Hi everyone! I have the immense privilege of being able to share with you the story and history of how God has been at work in my life in transforming my heart, renewing my mind, and ultimately saving me from my rebellion against Him. My testimony to God’s work in my life is just one of the many stories of how the gospel has radically transformed people’s lives. My hope and prayer is that you might be encouraged by this one example of God’s grace and mercy, but also challenged to consider where you stand with God personally.
I have been going to church my whole life – literally. My parents were part of a Chinese church that started in the year that I was born, and I was part of that church for my entire childhood and the majority of my teenage years. Church was nothing more to me than a place to be on Sundays, where I could try boost my ego by asking intellectual-sounding questions and hang out with familiar people. As I grew older and became an angsty high school kid, church increasingly became some superficial thing I was involved in on Sundays which had no bearing on the rest of my life. In fact, church increasingly became a burden to me – they made me play piano for service even though I had no idea what was happening, and I kind of hated it.
By the time my childhood church dissolved, sometime around the end of high school, I was actually really happy. I thought to myself “Yes, thank goodness! I don’t have to go to church anymore!” Unfortunately for me (but trust me, definitely good in the long run), my parents dragged me to GracePoint church. This felt like the worst thing ever – even worse than the prospect of going to my old church. There were so many people who I obviously didn’t know, and I had to actually meet new people – absolutely shocking! I started to use ‘HSC stress’ as an excuse to avoid going to church, and to avoid going to the after-service youth group. It’s not like I completely renounced my faith or anything, but if I’m honest, I was functionally an atheist. I had no genuine love for God or His people, and I longed to live in pursuit of my own glory and comfort above all else.
By the time I began university, all I longed for was this idea of freedom that I was seeing and hearing from my friends around me, in which I could do whatever I wanted and surround myself with fun friends. When I began university, things shifted – I no longer felt any pressure to conform to being a good Christian girl because I didn’t really care anymore. So I followed my yearning to explore the fun party life that I thought was a defining aspect of the lifestage I was in. I think I actually still cared a little about maintaining appearances though, so I did try to live a bit of a double life. I would still turn up to Bible studies on Friday nights (sometimes) and church on Sundays (also sometimes). But over the weekend and throughout the week, I would be going to clubs/uni society parties, drinking alcohol, and trying to make myself feel good about myself.
During that period of my life, everything felt great – I didn’t really feel any consequences from what I was doing, and God didn’t really seem to have any impact on my day to day life. I believed that I had the right to live however I wanted, and I believed that partying and a vibrant social life was the best way to live, since that was what I was seeing all around me in the media, my peers, and society in general. But cracks started to appear – since I was anchoring so much of my value and identity in the friends I had around me, I got really upset when I didn’t get invited to things. Since so much of the fun that we had revolved around drinking and doing dumb things while drunk, I began to feel increasingly empty and insecure – no one would ever want to be around me if I was just sober, and I didn’t even know who I was underneath the facade of a giggly happy drunk.
As I became increasingly dissatisfied with the life that I had tried to relentlessly pursue, I began to return to church. Around that time, Elliot and Edwina had started a university students community group, fondly referred to as ACG, which I was inconsistently part of. Everyone was super awkward, but in this group of people my age I got to witness fellow young people who were intentionally giving up the prospect of Friday night parties for the sake of studying God’s Word – totally weird! As I increasingly recommitted to ACG, I got to experience the joys of being part of this little community of believers – people had a genuine care for each other that came from a place of having already experienced the care lavished on them by God, and they were eager to know each other on a deeper level. Though I enjoyed the relational aspect of ACG and the security of being known by this group of people, I still didn’t have much of a relationship with the God that brought all of us together. I was there, on Fridays and Sundays, for the sense of community, not out of a desire to genuinely know God more.
There were a number of experiences that I had which really challenged me to trust in God. Firstly, I witnessed the persecution of the church in China, and their persevering faith in the face of opposition and pressure. Even though the police could literally burst through the doors of the apartment they had secretly gathered in at any minute, they continued to love for God and desire to worship Him. I realised how lukewarm and cowardly I was in my own personal faith. Secondly, I was able to experience a glimpse of what heaven would look like as I attended Sunday Services at a church for expats and sang praises to God with brothers and sisters in Christ who were from all parts of the world – Africa, Europe, America, etc. I was shaken to the core to see how all these people of such diverse backgrounds and experiences were united together by the good news of Jesus. Lastly, I got to experience what it felt like to be helpless. In China, I was stripped of any sense of certainty and control over my life, and placed in situations which were probably kind of dangerous. Through it all I came to recognise that God alone is in control of all things. He has a good plan for my life, and I can trust in Him to protect me. I was humbled by everything I experienced in China, and pushed to fully put my trust in God alone.
So I came back from China, still no better at speaking Chinese, but nonetheless changed. My trust in God had grown and I no longer saw being Christian as something that was just about looking put together and following a bunch of rules. I was still very much lacking in my knowledge of God though – I had a fuzzy, general understanding of who God was and what He was like, but everything was still very much feelings-driven. That’s why it was a bit of a shock to the system when I returned from China and discovered that everyone at ACG had entered some sort of enlightenment period – people were crazy about deeply studying God’s Word, reading tons of books and learning more about theology. The old desire to prove myself as intellectually equal, if not superior, reared its ugly head and I felt an immense pressure to play catch-up with everyone to get to the same level of literacy about theological concepts so that I could still sound ‘big brain’.
What started as a misguided pursuit for intellectual pride became God’s means of leading me to love learning about Him and love Him more. I read books about the way faith in Christ was the only source of existential satisfaction, and of the rationality, reason and intellectual rigour underlying Christianity. I began to appreciate just how logically consistent the Christian faith is. The more I learned about theological concepts and about God, the more I was humbled by how little I knew or could know in comparison to an infinite and omniscient God. There’s this image that society enforces in which Christians just blindly follow some ancient text without applying any reason or critical thought. But by God’s grace I’ve come to experience that this is not true. There is nothing more intellectually challenging and satisfying than wrestling with Scripture, and the big questions of humanity, existence, God, suffering, the brokenness of this world, and everything in between.
So, where am I now? By His abundant grace, God has sustained my faith in Him and love for Him through the years. I’m definitely far from perfect, but I can confidently say that God has totally transformed my life. I’m rooted in my unshakeable identity as a child of God, a citizen of heaven, whose hope is in an eternity secured by the loving sacrifice Christ made for me on the cross. I’m no longer insecure and driven by a hunger to fit in, because I have known and felt the surety of God’s approval and acceptance of me through Christ. Though there’s so much brokenness in the world, I have confidence in my God who is in control of all things and has promised to restore creation. He has transformed my heart to desire obedience and service, and I’ve been so blessed to be part of even just a little bit of how God ministers to His people through His people. In an ironic twist of fate, I even still play piano for service now – but definitely with a transformed understanding of what worship in song is!
My testimony is a story of God’s faithful work in a stubborn and prideful heart. For those of you who haven’t yet come to know and love this great God at the centre of my testimony, I urge you to find out more and to be reconciled to Him! My prayer is that God will open your eyes and soften your hearts to the gospel, so that you too can enjoy life as it was meant to be – lived with Him.