My Wrestling Matches With God On My Life Journey

Like Regina Brett in her book “God Never Blinks”, I sometimes felt that at the moment I was born, God must have blinked and thus missed the occasion, unaware of my birth at all. I felt like the poet who wrote that he was born on a day God called in sick.

Shortly after my birth almost 55 years ago in a very small town called Binatang (now known as Bintangor) in Sarawak, I was almost given away by my father to a childless couple in Sibu. I am the youngest in my family, with three older brothers and one sister. Before I was born my dad was hoping for another daughter. Overcome by disappointment, he decided to give me away without informing my mother. On the day the childless couple came to our house for me, my mother was shocked and steadfastly refused to give me away. Thanks mum!

I was born into a family with a Taoist background. Ancestor worship was the name of the game. Ancestor worship, also called ancestor veneration, is a ritual practice that is based on the belief that deceased family members have a continued existence, take an interest in the affairs of the world, and possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living. Rituals of ancestor worship most commonly consist of offerings to the deceased to provide for their welfare in the afterlife, who, in return, will bless the family.

My first conscious awareness of God started in St Augustine’s Primary School. During the six years that I spent at this school, the first seeds about Christianity were implanted in my mind. At the school, we had to say the Lord’s Prayer every morning. I can still remember the priests then: Father Warganer, Father Smith and Father Ngu. I looked up to them as fatherly figures though I was petrified of Father Warganer who could stir up fear just by staring at you intently. I heard rumours that he had sixth sense and could see ghosts and evil spirits.

Father Warganer is the second from the left in the front row and Father Smith is the last person from the left in the last row.

The St Augustine church was located across the road from the school. I remember playing near the church but I never attended any of its church service.

Being exposed to Christian ideology and values at such a young age, I have come to accept the existence of God. But probably because of my family background, I never pursued the idea of becoming a Christian until I was about 45. Indeed, I have the feeling that my father would not have given his blessing if I were to tell him that I wanted to become a Christian when I was in primary school.

During my secondary school at Kai Chung Middle School, I chose Bible Knowledge over Arts. I have never been good at Arts so it was an easy choice for me. It was Madam Lai who taught me Bible and we studied St Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. She was a very good teacher and for the second time in my life, I got exposed to the Bible.

During my Form Six at Kolej Tun Datu Tuanku Haji Bujang in Miri, I began to question the existence of God. I was an avid reader then and got influenced by books such as “Chariots of the Gods” by Erich Von Daniken. ”Chariots of the Gods” involves the hypothesis that the technologies and religions of many ancient civilizations were given to them by ancient astronauts who were welcomed as gods. Preposterous as the hypothesis may seem now, I devoured those ideas and sometimes even argued with my Christian friends.

Chariots of the Gods

Adding fuel to my diminishing faith was the condescending attitudes of my some of friends at the college. With a holier-than-thou attitude, they often acted as if they were a privileged group and non-believers were doomed and would be condemned to hell. I remember an occasion when a magician came to perform at our college. I went to see the performance though some of my Christians tried to dissuade me from going, saying that the magician was doing things through the power of Satan. I snickered at them, telling them that they had been brainwashed.

Life at Kolej Tun Datu Tuanku Haji Bujang was fun. It was the first time I had ever stayed in a boarding school.  How can I ever forget the midnight shows and the one-hour walks back to the college after the shows, the ragging of the lower six students, the April Fool pranks (some naughty boys under cover of the dark at night raided the clothes lines where the female students hanged their laundry and stole their panties for decorating the window panes of the refectory) , and the good times at the Taman Selera beach and Hick’s Bay? And how we laughed during recess in the refectory where Gemuk and Makcik used to sell their foodstuff and tidbits! Makcik’s  packaged mee goreng often sold out fast so latecomers would often hear her shouting “No more,penis!” when she actually meant to say “No more, finish!”.

That was me having fun at Hick's Bay during myKolej Bujang days.

My bed in Tiong Hostel during my Upper Six at Kolej Bujang (the guitar was for show only...I did not even know any musical chords)... the kerosene lamp under my bed was for burning midnight oil when necessary

After my Form Six, I returned to my hometown Binatang. I cannot remember exactly when my family moved from Binatang to Kuching but I believe it was in early 1977. During this interim period when I was in Binatang, I visited Sarikei once and met up with Robert Foong. Robert was the headboy at Kolej Tun Datu Tuanku Haji Bujang and someone whom I respect. It was on a Sunday and I obliged when Robert encouraged me to join him at the Catholic Church service. As this was the first time I had ever attended a church service, I felt uncomfortable and rather ill at ease. I admit that it was a great relief when the service finally ended.

In December 1977, I left Kuching for Canada to further my studies. It was in the midst of winter when I arrived in Toronto with a group of students from Sarawak. Glancing out of the plane’s window, I saw real snow for the first time in my life. It was an exhilarating experience for me. We stayed at YMCA for a couple of days as we had not found our accommodation yet. That was the first time I have ever stayed in a Christian-run “hotel”. The room was clean, warm, inexpensive and safe. But we were in for a bit of culture shock when it was time for taking our bathes. We had to use a common shower room with one whole row of showers. We showered in our underwear while the Caucasians all seemed pretty comfortable bathing in their birthday suits.

The winter clothing and accessories I had bought in Singapore proved to be inadequate for the frigid Canadian winter. As I went hunting for a room with a friend from Miri, I could feel the extreme cold biting my toes and fingers though I was wearing winter boots and winter gloves. Fearing the onset of frostbites, I had to keep on stamping my feet to keep my blood circulation moving. And from time to time, I had to take off my hand gloves to suck my fingers. That was how bad it was! I prayed to God for protection and to let us find a suitable room soonest as we did not want to go room hunting again in this sort of extreme temperature. Fortunately we managed to find a basement flat with a bathroom and a kitchenette at an affordable rent that day. It became our home for the next three months or so.

Living in that basement flat during winter is an experience that I will always remember. I did not know whether it was night or day as it was always dark inside the flat unless the light was on. To access the flat, I had to walk through a narrow passageway between two houses to get to the back of the house where I was staying. Then I had to descend a stairway to reach the door that opened into the flat. Snow often covered the stairway and the back of the house. I had my first experience of building a snowman at the back of the house. It was a cosy place and the landlord and his family were nice people who helped to clean our flat and did our laundry. God’s grace had led us to this wonderful family.

Photo taken in winter on the street in front of the house (in Toront) where I stayed

Photo taken in front of the house (in Toronto) where I stayed

Shovelling snow at the back of the house

I spent a semester at Grade 13 at Cosmopolitan College in Toronto, taking Economics, English, English Literature and Mathematics.  With my excellent results for that semester, I was able to gain admission into St Mary’s University in Halifax where I spent a summer semester. My Economics teacher Mr Al Kussin tried to discourage me from leaving, saying that if I were to complete Grade 13, I could easily gain admission into the top universities with my academic results. I told him that it did not matter as all the Canadian Bachelor of Commerce degrees at that time were not recognized by the Malaysian government. He was an excellent Economics teacher and I often suspect that had something to do with his Jewish roots.

The short summer that I spent in Halifax was one of the happiest periods of my life. Quite a number of my ex-classmates and schoolmates were studying in Halifax so we had a lot of companionship. About 8 or 9 of us shared a two-bedroom apartment sub-rented from some Hongkong students who had gone back to Hongkong for the summer holidays. We turned the apartment upside down. There were frequent mahjong sessions but I never joined in these mahjong sessions. I am glad that I have not taken up mahjong as it would invariably lead to picking up gambling. Thank God for that! By the time the Hongkong students came back from their holiday, I was already in Montreal but I heard from my friends that they were furious with the state of their apartment.

A photo of me taken at St Mary's University in Halifax, Canada

We went fishing on the sea beach quite frequently though we did not have the licence (compulsory in Canada) to do so. That was how naughty we were. The fishes we caught really helped to cut down our grocery bills during those summer months.

Towards the end of the summer semester, I found out from a friend that Concordia University’s Bachelor of Commerce was a three-year programme compared to the four-year programme at St Mary’s. I applied for transfer to Concordia and was accepted.

So in July 1978, I ended up at the Sir George Williams Campus of Concordia University situated right in the city of Montreal. It was in Montreal that I got to know Dominic Ha and his wife Catherine Lo really well, ending up sharing a small two-bedroom flat with them. Both Dominic and Catherine are also Bintangkians (sons of Binatang) so there was a common bond between us. Dominic was one year my senior at Kai Chung and was the classmate of my brother Chin Sien. I always feel indebted to Catherine for cooking great food for us in those days.

Photo of Dominic Ha and me taken during Dominic's graduation convocation at Concordia University in Montreal

Photo of me taken in the sitting room of the apartment that I shared with my friend Dominic Ha & his wife Catherine Lo

After Dominc graduated and returned to Malaysia with Catherine, I first moved to a room in an old house near to my campus. Staying in that house was a big test for my nerves and patience. Two old Caucasian men and a Vietnamese youth were the other occupants of the house. The Vietnamese youth kept pretty much to himself and I hardly saw him. The two old men were probably in the late 60s or early 70s and were often intoxicated. One of the old men lived downstairs and was the caretaker. He would sometimes come knocking on my door in an intoxicated stupor and then rambled on and on. The other old man stayed in a room next to mine and he was the one who gave me a lot of problems. We shared a common refrigerator and I would often come home to find my foodstuff missing from the fridge. He too would sometimes knocked on my door and talked a lot of rubbish in his drunken state. I admit that I was pretty exasperated with the two old men during those days. They not only stole my food but also distracted me from my studies. But looking back now, I feel sorry for the two old men. Though they had children, they stayed alone and lived a lonely life. I guess that was probably the reason why liquor offered an escape from their desolation.

In my rented room in the old house in Montreal, Canada

Because I found the room not conducive to my studies, I moved from that house to a small one room flat in a newer house a few blocks away. Here I was able to live peacefully without any disturbances. By this time, I had become close friends with Cheong Nai Huat, a Malaysian guy from Johor Bahru, and Nguyen Lan, a Vietnamese girl.  They became my closest friends in Montreal. Studying in the library of Concordia University was not ideal as some of our course mates often seeked us to help them in their assignments,  making us lose concentration in our studies. Lan and I often went to the library of the nearby McGill University to study so that no one would distract us from our studies. This inevitably led many of my friends to think that Lan and I were an item. Lan was a smart and nice girl but I just treated her as a very close friend only. She was a Canadian PR at that time so she could work during the summer holidays. She treated me to very nice liquor cookies and coffee at a cafe near our university campus on a  few occasions.  Her friendship brought a lot of joy into my life during my Montreal days.

Taken in my one-room flat in Montreal, Canada

During one summer holidays, I went to Chinatown one evening to attend a double show where I paid only one ticket to see two Chinese movies. The movies ended at about 10.30pm and to my dismay, there was no more bus service in the area near the Chinese cinema at that time of the night. I had to walk more than a kilometre along a darkened street to reach a main road where I could get on a streetcar.  It was a most frightening experience as my mind started conjuring images of meeting some racist yobs. I kept on looking behind me to make sure that no one was following me. As I walked with a flustered heart, I quietly prayed to God to protect me from any harm. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I finally boarded the streetcar. That was the first and the last time I ever went to that Chinese cinema at night.

It was at Concordia that I befriended a Singaporean by the name of William Foo. A few months into our friendship, he invited me to join his church group for a picnic. I went and had a good time with them. It was not long after that picnic that William invited me to their church service. To this day, I can remember the church service which was conducted in Mandarin. I was probably the only one at the service who had not accepted Christ as the rest of them seemed to know each other very well. As the service winded down to its final minutes, the pastor in a booming voice urged any non-believer to go to the front of the church to accept Christ, warning that they would otherwise be condemned to burn in hell forever. A few looked in my direction but I refused to go up and accept Christ. The pastor’s final threats and his tone had greatly alienated me and there was no way I would accede to his request.

Picnic with William Foo and his church members

From that point on, I wandered in a spiritual wilderness. For many years, I wrestled with God. In between matches, I appeared faithful and tried hard to be good but could never be good enough. I just did not seem to have the strength to ward off temptations of our secular world.

I often walked past an old church when I was in Montreal.  The church looked so imposing to me but I never entered it despite being drawn by it. Looking back now, I wish I had done so. I did have a few photos taken in front of the church.

A photo of me taken in front of the old church in Montreal during winter

I graduated, returned to Sarawak, worked for a few companies, got married and had two sons, started my own business, experienced the collapse of my business, saw myself drowning in a mountain of debts, and pictured myself as the black sheep of the family. I felt so ashamed of myself that I did not even have the courage to call my mother in Kuching for ages on end for I felt like the biblical prodigal son!

Looking at my business experience, I realized that Christians are not infallible. Two companies that owed me quite a big sum were owned by Christian partners. Trying to collect from them was like playing a game of finger pointing. Each partner tried to push responsibility to the other partners. To make matters worse, I found out that one of the companies with three supposedly “devout” Christian partners was registered with the names of the relatives of the three partners. These relatives lived in some rural parts of Sarawak and it would be futile to take seek legal action. I believe from the day that company was registered, there was already the intention to defraud. If not, why didn’t the partners use their own names in the registration of the partnership?

My business failure plunged me into an abyss of despair. I felt like I had stepped into a pool of quicksand into which I was beginning to sink. Staring into the abyss at the giant step it would take me to pay off my debts, the future overwhelmed and frightened me. Many friends whom I thought I could count on revealed their true colours and started avoiding me. But a few friends stuck around with me and I will always be indebted to these friends. I am not going to name them for they know who they are. The most important persons in my life stood by me through thick and thin. God has blessed with the most wonderful wife, two amazing sons, my loving mum, supportive brothers and sister.  My heartfelt thanks to you all!

It was during these harrowing years that I started turning to God with prayers asking for his forgiveness and grace. I could still say the Lord’s Prayer and it became my opening prayer to God each time I turned to Him. But deep down, I did not feel worthy of God’s love for I only turned to Him when times were bad.

After the collapse of my business, I went back to work as an accountant for a timber company through the recommendation of Wong Kiing Kee, an ex-classmate of mine from my Kolej Tun Datu Tuanku Haji Bujang days. But with all my mounting commitments, it was difficult to make ends meet.

To this day, I can still recall the day when I came to the office one morning and saw the front page news of a friend of mine who had committed suicide by jumping into the sea at the long jetty in Miri. I had known about the financial problem my friend was facing but I did not realize it was so serious that it would drive him to such despair. On entering my room, I locked the door and tears just welled up in my eyes. I could empathise with my friend and understand the hopelessness he must had felt. The saying that the healthy does not understand the sufferings of the sick and the rich does not understand the sufferings of the poor may sound clichéd but I feel it is so true. Someone once said that a person can last many days without food, a couple of days without water, a couple of minutes without air but once hopelessness takes grip of that person, death could be instant. That fateful morning, with tears in my eyes, I prayed to God to give me strength to go on so that I would not succumb to hopelessness like my friend. I was truly a broken man!

Hopelessness

I stayed with the timber company for about two years and finally, out of sheer desperation, I started buying the Borneo Bulletin to scour for vacancies in Brunei. After sending out a few applications, I received a call from Stephen Ong of Teck Guan Group in Bandar Seri Begawan. He had a brief phone interview with me and then he asked for my fax number where he could send a financial report for my analysis and report. I did an in-depth analysis and faxed my report back to Stephen. In the meantime, I prayed fervently to God to bless me by letting me get the job.

Stephen called me back the following day, telling me that I had done an impressive report. He asked me to go to Bandar Seri Begawan for an interview. God answered my prayers and the rest is history.

I went to work as the accounts manager for Teck Guan Group in Brunei. That was the first time I had left my family to work in a place away from home. I was so reluctant to go as my two sons were still young then. I can still remember the day that I left my house to report for duty in Brunei. It was such a harrowing experience. Tears just filled my eyes as I drove my car and I had to stop from time to time to wipe away the tears so that I could see clearly. It has often been said that a lot of people turn to God only when things are going wrong. And I would be the first one to admit that I am guilty of that. As I continued on my journey to Brunei, I prayed to God for his mercy and to watch over my family.

I had been working in Bandar Seri Begawan for several months when Gary Loveland, an expat friend working in Kuala Belait, asked me to meet him outside St Andrew’s Church in Bandar Seri Begawan to pass some health supplements to him. Gary was scheduled to play guitar at a function in St Andrew’s Church that night. The sky was overcast with foreboding black clouds and a strong wind was blowing, sending leaves skittering across the road as if hurrying them home before the storm broke. A storm was going to hit the town at any time. It was not the best time to be out on a night like this. As I was waiting for Gary to show up, I could hear music emanating from within the blue-coloured church. The music was soothing and standing outside the church, I felt so at home though at that point in time, I had never entered the church before. God was seemingly inviting me to enter his home but somehow I resisted. Maybe the sinner in me felt I was unworthy to enter the church.

The old St Andrew Church in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

In Brunei, I had the privilege to work under a Christian boss. Stephen Ong hails from a very well-established Chinese family known for their philanthropic and Christian work. He encouraged me to make place for God in my life. During Easter in 2002, I attended St Andrew Church’s Easter service upon the invitation of Stephen. The key speaker was a Singaporean pastor who was also from a family with a Taoist background. I could relate so well to the things he was sharing.  Without being pushy, he gently invited those who were ready to accept Christ to go to the front. He never made any threat that a non-believer would burn in hell forever. Without any hesitation, I made my way to the front. That night, quite a number of non-believers accepted Christ as their Saviour.

From then on, on those Sundays when I did not go back to Miri, I attended the second service at St Andrew Church. This service was a bit more charismatic and it suited me.

On a rainy night on May 4 2002, I was baptized by immersion in a swimming pool by Vicar Solomon Cheong. My boss Stephen acted as my godfather at the baptism. Getting baptized in an outdoor swimming pool of a rich person’s house perched on a small hill on a rainy night with occasional thunder roars and lightning flashes is an experience that I will always remember.

My baptism in the swimming pool

 

Post baptism photo taken with Stephern Ong (first from the left), Reverend Solomon Cheong (third from left) and Archdeacon Johnny Chin (fourth from the left)

Shortly after my baptism, I started attending Bible study with a care group of the church. The group consisted of many elders of the church, people who had accepted Christ since they were very young. For a ‘newbie’ like me, I initially felt intimidated but the care group slowly allayed my fear. I started to open up and would sometimes posed questions to the care group on issues that I was struggling with. I would like to put on records my sincere thanks to all the members of the group: Stephen Ong, Dato Sherlock Chin, Dato Anthony Chin, Dato Paduka Timothy Ong, Dr Adrian Panggabean and his wife, Victor Ho, Mr & Mrs Lee Chow Seng, Stephen Tan, Kimmy On,  and several others whose names I cannot recall now (please excuse me for that).

In the office, my boss and a few friends also started the fortnightly CBMC meetings aimed at business people. I also became a regular participant in these meetings where we covered issues affecting Christians in the work place and in the business community.

On a couple of occasions when I happened to be in Singapore on business trips, I attended Sunday service at Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) and City Harvest. I enjoyed the sermons by Apostle Kong of FCBC and Pastor Kong Hee of City Harvest as well as the atmosphere at these churches. I also bought some of their CDs featuring their sermons. The current ongoing scandal surrounding Kong Hee and City Harvest comes as a great shock to me. It just proves once again that Christians are not infallible.

I was still struggling with paying off debts arising from my business failure when one day my wife called me from Miri. She was walking home from her office when someone on a motorcycle snatched her handbag. Her handbag straps broke and the snatcher speeded away with the handbag containing quite a big sum of money meant for paying off some of our commitments. It was fortunate that the handbag straps broke or else my wife could have been dragged some distance and sustained fatal or serious injuries. She experienced pain for weeks on the shoulder on which she had been carrying her handbag. When I received the news, I was stunned but was relieved that my wife’s injury was not serious. Overcome by a sense of remorse for not being in Miri and for getting myself into the financial mess that I was in, I just broke down and cried out to God for mercy. It was the first time in my life that I had cried with such a contrite heart to God. It was truly the cry of a broken man. And surprisingly, after recovering from my breakdown, I felt so much better.

Towards the second half of 2007, I began to experience stressful eyesight. And one day, I woke up to find that my right eye vision was slightly distorted. I was panic-stricken, jumping to conclusion that it might be the onset of glaucoma that could lead to blindness. My kind boss arranged for me to see an eye specialist at RIPAS Hospital in Bandar Seri Begawan. It was diagnosed that a small blood clot from a bleeding nerve had caused my vision distortion. The specialist told me that my vision would return to normal after a few weeks. It did. But my eyesight continued to get more stressful. It was a challenge to work long hours on my computers. I often felt so frustrated that I felt like screaming and smashing the computer screen with my fist. My work productivity nosedived and I decided that it was high time for me to resign in order to be fair to my boss.

In December 2007, I went to Kuala Lumpur for cataract operations on both eyes. It was a fearful experience for me as any mishap during the operations could have serious consequences. Just before the operation began, I prayed to God for a safe operation. I was also comforted by the knowledge that my Bible study groups in Brunei were praying for me too. Everything went smoothly. There was no pain during the operation, just a fair amount of discomfort.

That was me resting in my hotel after the operations.

A month after my operations, I left Brunei and returned to Miri and spent the next couple of years resting and doing a part-time business selling stamps, coins and currency notes on Ebay. My stint with Ebay was a very good experience, enabling me to achieve Powerseller and Top Rated Seller status. It also sparked my interest in online endeavours, leading to me eventually taking up blogging.

In Miri, I stopped going to church except for the few occasions when my friend Victor Ho accompanied me to try out a few churches. Victor has gone back to work in Brunei so I have also stopped going to church. I have been telling myself that I can pray to God on my own without needing to associate myself with any particular church. I know I am just finding excuses for the Bible has made it very clear: Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV)

Over the past twenty years or so, several Christian friends have shared their faith with me, encouraging me on my spiritual journey. Apart from my Christian friends in Brunei, one person stands out. John Wong is my college mate at Kolej Tun Dato Tuanku Haji Bujang but we were just mere acquaintances then.  It was many years later when I was doing business in Miri that we became close friends. John is a friend in the truest sense of the word, helping me out on numerous occasions when the going got tough for me. His integrity is beyond reproach. I respect him greatly for walking the talk and for his willingness to enlighten me on issues that I was struggling with. I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to him.

Lately, I have often pondered on the meaning of life. What is my purpose in life? And the more I ponder, the more I realise that my present life is becoming a bit empty. I have a good job now and a happy family. Yet when I am in solitude, I question myself about the directions my life is heading towards. I feel that I have taken life for granted for too long. I hardly exercise and drinking more than a cup of plain water a day is an occurrence that happens once in a blue moon. Am I setting myself up for a health and spiritual crisis? But the worst of all is that I have allowed myself to stray from my faith. I seem to have forgotten God when times are good. There seems to be a huge stumbling block that I keep tripping over. I know I have truly become a backslider. It is starting to bother me.

“Backsliding” is the severance of the soul from God. It is reverting to sin or wrong doing and to lapse morally or in the practice of religion. It is the spiritual condition characterized by broken fellowship with his Savior. In its most basic term, it means that “your life is sliding away.” Life is not of the flesh, but of the Spirit. A backslider is thus one who has lost his spiritual life. Backsliding can start off with your faith intact and gradually progress to total defilement of your heart and conscience.

Backsliding

Jeremiah defines backsliding as sinning against God. “For our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee” (Jeremiah 14:7). It means that the heart has turned away from God. “And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel” (I Kings 11:9). It is rejecting God. “Thou has forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward…” (Jeremiah 15:6). It is forsaking God. “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and a bitter, that thou hast forsaken Jehovah thy God, and that my fear is not in thee” (Jeremiah 2:19). It is a turning away from one’s righteousness. “When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die” (Ezekiel 3:20). These scriptures and many others show that it is possible for a soul that has once known God to turn away from him, to sin against him, and to be cut off from him, to lose what spiritual life he had once had, and to become an outcast from the holy God. And I have become such a person.

I know in God’s graciousness and mercy, He promises restored fellowship and spiritual blessings to repentant backsliders.

Jeremiah 3:22 “Return, ye backsliding children and I will heal your backsliding. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God.”

The Lord of Hosts said, “I will heal their backsliding, will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4).

Lord, I know You are not looking for perfection in me. You understand that I am human, and prone to worldly ways. I also know You are a merciful, all loving, forgiving God, and would receive me back into the fold. But please help me to be fully aware, that leaving You behind, would mean replacing You with something else that would be to my disadvantage, and that I could be left with wounds and scars from the world, that may take a long time to heal, and that I may have to carry some awful consequence if I choose a backsliding life.

What would it take to truly believe in my core that God really loves me? I know it is time for me to reassess my life and take steps to move in the direction that God wants me to.  It is time for me to start reading the Bible again. It is time to dig out the book “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren and read it till the end. It is time for me to work on strengthening my faith. It is time for me to ask for forgiveness from God for my wavering faith and sins. It is time for me to put right the wrongs in my life. It is time for me to put a stop to my backsliding. It is time for me to really reach out to God.

I am now ready for change. I am ready for some mentor to come into my life and guide me on my spiritual journey. It has been said that when the student is ready, the master will appear.

For about two decades, I carried a grudge against one of my ex-secondary school classmates. I felt totally justified and was utterly convinced I had the right to express openly this anger against what I believed was my classmate’s betrayal and stabbing me in my back. About half a year or so before my business collapsed, I found out that my trusted delivery boy had been stealing a lot of items from my store and selling them to an ex-classmate of mine whom I had treated as a very close friend since my secondary school days. It hit me badly. But I did not report to the police because my delivery boy pleaded with me not to do so as his wife was pregnant and it would incur a great deal of hardship on his family if he was incarcerated. He was also the nephew of a friend of mine. Moreover, though anger and hurt smouldered inside me, I did not want my ex-classmate to be arrested and to go through a court trial. I was entrapped by a deep unforgiving feeling that gnawed at the bones of my happiness. It was only recently through the encouragement and advice of my newfound mentor that I really forgave my ex-classmate. I wrote an email to my ex-classmate telling him that I have forgiven him and we have since then renewed our friendship and left the past where it rightfully belonged. Forgiveness is letting someone out of prison and finding out that person is me. Forgiveness is the key that can unshackle us from a past that will not rest in the grave of things over and done with. Forgiveness simply helps you to let go of that negative baggage and makes a place for all the positive things you wish to have. It’s not at all a sign of weakness but a mark of strength. Forgiving another human being allows you to unfetter an emotional ball and chain that you’ve been dragging around for all too long a time. Forgiveness has the power to heal, to break a seemingly unending cycle of pain. It makes me understand God’s grace.

Forgive

I now realize that the collapse of my business heralded the beginning of a new life for me. Everything before that fell on the other side of the timeline of my life: BC (Before Collapse of my business). Trials and tribulations like business failure and financial distress either make you hopeless or make you stronger. I know my life after BC has changed a lot: I have become more humble, I have a lot of compassion for others, I really treasure family and friendship, I have become stronger. My compassion for the less-fortunate has moved me to sponsor a few kids through World Vision and Asian Aid. I know for a fact that if I have been successful in my business, I would have become a person whom I would not like to become. I now shudder at the thoughts of the nights that I had spent entertaining clients and suppliers at pubs and bars into the wee hours, the unsavoury practices needed to clinch businesses, and the cut-throat tactics needed to outmanoeuvre the competitors.

My wrestling matches with God have ended. God won. I was pinned for good. Pinned by God’s love and grace.

God loves me because it is God’s nature to love. God loves me because of who God is. Not because of who I was.

Lord, thank you for sending the master.  Give me strength and wisdom as I continue my spiritual journey. Give me strength to fight off temptations. Give me the courage and integrity to make right the wrongs that I have committed. Amen!

11 comments

  1. Hi Chin Yong.
    I really enjoyed reading through your story. i was almost in tears and my throat was choked because I could related to what it was written in your blog. I had a similar life story like yours but I found GOD who guides and protects me through my spiritual journey. I used to be so tensed, doesn’t forgive easily, think too much until I couldn’t sleep at night and get agitated over minor things. But now I have changed so much due to GOD. It’s ore for the betterment of myself, not doing it for others. It’s my own spiritual journey, not theirs. I learnt now how to forgive my past, the people around me and everything….forgive them sincerely but that doesn’t meant I have to embrace them into my life again because they are negative people. Just greet whenever we cross paths, that’s all. At least I felt much lighter and happier now. Our purpose in life is not just eat, sleep an d be merry. What is our purpose in life? Why are we on earth? Ever wonder why? A lot of people don’t know. I have found an answer to that. We are here on earth to seek our inner self, that’s our inner spirit. Our inner spirit is our real self…..we are not this body. We n red to get b ack to our basics…Always remember, GOD doesn’t bow down to us. Humans only find GOD when they are in need of HIM desperately or in grief but when things get back to better situation, they forsake GOD once again. We have to seek GOD with much devotion and dedication, place HIM priority in our life, then everything will fall into place according to his plan, not to our expectation. When you don’t expect anything, you won’t feel so disappointed in life. Just follow the flow of nature, and not against it. Sometimes when things didn’t work out no mater how much effort you put in, that means GOD has another plan better plan for you. I know and have experienced this. We feel so blessed HE is always there for us. GOD does not need anything from us exempt praising HIM in Hymns with our sincere hearts to sing. My hubby (used to be a corporate man in MNC) and I are so much happier people after we found GOD, and GOD has so far never fail to take care and guide us in our life journey. Physical assets are meant nothing and they are just temporary happiness. Happiness and bliss are two different meanings. Happiness is something that you are happy over a period of time and it wears off, then your sorrow begins again. Bliss is something that you find permanent in your inner self which is forever…eternal. Once you find joy, peace a nd bliss in your life, nothing else matters. Everything surrounding us is just an illusion and everyday life’s drama. We must know how to play the game. Whatever we humans’ doing in life without GOD, it is actually our RGO and SUPEREGO act on us to do things which we end up so miserable. Since we know they are the ones who make us miserable, why let them (EGO AND SUPEREGO) do it? Four Years ago, I found GOD. I learnt to be detached and witness to my surroundings. I am in bliss, peace and joyful now than I was in my early youthful years. Last but not least, don’t let your mind play tricks on you but instead follow the voice in your heart….We do not own anything in life except our spiritual self, our INNER SPIRIT which lives forever longer than any living things….

    By the way, my hubby and I were also from Cosmopolitan College. I was there in the same year as you were. Probably we didn’t cross paths then….

    Cheers,
    Diana Chin 2012.

  2. My apology if I make typo errors…hopefully you can read what I have written in there..

  3. Bravo! Praise the Lord! What a labour of love for our Abba Father who, I am sure, is well pleased with your testimony. He will never abandon His children and He will always go all out to search for the lost sheep among us. Let’s continue to grow spiritually with the help of His Holy Spirit who indwells in us all.

  4. Hi Chin Yong,
    Very touching indeed. I suppose it is a real chicken soup for the soul. Thanks God for His unselfish love for all of us. Have u ever tried giving testimony or something like tat ? Have faith in God.

    Ms Yii with love n regards always.

  5. Thank you John for your inspiring comments. And a very big thank you for being such a true friend all these years! I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart!

  6. Thank you very much, Ms Yii. I have never given any testimony in public as I have a fear of public speaking.

    It is my privilege to have you as my Form 1 form teacher. Thank you for being an inspiring teacher!

  7. I don’t know how I stumbled on to your story but being a Christian myself in Dallas, Texas, I found that it drew me in more and more to see how someone else’s life was being played out before God. The word disparity seems so hopeless but as Christians we always have Him to rejoice in and with. Please continue to spread yours and His word to every corner of the earth for when you have completed your journey, He will say, “Well done, my faithful servant”

  8. Hi Lim

    Just came across your blog, when Adrian forwarded your link to me and your other former CG members this morning. Praise God that He has given you the gift of writing well with warmth, humour and honesty which testifies of His hand in your Life's Journey. I am privileged to be part of it. I am sure your blog will be a source of encouragement and help to your friends, and those who read your article. God weaves His Purposes into our Lives, inspite of our Wanderings and Rebelliouness.

    Give my warm regards to Jenny, and your sons Clarence and Leslie.

    • Thank you Mr Ong for yopur comments. It was truly my privilege to be able to serve under you and your family during my ten-year stint with your family business. I learned a lot from you and your brother Tim but the most important is that you were the one to bring the Lord into my life. I will always cherish the happy time that I had in Brunei, especially my wonderful colleagues and CG members.  May God continue to bless you and your family members as well as your family business.

  9. Chin Yong, what a wonderful testimony of God’s grace on your life. So blessed to read this. Indeed He is faithful. May you continue to love Him and you and your family continue be a blessing.

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