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).