I was born in a Christian family and grew up attending church. But I did not understand who God was, and I didn’t have a relationship with Him. God just seemed so distant from me. At that time, I believed that I could never reach Him. Slowly, I saw no point in attending church, and I would often come up with excuses not to go.
At home, my parents expected me to study hard and do well. They were critical towards me, and there were constant arguments at home. I remember that when I received my PSLE results, my mum said, “I expected you to do better.” I was very hurt by what she said. I felt like I could never please my parents. My relationship with my parents shaped my view of God. I believed that I had to earn my way to God's love. So I studied very hard and did well academically. My teachers always expected me to score one of the highest in class. I was also the vice-president of the student council. This meant that I carried more responsibilities. Although it seemed like I had everything, I was always thinking about whether I was doing good enough.
I felt a constant need to do better. I thought that if I met all of the expectations of my teachers, parents and friends, I would be loved and accepted. But no matter how hard I tried to please them, I always felt unworthy. I felt like everyone just saw me according to my achievements and failures, but no one knew the real me. I always put up a front, pretending that I was okay. But deep down, I felt lonely and overwhelmed, like I was on the verge of breaking.
In 2019, my classmate and council mate in school, Joanne, invited me to youth impact. That day, the sermon really spoke to me and I felt God's peace. I felt that all my burdens were lifted off my shoulders and my mind was clear. It was something I had never experienced before. I told God that I wanted to know Him more. During that altar call, I decided to raise my hand to receive Him into my life.
Through discipleship sessions, I realised that I did not have to base my identity on the labels placed on me. I am a child of God before anything else, and He already loves me for who I am. God is proud of me even when I cannot meet people’s expectations. Slowly, I learnt to place my security in God and not in what other people thought about me. During the recent December holidays, I wanted to go for Mission Trip and YI Camp. However, I knew that my parents would not allow it because they would want me to focus on my O levels this year. The old Shin Wen would have chosen not to attend these events, because I didn’t want my parents to be unhappy with me. But now I realized that their disapproval doesn’t define me. But I still wanted to honour my parents, so I decided to pray that God would soften their hearts. My community also prayed along with me.
To my surprise, my parents allowed me to go for both the Mission trip and YI camp!
Through YI camp, God taught me to see my family through His eyes. He showed me that there were many unresolved hurts in each of our lives that affected the way we were as a family. My mum grew up being unwanted by her family. She was also betrayed by all her friends. She had to learn from young to fight for herself. I realized that my mum was critical towards me, because she just wanted me to do well and succeed in life. My parents had high expectations of me because they didn’t want me to go through what they did.
God also revealed to me that although I didn’t retaliate by arguing with them, I was angry with my family. He also showed me that I had to forgive them and choose to love them. I decided to obey God. I started to pray for my family, and I changed my attitude towards them.
To my surprise, just last month, my mum initiated that we came to pray together as a family. At first, I felt super uncomfortable. But God reminded me that He wanted to use me to bring restoration to my family. So I plucked up my courage, and for the first time, I shared with them about the times I felt overwhelmed by all the expectations. I told them how God showed me that life wasn’t about striving and pleasing people. I also shared with them bits and pieces of Becky's sermon about being sons and daughters of the King, and how God showed me that I was His child.
My parents were surprised because they never knew that I struggled with all these expectations. After the sharing session, my family had become so much closer. Now we can share our troubles the way a family should. I am so thankful that God has brought restoration to my family.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”
God’s love for us is not like men’s approval. We don’t have to earn God’s love, because we are His children! When I lived for the approval of other people, I was never satisfied. But when I am secure in God’s love for me, I am not subject to other people’s opinions anymore. Instead, God has chosen me to be an influence for change in my family and my school!