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My Quest for Love Nearly Destroyed Me

Written By Aphesis, Singapore 

I come from a family of six. I have an elder sister, a younger sister, and a younger brother. My parents were hawkers. To give my siblings and I a comfortable life, they worked long hours and would not rest unless they fell sick.

As a result, my siblings and I rarely spent time together with our parents. My mother would squeeze some time out, at least once a week, to bring us out for a swim or a meal. But my father became a stranger to me.

It was at the age of 10 when I became aware that my parents’ relationship was strained. Family reunions were hardly a cause for celebration because of their constant bickering. Whenever that happened, I would not know what to do. Helpless, I would camp outside their room and desperately beg them to stop quarrelling.

As my mother spent more time with me, I sided her more as she fed me her side of the story. Caught in the crossfire of words and violence, I didn’t know how to make sense of it. My father would hurt my mother verbally and emotionally. This would result in heated arguments between the both of them, usually ending with my mother giving my father the cold shoulder. Without a father figure to guide me through my teenage years, I started looking for love and affirmation through relationships. At the age of 17, I had my first boyfriend. However, my young puppy love didn’t last and in my quest to seek “perfect” love, I moved from guy to guy. But with every guy I dated, the pain of break-up got deeper and deeper. It was also during that time that I started mixing with bad company and picked up smoking and partying.

Although I was baptized at the age of 14, I fell away from the faith for more than 10 years. Ironically, I was brought back to church by my most recent ex-boyfriend, a believer. He would take me to church every week, and I would obediently follow. I’d listen to the sermons, but never take them to heart.

Back then, I believed I was fine just the way I was and I didn’t have to change. In any case, the thought of being a religious Christian did not sound cool. The only reason I attended church was to spend time with my boyfriend—not God. As long as my boyfriend loved me, I was happy. If attending church was the best way to gain his affection, I figured, it was a reasonable sacrifice on my part.

But whenever I felt that he wasn’t showing me enough attention, I’d throw tantrums. I also manipulated him emotionally by guilt-tripping him over very minor issues, knowing full well that he would eventually soften. But over time, his patience wore thin. After being together for two years, he ended the relationship.

I was devastated. I felt like I had been abandoned. Worn down by all my negative thoughts and feelings, I slipped into depression.

Visiting the psychiatrist and taking medicine didn’t help. I blamed myself for the break-up. I blamed myself for allowing my insecurities to lead me to suspect and accuse him. I blamed myself for wrecking yet another relationship. Thinking I was shallow and useless, I believed the lies I weaved and drowned myself in self-pity.

One day, two peers from church asked me out for dinner. They knew about my love for reading and shared with me Joshua Harris’ book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. As I flipped through the pages, I learned, for the first time, that lust and love were completely different things. Among other things, Harris wrote that love is about expressing self-control and is not manipulative. I realized that in all my past relationships, what I had experienced was lust, and not love.

I thought I knew what love was. In fact, I thought I was skilled in the game of love. I had read about love in 1 Corinthians 13 but, in reality, love was a foreign concept to me. All along, I had been pursuing the wrong idea of love. I broke my partners’ hearts, and in that process, I broke my own too.

Reading the book that night, I experienced a wave of emotions and instantly knew that it was God working in me. He opened my eyes to recognize real love. Overwhelmed with regret, I wept. I could feel Jesus’ presence and sense Him telling me, “My child, it’s okay, I’m here. Don’t be afraid, just come to Me.”

For the first time in my life, I felt true love. Jesus’ heart had been broken for me. I felt so unworthy—that a holy God could be right beside me, an unholy being. I went down on my knees, thanking Him. I was still crying, but it was tears of joy, because I finally understood a very simple fact: I needed Jesus and His love. In fact, that’s all I need and will ever need—a relationship with Him.

With God’s love in my heart, I turned over a new leaf. By God’s strength, I quit smoking. I threw away my revealing clothes, stopped partying, and started serving in church.

I became a better daughter to my parents and a better sister to my siblings. My younger sister—whom I used to bully the most—was the first person to witness the change in me. She started attending church with me, and got baptized after a few months. Today, both of us serve in the worship team together.

Looking back, I’m grateful for the many lessons I’ve learned. We can experience real joy and real peace only when our lives and hearts revolve around Christ. Nothing other than the love of Christ can fill the cavity in our hearts; Jesus is irreplaceable. Of course, there have been times when I still felt lousy about myself. However, in these times, I have learned to praise and thank Him. By God’s grace, the relationship between my parents has improved tremendously and they are very loving now. My dad has also become a very caring father and would even say grace before our meals together as a family.

Although my past relationships brought me a lot of pain, I’m thankful that God allowed me to go through the same issues that many young teenagers and adults face today. With my personal experience, I can help others who are still lost and searching for the answer.

Being single for the past four years has given me more time to spend with my friends and to care for other brothers and sisters who might be in need. I have more time to go the extra mile for them.

Over the past years, one of the verses that encouraged me tremendously was Proverbs 4:23. I pray that God will continue to guard my heart, so that I will never go astray again.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

The Secret I Wish I Never Found Out

Written By J. T., Singapore

Every night, I would come home to see my parents hunched over their dinners, eyes glued to the television screening the latest Korean drama serial. It’s always the same story-line: two love birds entangled in a web of secrets waiting to be discovered. Think affairs, illegitimate children, business feuds, and corruption.

One night last month, I came back to my family’s own Korean drama.

It was midnight and I was just about to shower and turn in after a late night out. That’s when I heard my parents quarreling in the kitchen. Usually, I don’t pay much attention as their tiffs are quite frequent. But as the mudslinging continued, I overheard my mother saying, “Well, you visited a prostitute in the past.” My dad retorted, “Oh, so now you want to bring up the past . . .”

I did not stay in my bedroom to hear the rest of the squabble. Those few words changed everything, and yet nothing. Everything, because I had no idea how to relate to my parents (especially my father) after that. The following morning, I could not look at my father in the eye as I passed him on the way to the toilet. Nothing, because while this piece of information was new to me, they had long lived with that knowledge—now I know why they sleep in separate beds and why my mother does not travel with my father.

As a writer, I have spoken to prostitutes and reported on the local vice scene several times. But when this struck so close to home, it shattered whatever concept I had of a protected family and a sacred marriage.

My heart became unbearably heavy; I cried myself to sleep and could not function at work. Up to that point, I was already hardly talking to my father. We grew apart when he was battling mental illness, and I was still trying hard to reconnect with him. Then, this happened.

The “secret” weighed heavily on me because I did not know if they knew that I knew. Friends advised me against bringing it up so as to avoid causing them further embarrassment. I could not confide in my siblings, because I wanted to protect my younger brother. And I saw no point in telling my older brother since he had just become a young father.

So I turned to mentors and friends. They listened to me, gave me advice, and shared their own stories. What they shared reassured me that I was not alone. One told me how her father had discovered his wife was having an affair. Up till today, the other man has continued to be in contact with her mother, sometimes calling her two to three times every day.

Another friend told me that from a young age, when she was six years old, her parents had stopped being intimate. Each time her father disappeared for a few hours every Saturday afternoon to take a walk, she worried about whether he was having an affair. When she was young, she would ask him where he was going, and he would joke that he had another family outside. More than two decades later, she still worries about her parents’ marriage. A male friend also shared with me that he had lost his virginity to a prostitute in Thailand during his time in the army. He now has two children, and his wife does not know about it.

After hearing all those stories and having experienced firsthand the pain of broken relationships, I realized how prevalent family brokenness was. What then can we do about such situations, and what does God have to say about it?

1. Honor our parents

Before you roll your eyes or gloss over this section, hang on and hear me out.

As we grow older, respecting or obeying our parents becomes harder when we see their frailties and weaknesses. I grew up looking up to my father as he taught me English, recommended good books, and brought me cycling. His stature became less awe-inspiring as the years wore on. He battled mental illness, withdrew into himself, retired early, and now spends most of the day at home watching television or reading newspapers.

The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise— so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

But many of us struggle to do this, especially when our parents don’t seem to deserve our respect. When I asked a friend why she stopped trying to improve her relationship with her father, she said, “Respect has to be earned.” She recounted the “pathetic” sight of her father stealing money from her piggy bank to gamble when she was young. Till now, he has largely been absent in her life.

Yes, it takes two hands to clap to make a good relationship. But God, through Paul, has commanded us to obey and honor our parents because it is right and so that we will continue to receive God’s blessings. In Colossians 3:20, the same instruction is given for children to obey their parents in everything, “for this pleases the Lord”.

We ought to respect our parents simply because God has given and set them above us, and it pleases Him. Whether or not that relationship achieves depth or not depends on how much we want it and how much we allow God to heal the hurt in our hearts.

2. Talk to others and pray about the next step

Is it time to do something about it or is it the season to just pray and wait?

I asked my friend (the one whose mum is in regular contact with another man) whether she has brought up the issue with her mother or the man. She said she recognizes his number and has even memorized it in the event she needs to confront him. But she decided against doing anything because she fears that her mum would not be able to take it.

Sometimes, the burden is not for us—as children—to carry. A friend once asked a former teacher whether she worried about her husband having affairs or flings overseas as he traveled often. She replied, “I don’t have to. This is a matter between him and God.” In Ezekiel 18:20, we read that the one who sins will bear the punishment. Children do not share the guilt of their parents, and vice-versa.

If you are afraid of getting out of your comfort zone or rocking the boat, seek God’s leading through prayer and take things one step at a time. If you are dissatisfied with the way things are, or fear that you will have regrets when your parents die, ask God to help you discern how to change things for the better and to give you the courage to do it.

3. Ask God to guard us against repeating sins that hurt us.

As flawed human beings, we are innately sinful and are naturally inclined to falter or sin (Romans 3:23). And sometimes, we seemingly repeat the very sins that have hurt us before. For instance, family violence and divorce are (at times) transmitted across generations.

What then can we do about this?

We can ask God to guard us against repeating the sin that once hurt us. The Bible also tells us to confess and repent of that sin in the family line (Leviticus 26:40-42). Let’s stand in the gap for our loved ones.

God can redeem time and repay losses. For those with broken families—treasure them and the time we have with them. For those who have been hurt by the very people who are supposed to protect or love us—accept God’s love and ask for His strength and grace to forgive them.

May His love overflow in our hearts and give us the capacity to love others. For love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5). We are also instructed to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

 

I still don’t know why God allowed for that “secret” or new bit of information to be revealed to me at this point in my life. But I trust His heart that He will use it for good. The hurt is real in today’s world—rejection, depression, guilt and fear are rampant. So perhaps there is value in tracing the pain back to its source. When we know where the wounds are, healing can begin.

Learning to Accept My Broken Family

Written By Sheila May, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

My biggest mistake in life is marrying you!” Since I was in kindergarten, I would often hear my parents hurl that statement at each other; they fought right before our eyes. And almost every day, my siblings and I had to be their mediators. When I was 12 years old, my parents decided to separate.

“Don’t bother about it. That is their business.” That was the first thought that crossed my mind when I found out about their decision to separate. As I grew older, however, I realized that the problem was even bigger than I thought. I was right in the centre of it. I could not simply ignore it. I was frustrated.

As time went by, “family” became a topic I always avoided in my chat with friends. I tried to erase that word from my mind. One day, I got a ride with my friend’s family. As I sat in the back of the car and watched them banter and exchange jokes with one another, a warm feeling came over my heart. I cried silently. I was happy, sad, and sorry for myself, all at the same time. I told myself, “So this is what a family is all about.”

Looking at my own family, I felt very disappointed and angry. I hated everyone in my family and I didn’t bother to keep my emotions hidden. I expressed my thoughts and emotions openly to my friends. They started to keep their distance from me. I was tired of living with my family, but I had nowhere to go. I felt as though I was going crazy.

In the three years after my parents separated, I tried my best to spend as little time as possible at home. I walked home from school so that I did not have to reach home early. The only reason I went home was to sleep at night. One day, a friend invited me to her church. I agreed immediately. After all, it was a good reason to stay away from home. I later found out that her church was going to hold a three-day retreat. Three days away from home? Yes, count me in!

Those three days changed my life forever. It was there that God saved me. I realized my sinful nature, and at the same time, I came to know the forgiveness and love He was offering me. I felt immensely thankful.

But it was not as though everything became perfect immediately. Back home, I still faced the same battles every day. I did not automatically become a good, nice, and obedient child. I continued to struggle against my sinful characteristics. I still could not accept my family.

Throughout that time, God held my hand and waited patiently for me to get over my rebellious phase. When I finally sat down and examined the pieces of my broken family, I realized that brokenness was everywhere, not just in my family. Everyone faced problems, whether they were friends, neighbors, religious people or secular people—even those in full-time ministry did too. What I had been going through all these years was a reflection of the reality of this fallen world; I was not the only one facing these battles. There were millions of others facing similar battles, some worse than mine.

I also came to realize that while I did not choose to be born into my family, God had chosen to place me here. And if He had sent His own son, Jesus, to give His life to save my soul, how could I doubt His love for me? He is a good Father, and it must be in His divine purpose to place me, His daughter, here, although I have not understood it yet. The best thing I can do for my future is to fully accept myself and this family God has placed me in.

Being able to do this has opened my heart. Although there have not been many changes in my family in the 10 years that have passed since I became a Christian, I can see many transformations in my own life. God has used my family situation to shape me. I’ve learned to control my emotions when I am provoked, I’ve learned to forgive even when I may be hurt again, and I’ve learned to love those whom I do not think deserve it.

God did not change my life situation in order to change my heart. He let me experience what it means to lose hope so that I can see Him as the only hope in my life. He is too good to be unkind and too wise to be mistaken. He provides healing for my hurts, He provides comfort for my tears (2 Cor 1:3-4). In all things, He has a purpose (Rom 8:28-29). And, in every situation, He gives strength (Phil 4:13).

 

Honoring My Parents From Afar

Written By Jacob Wu, China, originally in Simplified Chinese

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

For the past eight years, I’ve been living away from home. In 2007, l left Fuzhou, China, to pursue my studies; I now have a Master’s degree and a job in Shanghai. Save for the winter and summer breaks when I make short trips back home to visit my parents and younger sister, I’m not with them most of the time.

It also means that I have to rely on telephone calls to communicate with my parents. Naturally, every call from home is precious to me. I’m always overwhelmed by the deep concern and love they have shown and continue to shower on me all these years.

In the past, I used to feel guilty for not being by my parents’ side and not being able to provide for them financially. Over time, however, I’ve come to understand that there are other ways in which I can honor them.

The most obvious way is to take good care of myself, especially in terms of my health, everyday living, and finance. I need to ensure that my parents do not worry unnecessarily about me. After all, which parent isn’t concerned for the welfare of his or her children?

If I am able to manage my life well, my parents can be comforted despite my absence. They often say that as long as I take good care of myself, it’s enough. I guess most parents put their children’s needs ahead of their own. And as we mature and become more independent, our parents will naturally be more assured and able to let go.

On the other hand, I need to start taking on more responsibilities in the household as my parents grow older so that they know they will be taken care of in their old age.

Earlier this year, when I went home for the Spring Festival celebrations, I noticed some tension between my family and extended family. This episode made me realize that I could apply biblical principles to handle family conflicts and misunderstandings. Just like how He used Queen Esther to save the Jews, perhaps God has placed me in a position where my faith, education, and experiences could play a part in helping to resolve the problems confronting my family. And like Esther, I need to be courageous enough to take a stand.

Matthew 5:9 has always been an encouragement to me: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God ”. It reminds me that a true son of God is one who seeks to make peace.

Although I will continue to live away from my family I don’t feel lonely. I know that wherever I’m at, I can always find a family in the body of Christ. As for my parents and sister, I will continue to fulfill my duty to them. I believe I do not need to worry about them too much, because I know that our Father in Heaven will take care of us all.