Growing up, I had no interest in my studies. During PSLE, I didn’t really study and couldn’t be bothered about which school I would end up in. My parents were so worried, but by God’s grace, I got into the NA stream in Unity Secondary School.
In Sec 3, I did well in my exams and it surprised me. However, instead of being thankful to God and using my studies to help others, I became really competitive. I wanted to be the best and worked hard everyday to prove to others I was good enough. My goal was for my name to be called out to the whole school, announcing that I was within the top 10 percent every year.
During the June holidays, I worked till midnight just so that I can maintain my good reputation. It came to a point that I couldn’t even celebrate myself - when I scored 21/25, my friends commented that it was good, but all I could say was that it was not good enough. It got to the point where my teacher told my parents that I was very stressed out and it was worrying.
Over time, my relationships with friends were also affected because of the way I handled my studies. Whenever a friend did better than me in school, I would see them as competition and told myself that this was another rival. I did not treasure friendships and lied to friends when they asked me to go out. I would say that I had a curfew, but in reality, I would go home to study extra hard just so that I can win them in my studies.
During one math lesson, my classmate asked me for help, but I was unable to solve the question despite multiple tries. This made me believe I was really not good enough. I was so insecure that I tried other ways to seek approval from my friends, such as making them laugh with jokes. Everything was done so that I could be well liked.
I knew I was living a double life. In school, people looked up to me as the nice smart girl. But on the other hand, I was struggling to keep up with these appearances. The truth was that I cried almost every night at home because I felt so useless and empty.
Last year, I encountered God for the first time during the Heart Renovation series. I broke down during the sermon as God revealed to me the true condition of my heart. God gently pointed out to me that I was competitive and always greedy for things which drew me away from Him. I had let my emotions guide me instead of seeking God for help. He showed me that I needed to build genuine relationships with my group of friends. That day, I responded by making a choice to surrender all negative thoughts to Him. I wanted God to mend my broken heart because I just didn’t know what to do anymore.
As I prayed and confess, I felt healing taking place in my heart. It was like He took my brokenness and exchanged it for peace and freedom I never had before. At that moment, I realised that I no longer needed achievements to define myself as God is the one who defines me. He has full control over my life.
This year I'm taking my O levels, and I know how easily I can get caught up in my studies. However, I wanted things to be different. I chose to take time off my studies just to build relationships with my friends and family. I also chose to honour God with my time, and made coming to church and lifegroup a priority despite my study commitments. I even attended fuel prayer meetings all the way through my O levels because I know prayer is important. As God took center place in my life, things started to change around me.
One example is about my relationship with my younger brother. Growing up, we hardly spoke. But this year, I intentionally asked him about his day at school and tried to start conversations. Our relationship is so much better now. In fact, he would even come up and initiate a conversation with me which would never happen in the past. During the recent Relationship Goals series, God further challenged me in my perspective of true friendship. I knew I did not just want to have surface level relationships. Instead of staring at my books; I chose to sit, listen and speak life into my friends as they shared their personal problems with me. I was shocked by some of the things they shared with me, but because I was there, I could lend a listening ear and share about God’s love. Because God loves His people, I know He had placed me in my class and school to love my friends.
Initially, I was afraid that my results would drop a lot because I was now choosing to build relationships instead. However, God is good and He has never failed me. During the Mid Year examinations, I topped the school and was even asked to be Unity Secondary’s Valedictorian at my graduation.
Now, going to school is no longer dreadful. I find school much more meaningful and enjoyable as I have a purpose. I realized I was created not to be on my own, but to be in deep relationships with others. I also learnt that comparison is the thief of joy. Since comparing didn’t make me happier, why should I bother entertaining those thoughts? It has been a real journey with God these past few years, and I know He is not done with me yet. I know that there is more that God wants to reveal to me, and I am excited to see what else my heavenly Father has in store for me.
"Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. - Romans 12:1-2"
God calls us to live differently, and not just the way the world does. As I recognised and responded to God, He started to bring out the best in me which impacted others too. I would like to encourage all my juniors out there with this: Don’t allow your results to determine your worth. Only God, the Creator of everything should have the final say in my worth. I now stand before all of you, choosing to be determined by who God says I am instead.