Growing up, I relished weekend outings with my family.
We made trips to Malaysia and amusement parks. The most memorable was to a farm where I fed the goats and complained about the stench.
But all this happiness came crashing down when I was 11 years old.
In 2012, my relationship with my family started falling apart when my parents could not fully resolve their differences.
Being only 11, I felt too young to speak out.
I still recall the slamming of doors, quarrels and verbal abuse towards each other.
Being only 11, I felt too young to speak out. I often stayed in school till the evening to avoid talking with my parents, and that’s when our relationship started to become strained.
Gradually, I stopped telling them about what was going on in my life.
I hid in my room whenever I came back from school as it was the only quiet place at home. My conversations with my parents slowly dwindled to simple “hellos” and “goodbyes”.
My parents didn’t get a divorce, but they eventually stopped talking to each other.
Learning to love
Two months before my 13th birthday, a classmate invited me to church. I felt warmly welcomed even though I didn’t know anyone else there.
When the pastor asked if anyone wanted to invite Jesus into their lives, I said “yes”.
I don’t recall the exact message shared that day, but I felt like I had been made whole, like I had finally found the missing piece in my life.
Shortly after, I was introduced to a community of secondary school students. We met regularly for meals and study sessions.
Many times, we would sit cross-legged on the ground for more than two hours, learning the Bible together.
Through these studies, I came to know more about God, His character, His enduring love for us and His endless grace. I learned that we can forgive others because God first forgave us.
No community is perfect and neither was mine. But because of Jesus’ love for us, we learnt to reconcile with each other whenever conflicts arose. We grew closer in the process.
“It was through learning to love the people in my community that I started to learn how to love my family.”
During exam season, my small group of friends and I made study packs for one another. When someone fell ill, we gave them care packs. When we met visitors, we also blessed them with welcome gifts.
It was through learning to love the people in my community that I started to learn how to love my family.
I decided to pray. I told God how I hoped the love I experienced in this community would also spread to my family too.
Around this time, my church had a sermon series titled Making your House a Home.
My pastor talked about honouring our parents – not just because they are our parents, but because God has commanded us to do so (Ephesians 6:1).
As he closed the sermon, he asked: “What if God wants to change our family situation through us?”
He then asked us to pray for our family and to surrender our situation to God, trusting Him to heal any hurts.
Of course, loving my family and trusting God wasn’t always easy.
In the following years, there were many moments when I had to surrender and re-surrender my grudges and pride to God.
I had to hold onto the hope that He has a specific plan for me and my family.
Past hurts, future healing
Whenever I felt too weak to love my family, God always showed me His grace and love.
Trying to start a conversation with my parents after a heated argument was often hard for me.
But one night, I felt compelled to pray and surrender my worries about my family to Him.
As I did this, God helped me connect the dots. He showed me that troubles and conflicts within families are often passed down through the generations.
In my parents’ case, they grew up seeing marriages break down from unresolved differences, constant arguments and gambling.
As far as I know, they just came to accept their circumstances. “It is what it is”, as my generation would say.
I am uncomfortable with this phrase because I believe that we can make a positive difference. We don’t have to resign ourselves to accepting broken relationships at home.
God helped me remember that my parents tried their best to create a loving family for me, even though they were carrying their own hurt.
He compelled me to love my parents because it pleases Him (Colossians 3:20), even though my immediate circumstances were discouraging.
This was a turning point in my strained relationship with my family.
With God’s help, I decided to break the cycle of hurt so that future generations wouldn’t be affected by the past.
My mum, who believed in a different faith, used to worry about me going to church or spending time with my church community.
She often scolded me when I got home as she wanted me to focus on doing well in school.
But as the years passed, I gradually saw how my mum’s heart softened towards me going to church. She realised that I was trying my best to do well in my studies while taking on church activities.
When I invited my mum to witness my baptism, I was surprised that she agreed to come.
I started going grocery shopping with my mum and eating dinner with her after that. I updated her on what was happening in school and at church so she would feel involved in my life.
Little by little, my mum started opening up about her life with me. She would even ask me to pray for her whenever she felt anxious about something.
Just recently, she told me about how nervous she felt before a sporting event. To calm herself down, she prayed to Jesus.
She remarked that she immediately felt a sense of peace. I see this as another step she’s taking towards receiving Christ into her life.
We don’t have to resign ourselves to accepting broken relationships at home.
I realised that if God could soften my mother’s heart, He could do the same for my dad too.
I started taking the initiative to pick my father up from work, or meet him for dinner. I knew that however awkward it was, God wanted me to do my part to mend the brokenness in my family.
Subsequently, my dad started initiating breakfast at the market on Sunday mornings, where we talked about things we were going through.
I had to divide my time between National Service (NS), my social life and going to church. However, God was teaching me the value of making time for my parents individually, even when it got tiring.
Looking back, I can see how God has used my past hurts to help others. He has also steered me towards projects that encourage others to strengthen their family relationships.
Comma Singapore was a final-year project my group from Ngee Ann Polytechnic worked on. We wanted to address mental health issues among Singaporean youths as we were concerned about the rise in suicide, self-harm and depression, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our research showed us that strong family relationships are key to one’s mental well-being. So we set out to promote better intergenerational bonds between youth and their parents.
Our group made an activity book with stories that parents and children between the ages of 16 to 25 can do together.
We also made a video series featuring two adults who shared the hurt they had experienced in their families when they were teenagers. (Watch one episode here.)
The videos help people understand that they can break the cycle of brokenness that has been affecting the family for generations. They also encourage others to confide in their families if they are going through a tough time.
Then in late 2021, FamChamps, a non-profit organisation, gave me the opportunity to become a council member.
Since 2014, FamChamps has partnered with secondary schools and other organisations to equip, empower and commission youths to represent their generation and bring change to their families and communities.
We are working on a project to open conversations between children and parents, helping them understand where the other party is coming from.
My own family’s healing is still very much a work-in-progress. However, I trust that God will help us reconcile fully in His time.
You may find yourself in a situation similar to mine, wanting your family to work together to overcome past hurts. If so, I hope you will choose to honour your parents.
I know there are days when ignoring them feels easier. But take heart and know that the daily process of surrendering to God will help to heal old wounds in time.
“The daily process of surrendering to God will help to heal old wounds in time.”
We are all wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14). This includes you and also your parents.
I believe God has not placed us in our families by accident. He has a purpose for each of us (Ephesians 1:11).
In my case, I believe it is to try to break the cycle of brokenness that has been going on for generations.
I pray that you, too, will seek to do the same with God’s help.
This article was first published on Stories of Hope.
- How are your relationships at home?
- Have you experienced healing for past hurts you’ve experienced?
- How do you think God might be using you to mend the brokenness within your family?