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).