Photo Contributed by Bryan Ong, Singapore
Written By Sarah Chan Lye May, Malaysia
Back in my hometown, there was a construction site that was left in a dilapidated state for a few years after a building project was abandoned halfway. Whenever my mother and I walked past it, she would shake her head in dismay and say what a shame it was that the project was not completed.
One day, we saw that a new notice had been put up. Later, we learned that a new mall was going to be built on the site. Within two years, what was left of the abandoned project was demolished and the new mall built. It is now one of the most popular malls in town.
To build the new mall, what remained on the old construction site—the walls, pillars, and scaffolding—had to be knocked down and removed to make way for a new foundation.
Just like how God works in our lives.
There was a time in my life when everything was going swimmingly well for me. I was getting what I wanted—validation and people’s approval. I was consistently achieving fantastic academic results, and was the star student in my school. Teachers constantly cited me as an example for my peers, who would then come to me for study tips. Expectations for me to do well were high and kept increasing, and I made sure to meet them without fail.
Then, all my success was demolished in an instant. In the Malaysian equivalent of the O levels, I failed to get a perfect score in all my subjects, as everyone expected me to. I fell short in two subjects. It seemed like all the countless hours I had spent slogging to get that perfect grade were wasted.
I was devastated. I had failed to achieve what people expected of me, and what I expected of myself. The disappointment was clearly written on the faces of my friends, teachers, and family. It was heartbreaking.
“Why did You allow such a thing to happen to me?” I asked God. “Have I not worked hard enough?”
Then I realized that I had been so full of myself that I had thought I could control everything, and that I could decide what I could achieve in life. I was so caught up with success that I had failed to see that I had built my life on the opinions of others. My self-esteem had been based on what others thought of me, and I had even allowed their expectations to chart out my career path. When I eventually failed to perform up to par, it seemed like I lost the respect of people around me, and it hurt.
I also saw that God was merciful. He knew that I needed to stop living in my own little utopia and focus on doing His will and living in His kingdom instead. All the scaffolding, walls and pillars that I had built had to go. Up till then, my life had revolved around my grades; I had no idea how much importance I had placed on them, and how much I had used them to measure my self-worth. It was only after seeing my results slip, did I finally allow God to lead me. Now, I was learning to build my life on something more permanent and eternal—my relationship with God. I could not have asked for a better wake-up call.
I learned that for God to lead me in my life, I had to make way for Him in my heart. I had to allow Him to remove all that I was fixated on, so that He could be at the center of my life, and be my permanent rock and foundation. As Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”