Seeing my struggles, a teacher taught me the most important lesson I would ever learn
Jermaine Chua // July 21, 2020, 8:19 pm
My parents were divorced when I was 10. It felt like a relief then because my dad was impulsive, brash, and hot-tempered. He had a hard time providing for our family of six and even so, he drank, gambled, and had a mistress.
After the divorce, my mother took custody of my three siblings and me. For years, especially in secondary school, I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I came from a broken family.
It felt as though my dad’s mistakes were my mistakes. My three siblings and I had to seek financial assistance in school, unlike most of our other classmates.
My mum had to work multiple jobs to provide for our family, so I was being taken care of by my grandmother. Grandma raised us with the Chinese mentality of “打是疼，骂是爱”, which means “hitting is caring, scolding is loving”.
I do believe she loved us in her own way, but honestly, all I felt was neglected and gradually closed myself up to others.
Things weren’t great on the homefront, but I was still a good girl – I learnt to be independent and responsible and even got second place in class when I was in Secondary One.
However, my English could have been considered atrocious. I could not write a proper essay, often either failing or barely passing.
My form teacher, Ms T, who also taught me English, was especially concerned when I received an EMB3 aggregate score of 25 for my prelims, which meant I might not make it into a polytechnic if my grades slipped any further.
Ms T called my mum to find out why I was doing poorly before asking to speak to me privately. She then brought up the possible reasons for my academic struggles, including my parents’ divorce, which my mother had shared with her.
The moment she mentioned the divorce, I started sobbing. Nobody had ever talked to me about it, not even my own mother. There had been no comfort or processing of how I felt for the past 7 years since it had happened.
I was overwhelmed, disappointed in myself and how I had come to this state. Wondering if I had been in denial all these years because I clearly had not moved on from the pain. Although I did not feel particularly upset about the divorce or my grades in my mind, it still affected me somehow.
Ms T remained calm despite me breaking down. Instead, she talked about the God she believed in and found hope in for the difficult trials of life. This God loved me too, she said.
Eventually, I graduated with an aggregate score of 17, making it to polytechnic to study IT/Engineering.
It was in polytechnic that I invited to a church camp by one of my classmates, and there I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. The love of God was something I had never felt before, having felt unloved for most of my life.
Although I took about a year to finally tell my cell leader about my family situation, God was faithful in changing my heart towards my father as I allowed Him into my life. I started to remember the good and happy times we did have together and realised my father really was not so bad after all.
One day, I received a call from my dad out of the blue. I was on the bus on the way back home. Over the phone, he told me that he remembered how I was such a sensible child, telling my brothers not to buy toys as it would strain our family’s finances.
Hearing his affirmation, tears started streaming down my cheeks, touched to hear that he still saw who I was and loved me.
To other first-generation Christians like myself, I know we may carry a lot of hurts because our loved ones do not yet know the love of God. But as we bring our baggage to Jesus and walk into the light of God, He will heal, cleanse and ease our burdens (Matthew 11:28-30).
For those recovering from your parents’ divorce, know that it is not your fault and you could not have controlled it. Talk to someone about how you feel and believe that God can turn ashes in beauty (Isaiah 61:3).
Lastly, I would also like to thank my teacher, Ms T, for showing me God’s love when I needed it most. I don’t know where you are now, but please know that you did something so precious for me that has made me who I am today.
The author’s name has been changed by request for confidentiality.
THINK + TALK
- What were some struggles on the homefront that you faced as a child?
- Were these difficulties pivotal to how you grew up and saw the world?
- How did you come to understand God’s love through the circumstances of life?
- Is there someone you can reach out to and share this love of God you’ve found?