I’m currently 6 months into my National Service (NS), and it definitely hasn’t been an easy one.
Before enlisting, I had a lot of thoughts about how NS would be a toxic environment for me to grow in. I had heard a lot of stories about how vulgarities in NS are used in almost every conversation and how people are quick to start smoking or drinking so as to socialise with their fellow soldiers.
When I approached my leaders about these thoughts, they assured me that it would be fine so long as I keep to my virtues and continue spending time with the Lord during the free time allocated to us.
It seemed easy at first.
I just had to do the necessary army stuff, then before I slept, read a Bible verse or follow a Bible plan. But my efforts started to falter eventually. It was easy at first because I wasn’t close with the people around me, so nothing was taking my time with God away.
However as time passed, I spent less and less time with the Lord and I compromised. It started off small: I repeated someone’s joke and accidentally used the vulgarities it required. But gradually, vulgarities became embedded in the way I talked.
The way I talked to people and acted also started to change for the worse. I began scolding people and losing my temper easily, sometimes even physically harming others.
My little compromises felt so natural to the point I didn’t even realise I was doing wrong.
And truth be told, that wasn’t even the worst part of it all. The worst thing was that having become accustomed to a worldly culture and way of living — even the things I used to desire changed.
My passion for God wasn’t as strong as it used to be. The fire that once burned inside me flickered away. I didn’t feel the passion even when I was in church. I found going to church such a mundane routine. Even praise and worship, which used to be my favourite part of service, just didn’t feel the same.
I guess what I’m trying to say to my NS bros is that it’s normal to be struggling, and you’re not the only one in this. Many Christians in NS would have taken some losses upon entering — it’s not something to be ashamed about.
Now, I’m not saying you should continue down a road of folly or ignore these things and wait until NS is over — believing once you’re out of the army your faith will be back to normal. This isn’t the case when you develop a worldly lifestyle in NS. If you tell yourself to just go with the flow, eventually all the negative things you pick up in NS will be a part of you and will persist even after NS.
NS is something every Singaporean son has to go through. It’s a process of being put through a crucible, where all your impurities are melted away and what’s left is what’s good of you. It can be a good thing.
So it’s important to identify bad habits early so we can stop them at their roots, before they have the chance to grow into a bad lifestyle we can’t shake off.
So don’t be discouraged. Be accountable to someone if you’re having a tough time in NS, preferably someone who’s older and has already gone through it.
In my first 6 months, I had no contact with someone like that. I was eventually found out and confronted about it. But now, rather than feeling ashamed, I feel a sense of relief that I have someone to look out for me, someone who will encourage and keep my honest me throughout NS.
As I walk in the light, my old bad habits are falling away. I’ve started to set standards in my life: I write these on a notepad and placing in my locker so that whenever I grab something, I’m reminded of how I should act and who I want to be as a person. I’ve also started reading the Bible again with a plan on the Bible app.
For all of my mistakes, the Lord has shown me so much mercy and grace by bringing me back on this path.
The author’s name has been changed for confidentiality.
- How has your NS journey been so far?
- Are there certain areas in your NS journey that you would want to redo?
- Moving forward, what will you do differently as you serve the nation?