A second-generation Christian asks: What if my faith has no dramatic U-turn story?
Jeremy Tsang // July 9, 2021, 11:58 am
My life hasn’t been very dramatic.
As a result, I don’t really have a “U-turn story” to share about how God turned my world upside down when I got to know Him.
I used to think that had to do with me being a second-generation Christian.
Though I had been exposed to all things Christian since young, I could never tell others about the moment where God entered my life.
That I went to a mission school too only made it easier to be a Christian. With weekly chapel and daily devotions, I could have, honestly, just been Christian by diffusion.
I don’t really have a “U-turn story” to share about how God turned my world upside down when I got to know Him.
My faith then was a lot more head knowledge than heart knowledge — I wasn’t actively and consistently practising my faith.
One of the clearest opportunities for me to do so was in National Service where I gained insight into what it meant to be “in the world but not of the world”.
However, that still wasn’t the defining moment.
Was I supposed to be waiting for a U-turn? Not having some defining moment to always look back on in times of doubt was a struggle for me.
At times, it even got me questioning if my faith was genuine.
WAITING IN SILENCE
2017 was a particularly trying year for me. It seemed like God was distant. I hadn’t heard him speak for a long time.
On a year-end mission trip, I remember breaking down during a group mid-trip reflection because I was feeling an overwhelming sense of purposelessness.
I had been expecting God to clearly show me a sign that He was still there.
But I had heard nothing.
It was in that season, that the words of a friend encouraged me greatly:
“The very act of making yourself available, as you did, is a good one because it allows God to use you as He deems fit. Sometimes, we wait in eager expectation of some clear prompting before acting. But maybe God also reveals to us His will when we act.”
Though asking for a sign and asking for a U-turn are different, I think the principle to apply is this: recognise that God is God.
The expectation to hear God or see Him bring out a U-turn in our lives isn’t a bad thing — we should expect great things from God!
But I was demanding for God to show me a sign according to my prescribed size and dimensions.
I wanted Him to speak, but only on my terms. Who was the god in that situation?
MY MOMENTS OF TURNING
Suffice to say, though I have no dramatic turning point, what I have are moments of turning.
And it would be foolhardy for me to write off these moments of turning, in anticipation for some idealised U-turn.
Like that time when a close friend came out to me and I struggled to offer a Christian response. Results day and the days that followed where I had to reconsider what I thought to be my calling.
Those were moments of struggle where my faith finally became mine.
And looking back, God was at work in these moments, even while I didn’t know it.
My journey as a second-generation Christian may not be the same for everyone, so I’ve asked a couple of friends to share about their own second-generation journeys of faith.
- Jordan, who learnt to wrestle with God
- Neal, who was distracted from what really mattered
- Julia, who sometimes feels like her race is too long
From what they have shared with me, here are some lessons I’ve learnt about what’s important in our individual walks with God, especially for the second-generation Christian.
JORDAN: HAVE SPACE TO WRESTLE WITH GOD
What Jordan remembers about growing up in church was “just having fun, talking to friends and learning about Jesus”.
Although Jordan had doubts about Christianity, he never found them addressed in a satisfactory manner.
“I thought the teachings imparted were something I had to just swallow… I had no say whatsoever,” he explained.
Feeling like he had to accept what was taught to him without fully understanding why gave him the false impression that he knew all there was to know about God. He didn’t really know why he believed what he believed.
Yet, ironic as it may seem, Jordan has found the most growth in struggling with his doubts.
Over the years, he learnt to express his doubts with his parents and mentors in church. Though he doesn’t recall a eureka moment, it was in these moments of wrestling that he came to own his faith.
Confronted with the futility of struggling against God with human might, Jacob had finally learnt to trust.
“Some things made sense… some things did not, and might never until I die.”
That surrender is something Jordan can testify to.
“I was convinced that some things made sense. I was convinced that some things did not, and might never until I die,” he asserted.
Yet, Jordan was finally okay with that, because he had learnt to truly accept that God’s wisdom was higher than his. He could place his faith in a good God.
Wrestling with his doubts, he found few answers, but much peace – and that was just as important.
NEAL: INVEST IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Brought to church before he could walk, Neal was taught about Christian disciplines like daily devotions and doing good deeds, but it distracted him from what was really important.
“It was easy to replace my faith with actions. This is due in part to my Christian family enforcing good disciplines at home, which I interpreted as sufficient for my faith, again taking for granted the relationship I needed with God,” he explained.
Neal was caught up with doing things that would “make” him a good Christian in church and at home. But he had neglected intimacy with God.
Neal added: “It required trigger moments along the way to enable me to appreciate the gravity of some of these teachings… For instance, having a conviction of our sins and knowing the need for Christ in our life.”
I think Oswald Chambers puts it best in My Utmost for His Highest:
“It is possible to know all about doctrine and yet not know Jesus. The soul is in danger when knowledge of doctrine outsteps intimate touch with Jesus…Have I a personal history with Jesus Christ? The one sign of discipleship is intimate connection with Him, a knowledge of Jesus Christ nothing can shake.”
After being in church for so long, it’s easy to just be distracted by the “doing”, like serving in various ministries and attending church events. Faith becomes humdrum — just going through the motions.
But someone once told me that: “If you decide that you’ve outgrown the gospel, then you need to hear the gospel all over again.”
JULIA: GROW TOGETHER WITH GOD
“It’s a struggle to make sure I’m growing in love and knowledge, and to make sure I’m maturing spiritually,” said Julia, who grew up in a Christian family.
Constantly pushing back against a stagnating faith becomes more challenging as the years go by.
For that reason, Julia is sometimes tempted to feel envious of those who receive Christ later on in their life since “they don’t really have to struggle through these kinds of things”.
But Julia understands that true spiritual growth does not lie in outward displays of religiosity but in growing to be more like Christ.
It is growing in discipleship — the daily decision to take up our cross to follow Christ (Luke 23:9).
And that takes time.
So when she catches herself thinking this way, Julia reminds herself she has the unique blessing of knowing Christ in her childhood and getting to live out her convictions in her youth.
“I’ve always had Christ in my life. It’s easier to have childlike faith like that, and it feels like He is watching me grow up at every step of the way,” Julia shared.
“It shapes who you are as a person, the way you think, your values and your decision making, even as a child. Even in decisions like choosing a school, you learn to seek God’s guidance to open and close doors.
“You can always have a hope that God has the best plan for you.”
In the end, everyone has their own stories of faith, second-generation Christian or not.
God has no grandchildren.
Maybe your second-generation Christian stories don’t have a U-turn either.
But if you have ever wrestled with God, relearned what the gospel is or expressed childlike faith – that is still a powerful story of faith worth telling too!
As we continue to seek God on this side of eternity, we can rest in the knowledge that God will bring to completion the good work He had started.
After all, Christ alone is the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
THINK + TALK
- What’s your story when it comes to believing in Jesus Christ?
- What does the Bible say about the gospel? What does it say about evangelism?
- How might these insights impact the way you share your story and faith with others?