Faith

How Jesus Saved Me (Part 1)

I wish I could grow closer to God. But I don’t know where to begin, and I’m so afraid. So afraid of what I’ll learn, of what I might feel.

I’m so afraid to believe.

Because once I do, there’s no turning back. I can feel it in my soul, in the parts of me that are clouded in shadows of doubt and narcissism. Once he fills me, I know that’s the end of everything and the beginning of something I can’t even comprehend. And I’m so, so afraid of what will happen next.

This is what I wrote in my journal more than four years ago.

As I read this now, I am utterly amazed at how God never forgot me.

This is my testimony of how Jesus saved me.

***

December 25, 2003 was a bad day for us Wong children.

My 11-year-old self eagerly awaited the present my parents promised. It was sure to be something fabulous–would it be the latest Barbie doll? a Game Boy cartridge featuring 99 games? a giant stuffed toy?

SONY DSC

My childhood obsession: playing Pokémon and Harvest Moon all day. (Source)

My sister burst into tears first. She was clutching a kid’s Bible in her hands, her face red and nose runny. “Where’s my toy? I don’t want a stupid Bible, I want a toy!”

My brother was visibly unnerved, although he tried not to show it. I remember the two of us older siblings making fun of her. I was sure that my parents couldn’t have gotten me a boring Bible for a present–it was Christmas, after all!

Yet when I tore it open, I was dismayed to find a Bible “for teen girls” with a lilac hardcover. My brother had received a similar one too, but for boys.

It was a terrible present. And though I had assured whoever was listening that it wouldn’t bother me, it did. After 10 minutes of bravely pretending that I didn’t care, I gave up and launched into a full-blown tantrum, joining my sister’s ranks.

I remember that my exasperated parents, who probably hadn’t expected such a hostile reaction, eventually acquiesced: a few days later, they brought home giant stuffed toys for us.

To my 11-year-old self, Christmas was a day of presents for no reason, when Jesus’ birth was largely irrelevant after church service, and the Bible a boring old book with a bunch of laws.

For the next 10 years of my life, this was all there was to it.

***

As a child, I grew up in a “culturally Christian” family.

I was brought to church on Sundays, taught to clasp my hands together in prayer, and given a children’s Bible with pictures inside.

I remember the vivid colours of those illustrations: Adam and Eve clad in emerald green leaves, curiously listening to a hissing serpent curled on a branch. Noah in his wooden ark, arm outstretched to a white dove with an olive leaf. And Christ on the cross, crimson red blood sliding down his temple, as fingers pointed and mouths jeered.

I knew about God and the gospel, Christ and the cross, Satan and sin. I knew that God was my Creator who loved me so much that he sent his Son to die for the punishment I should’ve received for all the wrong that I did. I knew that because of this Christ, I should be “rejoicing” and telling everyone the “good news”.

I knew, but I didn’t understand.

For most of my childhood, I tried conjuring up in my mind a God I could direct my prayers to: an all-loving, white-bearded Father sitting atop a bejewelled throne, shrouded in soft clouds and surrounded by cherubic angels. I imagined him looking like King Triton in The Little Mermaid.

Instead of a king reigning under the seas, I pictured God as ruling above the heavens. (Source)

As for Jesus? I knew who he was and what he’d done–it was drummed into my head every Sunday morning. “Dear Jesus thank you for coming to earth and dying for my sins amen” became an oft-repeated ritualistic refrain that I halfheartedly whispered to myself. Jesus was a figure enshrined in history, a character imprinted in a holy book, a person unattainable and unknowable. I knew about him, but I didn’t have a relationship with him.

This essentially summed up my faith as a child.

***

Years later, I took down the dusty “teen girls” Bible from my shelf, opened it to its first page and found this.

“Dearest Wendy, Mummy and daddy have given a lot of thought on what to buy you this X’mas and decided if it’s a toy, it may be forgotten one day cos you’ll be tired of it. But God we never forget! Merry Christmas!”

Indeed, the stuffed toy was forgotten; it had been thrown out a long time ago. And despite what my mum had written, I did forget God–for many years.

But what I am amazed by is how after all this time, God never forgot me.

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