Studies

From dance floor to destiny

Regina Chua // November 7, 2017, 5:03 pm

The setbacks that backed me up

I am an actor, scriptwriter, director, arts educator, dancer and a musician — all in one. I do many things, with many hyphens.

God has gifted me with the talent to tell stories. To the world, writing is my career choice. But to God, being a writer is following the plans He has for me. That’s my destiny in Him. I do what I do because I want to be called faithful at the end of the day.

I’ve always known, first and foremost, that I am a child of God. That’s my identity, and my work, my position, gives me purpose.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

But I didn’t always know my position and purpose. I was born into a traditional Chinese family and acquainted with the Arts at a young age. I remember walking past a dance studio at the age of four and telling my parents I wanted to learn ballet. That was how I began my journey with the performing arts, where my talents began to surface and take shape.

Then when I was 12, my ballet lessons were put on hold in the face of my Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). I was suddenly being taken to pray to all manner of deities for favour in the examination.

But I had no peace in my heart. So the night before the first paper, I knelt beside my bed and prayed to the unknown God that I had seen Christians do on TV. I’d been watching 7th Heaven at the time.

I didn’t know it then, but I would need Him more and more in the years to come.

Right after PSLE, my life was shaken up as my dad was declared bankrupt. Our new financial status brought an end to all my dance classes, so even though I had finished my exams, I could not return to training anymore.

But I believe that my first prayer to the unknown God had set something into motion. I found myself posted to a mission school – the place where I would come to faith.

It was also where I was introduced to English literature and drama. I fell in love with these subjects and pursued them. And as I went on to Junior College, I delved even deeper.

My deep sense of satisfaction and pleasure in the Arts made me feel as if I had it all figured out: I was going to study English literature and theatre studies in NUS, and support my cell leader in the university ministry she was running.

I believe that my first prayer to the unknown God had set something into motion.

But God had another plan.

My ‘A’ level results proved to be a mixed bag. They weren’t good enough for entrance into the local universities, but they also weren’t bad enough for me to repeat my second year in Junior College. Ironically, this control freak had attained results which spelt “OCD”. And indeed, everything spiralled out of my control.

Looking back, I see that my identity then was based on grades and achievements. I was desperate, crying out to God and asking Him, “God, what now?”

I was confused, angry and so very lost.

As I wallowed in the aftermath of my ‘A’ level results, my Church entered a season where we began to focus on our performing arts ministry.

Sensing the shift and knowing the passion and talents I had, I told God: “If this is Your will, open the door and I will go through it no matter what.” After that prayer, I submitted only one application to LASALLE’s Theatre Arts programme.

I prepared for the admission audition, but it turned out to be a nightmare. The person auditioning actually asked me if I would go on stage naked, in my underwear or simply wrapped in a towel. I was taken aback and simply said, “No, because it goes against my faith.”

Then I went home and prayed again: “If this is Your will, open the door and I will go through it no matter what.”

Soon enough, I received a letter of acceptance from LASALLE, and heard that the man who had auditioned me got fired from his job.

Now the next hurdle would be how I was going to pay for my studies. My parents had refused to provide for me if I chose to enter the Arts. So I prayed again: “If this is Your will, God you provide.” I shared about my financial problems with my cell leader, and in time, it was her mother who gave me a loan to pay for my first semester in LASALLE.

Thereafter, the Lord provided. Because of my good grades, the rest of my fees were settled by bursaries and scholarships in LASALLE. Concurrently, I worked in Church part-time to pay my cell leader’s mum back. God constantly showed me He is Jehovah Jireh — the God who provides. 

I graduated from LASALLE in 2006, only to meet rejection at every audition I went for. I began to question God: “I thought that You called me to do this? Why am I not getting any jobs?”

As I faced increasing disappointments and setbacks on both the career and ministry fronts — I felt absolutely knocked down. And in spite of all the providence shown to me every step of the way in school, I began to doubt and waver in my faith.

Soon, I fell.

I hit rock bottom in 2007. I was living a double life: In Church I played the good Christian leader, but outside of Church I was partying, smoking and getting drunk every other night.

One night, I was out painting the town red with some of my friends from the industry. I’d had too much to drink and was dancing my heart out when I was suddenly conscious of this stranger touching me inappropriately.

I was living a double life: In Church I played the good Christian leader, but outside of Church I was partying, smoking and getting drunk every other night.

I was being violated on the dance floor, but I was too drunk to do anything about it.

That night was the wake-up call my hellish life of hangovers needed.

I left that life behind, along with all of its people. And by God’s grace I was restored.

He led me along a path that eventually saw me teach Dramatic Arts in schools. With God’s help, I begin excelling as a drama educator. I became recognised and sought after as an educator, getting more offers than I could take on — I would even pass these jobs on to others. I was at the peak of my career. But God never lets me get comfortable.

Soon my life changed again.

Just as everything was finally going well, God said to me quietly: “Answer the call.”

It came in the form of an offer to join the Church full-time under the youth ministry.

Huh? God, I thought You called me into the Arts and Entertainment industry? I bargained and bartered with God, even telling Him I wanted to be back in the marketplace after two years, but I ultimately obeyed.

So in 2009, I answered the call and went into full-time ministry. And at the end of 2010, to my surprise, God faithfully used a former boss to bring me back to the marketplace.

In retrospect, I can see that at every step, God has been moulding me and preparing me for something greater.

We are each given different talents. But all these talents are ultimately of no use if we don’t use them for His purpose. Our job is to invest in our talents and multiply them (Matthew 25:13-30).

I was gifted with the talent to create and perform. I was gifted with the talent to teach. So with these talents multiplied, I became a good drama educator.

I was gifted with the ability to administer and arrange things. Because of my obedience to His call, my time in the Church office honed that talent.

Today I am getting more recognition as an educator, with more opportunities than I’ve ever had before to speak into the lives of the next generation in school. I am also getting more jobs as an actor on stage and on screen.

I know that these are all preparing me to move even closer towards my destiny in Him. I know that God isn’t done my telling story; He alone holds on to the pen that writes it. Because I am obediently following Him, every chapter I go through is preparation for the next.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalm 30:11-12)