Although I attended Life Group faithfully, I never dared to share my personal struggles. The only thing I would share about is my family and how broken it was.
13 years ago, I joined Youth Impact. Being a Christian to me meant that I must be an obedient and demure girl who does not do “bad” things. Although I called myself a Christian, I never saw myself as a sinner who needed a personal Saviour. My parents’ faith was not my own.
For years, I had to deal with my un-forgiveness towards my family. My parents divorced when I was in primary school and it left me feeling abandoned and broken. I also discovered that I would have a stepmother and a younger stepsister when my father told us that he was going to remarry soon.
These news gripped me with a lot of fear because everything was changing so suddenly. It was difficult for me to adapt. I didn’t really want to speak to my new family members. The lack of communication led to a strained relationship between my Stepmother and I. Once, she and I had a heated argument about our family that made her cry and I left home for a week.
I always felt that my family relationship depicts a “cold palace” - a house without any love. I felt that I was lacking love and attention at home, so I easily gave in to a guy who showed me some attention. This eventually led to an unhealthy relationship.
During this time, our church was going through sermons dealing with our insecurities. I remember Pastor Daniel preaching on the Father Heart of God series and it transformed many lives around me. I started getting uncomfortable because I did not like the feeling of being vulnerable. It made me feel exposed.
Growing up with the pain I felt from the divorce, I learned to be independent in my own ways. I wanted people to think well of me - to think “Cheryl is strong, she is still able to succeed in life”. I would do anything to not let others see the ugly side of me.
I also never shared my personal struggles openly because I took on the identity as a leader, instead of a child of God. I got so caught up in this false identity that I kept busying myself. Being busy made me feel that I could measure up to my role. But the truth is, I got it all mixed up, I thought my activity superseded my identity. It seemed like the more I do things, the better a person I would become. I felt an extreme need to be strong so that the life group could rely on me.
Yet deep down inside, I felt like a total mess. In short, I felt like a hypocrite. Life got very tiring. Bondage and strongholds have never been so real. It was almost impossible to get out and find victory. I was struggling yet I was not calling out for help because I didn’t want to show that I was weak. I thought if people knew who I really was, it would all be over. I lied to cover up. I was defensive. I felt ashamed and guilty. It was terrible.
During that time, my Ladies Ministry facilitator, Melissa, offered to meet me but I was very afraid. I knew that in helping me, she would have to expose the real me, the weak me that I could not even face and look at. I declined politely, but she said, “well when you’re ready, you can come and look for me.”
Yet deep down in my heart, I knew the Holy Spirit was prompting me to surrender. I knew I could not hide any longer. I finally took up the courage to meet Mel and one of her statements hit me hard. She said that I was numb to sin in my life. Sin is just an independent way of living from God. In my life, I have asked God for forgiveness but I never truly repented. That was why my life was in such a mess.
I examined my own heart. I actually enjoyed the pleasures of sin. I tolerated sin but I never hated nor felt disgusted about it. I was shocked at my own condition, and I never knew how much the sins in my life has grieved the Holy Spirit. It may seem weird, but I reflected on my life as a Christian. Have I really been a true Christian? Have I really experienced God’s grace and mercy over me?
I was so convicted by the Holy Spirit. I recognised that I could not live like that any longer. I decided to repent and wow I experienced God’s grace and mercy for the very first time! It was so wonderful. Repentance is really just turning 180 degrees and walking the opposite direction.
God also started to gently rebuke me. He said “Stop coming to me as a leader. Just come to me as a child”. There and then, the immense love of the Father poured over me.
I talked to Him as His child for the first time; and not with prayer items I needed Him to answer! I cried so much before Him. I was overflowing with gratitude that He would want a relationship with me even though I was such a rebel. The Father loves me so much that He sent His Son to die for my sin.
This was when the lyrics of the old hymn “Amazing Grace” became so real to me… It goes like this… ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.’ All along, I have been that wretched girl, living in self-denial because I was afraid to face my failures and weakness. But God chose to die for a wretch like me.
God began to heal and transform me as I chose to let His His Word be the final say in my life. He began to heal the wounds from my painful past. I found myself desiring to allow God’s truth to shed light in the dark areas in my life. I started to grow comfortable with my flawed self.
I think I finally got the order right, that my identity supersedes my activity.
I may be flawed, but He sees me as His child. The out-workings of my faith should be an overflow of my identity, not something I have to strive for to feel better about myself. Being a leader is just about leading people to the Father as I follow Him.
Now, being honest before God and Man is so important to me. I’ve learnt it’s ok to admit that I am not okay. My breakthrough started because I was honest and decided to let go of my pride. And I intend to keep being honest and be open to correction! Being honest and open makes way for intimate relationships with God, and my community.
So I’m a 4th gen christian, but my faith is now finally my own. A hand-me-down faith is not going to help me tide through storms in life. I’m so grateful that God has healed me from the inside and desires to develop an unshakeable faith in me.
Jesus became my personal Saviour, He’s not just a Bible character or a historical figure. The God of Heaven and Earth has brought me back to life. I have never felt more set free, more in love with God than ever.