Written by Celine Heo, Malaysia
Years ago, I interviewed for a role on my college’s Christian Fellowship’s worship team. I don’t remember all the questions they asked, but there was one that stayed with me: “Who is God to you?”
When I heard that, I drew a blank. If the interviewer had merely asked who God is, then I wouldn’t have to consider the personal aspect (“to you”).
“Is He my Father?” But I barely knew what a father’s love looked like. “Is He my friend?” I couldn’t say that either, since I hadn’t spent that much time with Him. “My Lover?” But I let Him down all the time.
I can’t recall what I said in the end, but even after I left, I kept thinking about the question.
Fast forward to four years later, I started attending a Bible study series called “The Explicit Gospel”. I was navigating through a heartbreak then, so I told God that I wanted to truly know Him. Not just know His words, but to really experience Him.
During one of the sessions, my group leader answered my desperate question of how to truly know God: “Jesus used the word ‘ginosko’ when He said ‘know me’ (John 10:14; 10:27; 17:3). It is a Greek word for ‘experientially knowing’, and it also describes the kind of intimacy between a husband and wife.”
When I heard that, I told God, “That is exactly what I want. And now I know You want it, too. Please, let me know You in the ‘ginosko’ way.”
The following session, God gave me a fresh perspective through a question from the study: “After hearing the Gospel and realising that God’s entire plan was to save you, what would your first response be?”
I thought that the response should be to love Him and serve Him. However, through the study, we learned that while it was not wrong to have answers such as rejoicing, praising Him, participating in missions, before all of that, our very first response should be to believe in the Gospel that we have heard. “The righteous shall live by faith”, as these verses repeatedly say (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11). This made me realise that faith is what I need to know Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Through this process of questioning and reflecting, God helped me to see Him. From then on, I began to see how His words are alive, how His love comes off the page. It was as if a floodgate had opened, and everything I had heard proclaimed on stage but never truly understood became vivid to me.
That was how I began to feel like I could relate to Him. That He really was my Father, my Friend, my Lover, and my God.
Challenged to experience His love all over again
When I got exposed to Covid in early 2021, it was still uncommon among my colleagues and we did not know the procedure for our school.
During this period, some people would test themselves immediately if they’re close contacts. However, my neighbour cautioned us against testing too soon because the outcome might be unreliable, plus the test kits were expensive then. So, I decided not to test right away, but only isolate at home.
This caused some of my colleagues to panic, which I did not know about until a close colleague told me. I then learnt that she lives with a sister who has Down Syndrome and is a vulnerable person with a higher risk of contracting Covid. Their family had to know if I was positive or not, since this colleague was my close contact.
This was when things suddenly took an emotional turn. I cried to my mum, desperately hoping nothing would happen to my colleagues and their families. I spoke with my manager, who reassured me that what I did—waiting to get tested—was reasonable enough.
Still, I couldn’t help but condemn myself for my actions—for being self-centred and inconsiderate.
Exchanging my self-condemnation for His comfort
I felt so bad about myself, like I was using up all my “mercy quotas” with God. I didn’t know how I could still go to Him.
However, as part of my habit, I continued to read the Bible using the Lectio Divina method—a contemplative way of reading that allows the Scriptures to speak to us personally. I was reading through Isaiah 66, and verse 13 drew my attention: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you…”
When I read that line, it surprised me: “You will comfort me like a mother? Love me the way my mum does?”
My mother is the only person who accepts me wholly, who loves me for all my flaws and doesn’t compare me to those around me. Her terrific sense of humour comforts me when I face hard times. Thinking about her fills my heart with awe, at how a mother can love and comfort her children in such a tender yet powerful way.
According to English preacher Charles Spurgeon:
A father may feel pity for the little ones who are sick, but a mother knows by instinct how to comfort them. Therefore, when God speaks about comfort, He selects the mother. No one can comfort like a mother, and that is how God wanted to comfort His people.
Some time later, during fellowship with my cell group friends, we were singing a song when it dawned on me how His love was like a mother’s love. As we sang, the lyrics highlighted how precious I am to God, and that it’s because of His wonderful grace and not how good I am, or how much I have done.
Because of His gentle love, I can begin to let go of the chains of self-condemnation. It is still a recovery process, but over time, I am repeatedly reminded of what I have learnt through this experience.
In the end, my worry and self-condemnation were in vain. None of my colleagues tested positive, including the one I had close contact with. I am so thankful to God for sparing them, and for how He has allowed me to know Him—experience Him—through this journey.