at my major?