I am a victim of child abuse.
Growing up, I experienced physical and emotional abuse from my parents, who were always very strict with me.
While I recognise that some of these rules and restrictions were for my good, I found that my parents’ reactions and way of implementing these rules were often out of hand.
I had to obey rules like a tight curfew and sleeping by a certain time, and when I stepped out of line — they would tear my textbooks or sometimes even point a knife at me.
If I refused to obey any of these rules, my mum would often threaten to jump out of the window.
There were many times when this happened, and my siblings had to hug and drag her in to prevent her from jumping.
All these traumas in my childhood affected my psychological development. But I didn’t know to make sense of them back then — I didn’t even know that such family situations were abnormal.
I just felt that the world was a very cruel place, and I would often cry myself to sleep. I felt defenceless and helpless, like the world had abandoned me such that I had to go through such tragedies at home.
Loneliness and depression
Escaping from my family eventually became my goal as I grew up. I worked very hard in school hoping that I could get a good job in the future and leave the house.
I also thought that people would finally notice and praise me if I was able to achieve good results.
But when I eventually became the top performer in my school at 15, I realised that I had been chasing after a lie.
I still wasn’t happy. I was simply desperate for someone to love me. And I felt like I had to find and earn my way to love.
Eventually, I made it to university where I had the chance to leave my family through of an exchange semester to Taiwan.
That was the first time I got to live away from my parents. And I felt like I was finally free.
However, that feeling did not last long. As I spent the next few months in Taiwan, I began to feel lonelier and emptier.
While I enjoyed the experiences and sceneries there, I felt like I had no one to share the joy with. It was as if I had no one that I could turn to in this world.
After I came back, I soon spiralled into depression. It affected me so much that I had to take a leave of absence (LOA) from school.
During that period, I took up a part-time job to fill up my time. But I also started to get addicted to drinking and clubbing.
I felt like alcohol was the only thing that could numb the pain and loneliness I felt from my life, and I would often drink to the point of being unconscious.
Indeed, I would often find myself drunk and wandering on the streets in the middle of the night. That was just how miserable I felt about myself, as I withdrew from society.
Unlock my heart
This carried on until one night in 2015, when a stranger approached me while I was sleeping at a playground in Chinatown.
That stranger turned out to be a pastor, and he offered to pray for me. I still remember what he prayed for till this day: he prayed for Jesus to “unlock” my heart.
I didn’t know how to make sense of that prayer at the time; I was in disbelief. Yet, I somehow felt like there was a change in my heart, and I was touched by the sincerity and confidence of the pastor’s prayer.
Nothing much changed afterwards, but that was the prayer that planted the seed in my heart.
A few years later, I had another peculiar encounter with a staff member from an art gallery.
While I was visiting the gallery, she invited me to have a cup of tea with her. And when we were talking, she suddenly started crying.
She began telling me that the Holy Spirit had touched her and wanted her to tell me that God loves me very much.
Eventually, she encouraged me to go to a church and also gave me her contact if I ever needed someone to talk to.
That encounter made me wonder more about God, because I knew that she wouldn’t have done what she did if she wasn’t prompted by the Holy Spirit.
That was when I realised that God was making His presence known in my life through these people.
A new beginning
The real turning point came when I eventually attended an Alpha course.
Growing up, I had always thought that religion and faith were about superstitions. I was surprised to find out that there could be a logical basis to the Christian faith.
This weekly Alpha course was a place where I got to clear my doubts about God and Christianity gradually. I also found it helpful that the organisers of the course were not pressurising.
They were patient in answering my questions and simply invited me back week after week, hoping that I could get to know Jesus more.
While I had those supernatural experiences through those people that God sent into my life, I found that developing a rational understanding of the faith was also very important to me.
It changed the way I think about Christianity, and taught me that Christianity is a faith that is consistent in both my understanding and my experience.
Eventually, with the help of these people, I committed to being a follower of Jesus and started attending church.
Jesus: Refuge, strength and help
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3)
Looking back, as much as my life could seem like a disaster, I now know that God has been pursuing me on this journey.
God has brought me to come to know Him, and He has strengthened my faith through all these experiences in my life.
Through these valley lows in my life, God has taught me that He is really my only refuge and strength. And He is my ever-present help in trouble.
While my relationship with my parents has not yet been restored, I know that God is also bringing me on a journey of forgiveness.
With proper boundaries in place, I try to drop them a text or call on special occasions, and I try to have at least a meal with them every year during Chinese New Year.
While I may not know how to change them or meet their needs, I sincerely hope that they will one day come to know Jesus.
I know that Jesus is the only One who can change them, just as how He has found me and redeemed my life.
I believe that this is the best form of forgiveness that I could offer them.
Tony is currently staying in an Anglican psychiatric shelter and exploring his interest in photography. You can support his artwork here.
- What is God saying to you through this article?
- If you are in one of life’s valleys, take a moment to consider what God might be doing in this season.
- What does faithfulness look like to you?
- How can you show God’s love to someone around you today?