Our family have been attending church quite regularly since April and it is a feat for E and myself, considering how we went to church twice last year. For the first time in my life, I have started reading the bible(book of Mark) because we are attending a Christianity Explored course. It is quite different to read the bible as a book rather than to just mediate on a few bible verses that I googled off the internet.
Over the years, my parents have constantly reminded me to attend church and give thanks to God for my life, considering how God has always been faithful to me and my family. Attending a church regularly has always been a struggle for me ever since I stopped attending Sunday School. While I tried to remember my prayers and quiet time, I did not actually like going to church because I felt sleepy(often had late Saturday nights) and stifled during sermons.
It was not always like this. I remembered enjoying going to Sunday School in my primary school days. There would always be a white church van to fetch children, including me and my brothers to church. The rides were long as there were a number of children to be picked up. As I suffer from motion sickness, I always felt sick by the time we reached church. Sunday school, on the other hand, was fun. There were children of my age and they were all nice and caring. The Sunday school teachers shared bible stories and learning points in an interesting way. One of my teachers, Ai Keng always could explain bible stories very well with her drawings on the white board. Church was small, occupying one level of an old building. Everyone was very nice and my two of my uncles were actively involved in church as well. My first bible was a faux blue leather bound bible given by Uncle Amos and many of my favourite verses were underlined and highlighted with colourful pens. Those were the days when I thought I would eventually grow up to be a Sunday school teacher.
As life have taught me, what I imagined when I was younger versus current reality is usually vastly different.(E.g. I always thought that being an adult was better than being a child/student. I was so wrong.) As I grew older, I gradually stopped attending church, citing school work as excuse. The thing is that once you stop doing anything for an extended period of time, the inertia to change increases. It was during my secondary school days when I realised that some of my Christian friends could speak in tongues, something that I could not and still cannot. As a kid, I felt rejected for many reasons and just decided to stop the whole “church” thing, as I did not want to be judged by other’s standards.
While I stopped church entirely, my relationship with God continued(in my tems). This is especially so during my A level years when I was very worried about my studies.The only comfort I could find was through prayer and meditating on bible verses. I have to say God has been very faithful to me, my life and my family. Fact, I am not very smart. Whatever a normal person can do easily, I need to work twice as hard to get the same results. Hence, whatever that I have now, it is a blessing. Despite all these, I felt no urgent need to go to church. During my university days, I had a group of friends who are “semi-Christians” or “backsliders Christians” or something along those lines. We met quite frequently for suppers and sometimes, we do talk about God. I rationalised that it quite fitted my personal meaning of a church, which is a group of Christians, gathering to talk about God. Often, I questioned the need of a church. Someone told me that a Christian alone is like a lighted candle in the wind; it could be snuffed out easily. A church is like a huge fire in the wind; it was stronger, burning brighter. I scoffed and disregarded that analogy. I felt strong enough as a Christian. Anyways, I thought if I was down and needed comfort, all I needed was to google “bible verses for comfort” or “bible verses for strength”. I did not need a pastor to preach to me when I could read off the internet. It was the same. No?
After the passing of my grandparents, my mother made me and my sister attend Sunday service with her. It was okay. It was more to accompany my mother. It wasn’t long before I stopped again as I got married. E was not a believer but he was open to understanding Christianity. Still, church was not in our plans we often had too many things going on for weekends. I started questioning Christianity and God(so much for thinking that I was a strong Christian a while back!). I wondered if all I had was due to the Secret, which is some new age thinking that a positive thinking was all that was needed to get what I needed or wanted in health, material wealth and happiness. That was the first time I started questioning the existence of God. Could religion be something made up by Man? Could we not just subscribe to just proper moral conducts to lead our lives, like not to steal, rob, murder….you know, the usual. I stopped blogging that God was good in my blog. Instead, I blogged, life was good! I did not want to give credit to God because I thought it was hypocritical of me to type that if my heart did not think of God anymore.
I did talk to Christians friends but I was no longer convinced. Outwardly, I said I was thankful to God but I kept doubting everything as I read how people are fighting so much because of religions. How could a loving God allow these to happen? Why is Christianity such an exclusive religion? Why can’t good people go to heaven? There were so many questions in my head and there were no one I could go to and I was not convinced by what I read in the internet.
Last year, my brother and my cousins got baptised. I went for the service and I was very moved listening to the testimonies. My heart was bursting with joy to know that brother and my cousins found refuge in God. I thought maybe I should give church another go. We tried attending Sunday school twice with the kids but it did not work. The children were screaming and crying. We were very stressed out and embarrassed. E and I thought that we should try attending church only when Ryan and Gillian were older, toilet trained and not crying.
Life with its twists and turns, we ended up in London last December. One day, during lunch time with E and the children, we found ourselves walking into a church to enquire about service timings. We ended up going church, with the children in Sunday school. We only started the sermons a two months ago when we felt more confident leaving in children with the carers. It is a different experience to attend church as a family. Even more so when Ryan proclaims to me that he likes attending Sunday school, he starts singing bible songs unknowingly and Gillian becoming well-adjusted to Sunday school routine.
For years, I wondered why did God not reach out to me like He did for so many other people. I could not speak in tongues. I did not feel any Holy Spirit. I could not pray as well as others(okay, let’s not go into how simple and boring my prayers are). All I could think of was how much lesser I felt when I was next to another fellow Christian. How could I have such un-Christian-like thoughts? I started off from child who wanted to be a Sunday school teacher. I ended up as someone who did not dare to tell another person that I believed in Christ. I was worried that I would give someone a bad impression of Christianity. Trust me, I am very, very, very far away from what I think a Christian should be.
Attending the sermons and being more serious in learning more about God and what Jesus has done for me have made me change certain views. Just a few weeks ago, we ended our 8 weeks of Christianity Explored course. It was really informative and somehow through the course, I thought God did answer some of my questions. There were a few versus that struck a cord in me. One of them was about on the Parable of the Sower and our discussion leader asked us on what type of soil we thought we were as Christians. Were we like fertile soil, soaking in the Word or God or were we the hard rocky ground, refusing to listen to the Word? I am definitely much more like the latter. Throughout the years, I gave up Christianity very easily. At a whim most of the time. At some point in time, I actually even questioned if God and Jesus were real! (Somehow, I naively thought that if there was no God, it would make my living much easier. I was no accountable to anyone and I hated having some nagging feeling in my head and heart all the time!) But looking back, I realised that God has never given up on me, constantly throwing the seeds of faith on me. He believed in me. Somehow. Even when I questioned about Him.
I am thankful to God for opening E and my’s heart to accepting Him into our lives. Somehow I have finally gone past my worry of being compared lowly to the fellow Christian in church. Because of Jesus, sinners who believe are saved. Slowly, we can see subtle changes in our lives. The children are understanding what prayers are. Even Gillian, who does know how to say her name, is able to shout a loud and clear, “Amen!” at the end of our prayers. Life, with God is much easier. Knowing that we have a loving and forgiving God on our side, somehow helps to lift our burdens of life.
As a family, we are looking forward to learn more about God’s word! To grow stronger in faith, to be able to influence people in our lives positively and to do things that God according to his Will and not ours.