A while back, a sister at the Church in Westminster suggested that we young people should write down our testimonies as a method for solidifying our stand in Christ while also refreshing our memories of how far the Lord has led us. I had a previous post that attempted to do this, but upon going back to it, it was so full of pretense and unnecessary eloquence; it lacked the clarity that often comes with the Spirit’s leading. I hope that today I can put down all the milestones of my Christian life in one go…
From childhood, I was never really that immersed in the church life. One could say, I suppose, that I “grew up in the Church” because my parents and grandparents and the majority of my nearby relatives were saved, and also because I attended a few meetings, but I oftentimes am reluctant to say so because of the inconsistency of attendance. The truth of the matter is that I really only went to church when family from New Jersey came to visit, and only upon writing this do I remember the many changes that have occurred in me. However, just by bringing me along with them, I now realize that they were doing the work of sowing a seed in me, and more and more, I see the life within that seed beginning to blossom.
The next major stepping stone of my Christian life was definitely baptism. Though I have since made peace with the events that transpired, I still am incapable of resisting tears when I attend other baptisms because of my own baptism. I heard that two of my closest friends from church were going to get baptized and was therefore encouraged to join them. At this time, I was still in the 6th grade and in retrospect, very unclear about the power and significance of baptism. I still remember the night before the baptism, I shared the news with my parents. My dad told me soon after I broke the news that he just didn’t think I was ready for it and told me to either postpone it or not participate in it the next day. As a child, I felt like I was being robbed; I was still at the stage of life where I constantly compared myself to my peers, and I remember thinking that if my two friends were getting baptized, then I was clearly qualified to be as well! So the discussion ended, and the next day came. I was reminded once again to postpone the baptism, but when the day came and the announcement was made, I felt like a coil was slowly being tightened around my baptism, as if it were inevitable that I would either have to stand up to what the church planned or go against my parents. Since my parents didn’t attend the meeting that morning, I suppose the child-like fear of them was not as overwhelming as having to tell the brother giving the announcement in front of the whole congregation that I would be postponing my own baptism. I struggled greatly within myself, not wanting to proceed with it knowing that my parents did not think I was ready, but too afraid to speak out for my own. Minutes before the actual baptism, I asked an older sister who led the young people if it was better to (and this was exactly what I thought was happening at the time) go against God or go against your parents and the answer she gave should have confirmed that I should have listened to my parents. I still remember her saying that rarely will the two be in opposition and that God will rarely have us go against our parents. However, in the foolishness of my youth, I decided to continue with the baptism even after hearing the advice. As I put on the robes, I began to feel a great anxiety within my heart; I distinctly remember a terrible sense of self-loathing, wishing that the moment I was submerged beneath the water to bring about dark shadows or filth to come out of the water and symbolize what a wretched person I was. As I stood with my two brothers while saints prayed for us, I remember feeling a deep resignation and an inward plea for forgiveness. As I sat in the water and prayed aloud, tears flowed out as my prayer called out for forgiveness, knowing what I was about to do. Then I was baptized and brought into the new life.
At this point of my testimony, it’s not a difficult thing to feel disgust with my person. I forsook my parents’ advice, robbed them of the chance to watch their only son get baptized, and struggled and strove with myself, not realizing the importance of baptism all the while. My parents didn’t speak to me for two weeks after that and I didn’t attend the meeting the whole while. I went on a trip with family during that time, and when my parents called and the phone was handed to me, the other side was complete silence. More and more, I felt myself begin to regret my baptism, but seeing the end result, it would appear that the Lord was putting me through so much in my first few steps as His servant. When I finally came home, our family did something we didn’t do before: we began to have family meetings at night to discuss the importance of baptism. Many tears were shed, I won’t deny that, but during this time, I gained so much clarity and reinforcement in the Word about the matter from my parents. From this day on, they somehow found it in themselves to forgive me, and the matter of Christianity was now an open topic in the household whereas before we hardly mentioned it. I now see that the Lord turned the situation around to even bless the family, letting my father open up about his beliefs and discoveries made in the Lord and generating family discussions about the faith. More and more, our family has become a closer family in Him, and I do believe that it was my schismatic baptism led us towards our current standing. I still feel ashamed whenever I recall my actions and thoughts, but all I can do is just give praise to the Lord for blessing me with such forgiving parents who only wanted to see their son grow in the Lord more and continue to help me grow day by by.
After this, my Christian life reached a period of growths and stagnancy. Sometimes, the Spirit and the interest in the Lord would burn within, but other times, I would forsake the meeting in favor of less important things. In my youth, I was what some may call an “on-and-off Christian;” sometimes I would be very passionate about who the Lord was and what He did for me, but given a bit more time, the passion died down to a simmer. However, after this time of baptism, I was able to lead an elementary school friend to start attending church at a church near her home, and it was an encouragement to be able to experience the success of a simple gospel so early in my life.
Years passed until my next big experience with the Lord. Now, from a strictly human point of view, we more or less take a person’s outward expression for what they feel inside. However, in 9th and 10th grade, I withstood severe attacks from the enemy. My grades began to suffer and it led me down a slippery slope. My relationship with my parents was constantly frayed by academic disappointments and I began to be more and more discouraged with life. On the outside, I was still a smiling, joyful high-schooler, but on the inside, serious contemplations of suicide began to emerge. As academic underachievement after another came, my mother began to grow anxious, which I now definitely understand. She understood what this meant, and in my youthful ignorance, I had the gall to think she was overreacting. My grades were such a disappointment to my parents that eventually they would avoid talking to me much. At dinner, they talked to one another about their day, but I would feel unqualified to speak at the table because of my lack of accomplishment. The enemy pounced on these times and pushed me almost to the point of self-destruction. I began having thoughts that if I didn’t exist, my parents wouldn’t have had to work so hard to make money and feed an extra mouth that was incapable of doing things right. I began having paranoia about how my friends at school would perceive me when they discovered what was happening to my grades, and so more than once would lie to them about how I did on tests and in school overall. My parents were the biggest inspirations in my life and to have them express that much disappointment and frustration with me led to truly believe that the world was better off without me. I was just an empty burden, doing nothing positive to contribute to the family. As I rode my scooter to get the mail along the sidewalk of the street, I would often see cars coming by and imagine just throwing myself into the street and experiencing the release of darkness. However, the Lord rescued me from this terrifying view of life by providing me with two great friends in high school. Just by having them, the Lord provided His encouragement through them and what they would say to me, and the fact they were both Christian made it that much more expansive of a relationship. We were able to talk about God as well as our own plans and thoughts in high school, and somehow, by having this brother and this sister in my life, I pressed on towards the end of high school without an echo of the darkness that dwelled within.
Though I had a solid number of friends, there were very few of my friends that could claim to be as close to me as these two were. Through my experiences with them, I grasped and now still hold onto John 15:13 which I have since memorized: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The mind that was clouded with darkness no longer portrayed my life as meaningless and pitiful, but instead I realized two things: 1) if I ended my own life, there would be people who would miss me and ask God why such a thing would happen, and 2) I had a life to live that I might lay it down for people like this brother and sister. More and more, He magnified this sliver of love within to expand to cover all of the saints in His church, and from this point on, the fascination with death was replaced with the victory of His life within me. At around the end of my sophomore year in high school I developed an untapped ability to write, and so I began to express my inner thoughts through words and found a cleansing catharsis that rid me of Satan’s hold once and for all in such a dark matter.
Now that I think about it, there must have been a reason the Lord denied me the inspiration to put my testimony down on paper, and it seems to make sense now. The latest milestone (though surely not the last) of my Christian life is the finding of a Christian fellowship in college. Given the reputation of UCSB, I was actually very worried that my Christian life would flounder during college, and constantly prayed over the matter. Then the Lord showed once again how incomprehensibly mysterious He is by bringing a brother who graduated from UCSB and moved from Vancouver to Irvine for work. This brother attended the church service about a week before I was set to move in, and I still didn’t really have any contacts or any plan of finding a fellowship in college. However, I was alerted to his graduating from UCSB and encouraged to go and find him after the meeting. So after the meeting was over, I tried to look around after lunch to see if I could stop him and ask him about the fellowship and the Christian life at UCSB, but I seemed to have lost him. A bit put off by my failure to take hold of such a great opportunity, I walked to the restroom and behold, the brother was just washing up there! I took the time to ask him about the fellowship and church he attended during college and he gave me the phone number of an elder at the church that he attended, Chinese Evangelical Free Church. Following fast upon this, I subsequently gave him a call and a ride was arranged for the first weekend of my arrival at UCSB. I was taken by brothers who I am growing closer and closer to in college, and eventually I joined the Christian club that a majority of the brothers at CEFC attended called AACF, or Asian American Christian Fellowship. The Lord blessed me with encouraging brothers in college who made the transition very easy and led me to grow more and more in my faith, particularly in the way of spiritual boldness, and I look eagerly ahead to spending a college career in fellowship with His people. CEFC bore many more similarities than I thought to my home church, the Church in Westminster, and I cannot deny that it is by the Lord’s grace and mercy that all things were set in motion for me in college.
Through all things, my spiritual walk with Him has proven time and time again that He does, indeed, live a victorious life and that through His death, I also have this overcoming life within me. My testimony is one of struggle, but not one of defeat; it speaks to the subtle workings of God and the many testings that each of us has to face sometime in our running of the race. I hope that what I have put down today may be a source of encouragement to all my brothers and sisters in Christ out there, as well as a point of interest for non-believers desiring for a more abundant, peaceful, and fulfilling life. Forgive me if some of the information shocks or upsets you, but do know that it has made me that much stronger of a soldier for Him, a worker of the faith, and a brother to His children. While some of my story does depict a desperate darkness, give praise to the Lord that He has kept me with Him all the way and has molded me into the worker of light that I am today. I’ll leave you with verses that I feel really express my walk thus far which are 1 Peter 1:3-9:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”