Written By Deborah Tao, originally in Traditional Chinese
Love has always been a fuzzy concept to me. And with a family situation like mine, love is a luxury I cannot afford.
When I was 14, my mother, sister, and I migrated from China to Singapore to live with my Singaporean stepfather after my mother remarried. I remember thinking to myself then: Why remarry? Maybe mum really loves him.
But my mother’s bad temper and stubborn personality often sparked conflicts and quarrels with my stepfather. Items would be flung and the sounds of shattered glass would follow. Whenever this happened, I would sneak out of the house for a walk, but their angry voices would reverberate throughout the estate. The fights would leave my stepfather with “battle” marks on his body and trigger a visit by the police. On many occasions, I cried and told my mother I wish I had a harmonious family, but her answer always broke my heart: “It will never happen.”
In addition to that, life in Singapore was nothing like what we envisioned. Surviving on just $2 a day, I often went hungry no matter how I tried to apportion my allowance. Just having enough food to eat brought me happiness, a stark contrast to the dieting-to-keep-their-figure concerns my peers had—that irked me. Whenever I saw others waste food, I always had a strong urge to finish their food on their behalf.
In order to fill my stomach, I started working part-time at the age of 15. This meant attending school in the day and working as a hotel waitress at night. As a result, I only managed four to five hours of sleep a day. But despite working hard, I could barely fill my belly. It was the most difficult three years of my life and I was always tired.
I was immensely disappointed at the state of my own life and filled with jealousy and hatred towards children from happy families. I resolved in my heart to leave my family one day and live the life I wanted.
To achieve my goal, I started to work harder to save up. Even on the day before my examination, I would go to work all the same. I also studied longer and harder to get a step closer towards carrying out my plans. Exhaustion and anger consumed me. I was lost, and I had lost my purpose in life.
Not wanting to live in pain any longer, I decided to give up. On the day I planned to end my life, I met a pastor who told me that the Lord loved me. I thought to myself, “If God exists, He will not let me suffer this much.”
I asked the pastor, “Could you give me a reason to live?” to which he replied, “If you live on, many people will live better lives because of your help.” At that very moment, my heart felt a renewed sense of purpose—so this was the reason God was giving me to stay alive.
I started attending church, and got to know brothers and sisters in Christ. We supported each other like family. And through reading and studying the Bible, I learned what it means to love myself, forgive myself, and forgive my past.
In the past, I did not know how to cherish my own life nor what it means to be patient and kind towards others. I had zero tolerance for mistakes; I was a perfectionist. My pride was like an impenetrable wall—thick and hard.
Since knowing Jesus, I’ve undergone a character transformation. He taught me to love, to tolerate, and to show compassion towards others as well as give myself time to learn and improve. I’ve also learned humility, gave up my pride, and am no longer tied down by my past.
Later on, I became a volunteer, and met a lot of others who have lost their purposes in life. I am humbled that my testimony has encouraged them to start their lives all over again.
Looking back, I could never have expected that God would prepare another family (in Christ) for me (and the members of this big family keeps increasing!). As I grow closer to God, I’m also learning to forgive my mum. I’m starting to see that she is also suffering and that the hurt she caused us is because she does not know the Lord. It’s probably not easy being her either.
I’m grateful to God for the peace and joy He has given to me since I’ve gotten to know Him personally. May God bless you too.