I am a second-generation Christian who grew up in church, attending children camps, youth camps and youth meetings.
But as I grew older, my spiritual walk with God could be best described as “dry to almost non-existent”. I would only pray when I felt like it or during an exam period.
If people asked me “why are you a Christian”, my answer then would probably be “because I followed my mother to church since young”.
I was simply a church-goer; I never had a relationship with God. But deep down, I knew that there was a God.
During my polytechnic days, I mustered up the courage to join a new sport.
I loved touch rugby, the adrenaline and what it taught me about team spirit. I loved my team so much. We went through thick and thin, and my teammates became my family. I lived by the mantra: Eat. Sleep. Play touch.
Little did I know, it began to replace God in my heart. Touch rugby was my idol for three years.
I learnt that idolatry does not only mean the worship of idols, but also simply giving your attention to something else instead of God. God was completely pushed aside in my life.
Whenever I attended Sunday service, I was physically there, but my mind was on the field. I stopped going for youth meetings because I was busy with trainings and games on Saturdays. I also lost touch with my church friends whom I grew up with.
For years, I would always pray the same thing during Holy Communion: “God, please help me to draw closer to you.” Just that it never happened.
When I graduated from polytechnic, I started my first full-time job and had to experience adulting. Stepping into the real world was scary. While the future was full of uncertainties, I knew one thing: I would still go back to my alma mater to play touch rugby.
But somehow things didn’t seem right anymore. I felt out of place as the focus was on the school team. I didn’t feel a sense of belonging. I was always tired after work, and I didn’t know what I was training for.
I would go home, feeling heavy and disappointed. Months passed and my passion was replaced by dejection. I decided to bring the matter before God. I asked Him: “God, should I continue to stay? I am very tired..”
While there were signs that I should stop going to touch rugby, I still continued, hoping things would turn for the better. But during one training, God used my coach to answer my prayer.
She scolded me harshly for a mistake I made on the field in front of the seniors and juniors. I would never forget the humility and anger I felt then. After training, I took my bag and stomped off immediately. I told myself: I am never coming back.
At the time, I didn’t realise that would be a turning point in my life.
I almost fell into depression in the following months. Whenever I thought of the incident, I would tear up. Even when I was taking public transport, I was unable to hold back my tears. As the thoughts slowly consumed me, I began to have suicidal thoughts.
I was constantly reminded of my departure whenever I did anything, even when I went for jogs. I felt so empty. It felt like I had lost everything.
Touch rugby was my world. I considered the people I knew as family and friends whom I could keep for life. It felt like I had broken up with tough rugby – a very, very bad breakup.
Feeling like I was at the lowest point in my life, I decided to go back to youth meetings on Saturday. I also began picking up the Bible and prayed more frequently, though not consistently. I started to reconnect with my church friends during the day, but at night, I would still hide in my room and indulge in self-pity.
I had many unanswered questions: “How can you know that God is real? What if mankind is merely living in a simulation by aliens? What if our faith is just a hoax?”
All this finally came to a head one day during my annual church conference.
I went home, closed the door, knelt down and prayed: “Whoever you are, please reveal yourself to me. Show me that you are real. There are so many young people out there who believe in you; you cannot be a hoax. You must be real. Why have I never experienced you in my life before?”
The following months after that, God indeed revealed Himself to me. I wanted to know who this God really was.
Every single day, I would wake up before the morning light, close the door and connect with the Holy Spirit. It was a feeling that I’ve never experienced before – I felt safe.
I prayed and had quiet time with God every day. I wanted to spend personal time with the God of the universe before I started my day.
I started to thirst for God a lot more. I would watch Christian videos, read books as well as listen to sermons and worship songs. I also became involved in church and found my spiritual buddy.
I fell deeper in love with God, and started loving others more and more.
God began to open doors. He led me into a new job, where I was able to restore the faith of my colleagues who had backslided from the faith. I got into a part-time university course and joined the Christian fellowship on campus, which broadened my perspectives on Christianity.
There were also opportunities to bring cheer to people from all walks of life.
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a)
The truth is, throughout my three years in polytechnic, while I forgot about God, He did not forget about me. God remained faithful. He preserved me and gave me wonderful friends. But I was so far away from God.
It was only after graduation when things started to go downhill in touch rugby that I returned to His side.
We really see the need for God when we’re broken, when we’re at our wits’ end. If things stayed the way they were in touch rugby, I might have never returned to God.
But now I’ve found my purpose in life. I have a living hope – we all do.
I have a God who lives in me, and He speaks to me every day and teaches me. He cares for me, holding my hand through the toughest and most stressful paths of my journey in school and at work.
Today, I am walking very closely with my friend, Jesus. My years of prayers of wanting to draw closer to God have finally been fulfilled.
The author’s name has been changed for confidentiality.
1. Why are you a Christian?
2. What is your idol today? Is there anything in your life that receive more attention than God?
3. Do you still recall the times as a youth when you were burning for Jesus?