I was born at just 1.2 kilograms. I was about as long as the portion of the arm between the wrist and the elbow. I was tiny, a little more than a speck. “Even the extra-small nappies came up to your chest!”, my Mum used to remark. My Dad said what really got him was when he saw my tiny fingernails - “they were so incredibly small, but most definitely there.” You might have guessed it – I was born premature. 2 months before the predicted day of my birth, I came into this world frightened, unprepared and frail, yet God was and has always been with me.
My premature birth meant immense amounts of stress for my parents. Things could so easily go wrong for a premature child. My heart used to stop pumping every so often, and that would set off an alarm, sending nurses dashing to my cot to rescue me. I heard of the high risks of blindness, respiratory problems and heart problems that could have afflicted me due to underdeveloped internal organs, yet I remain untouched by any of them. That ordeal offered me a glimpse of the truth that I eventually came to accept: God has been working in me all through my life.
I was brought up in a Christian home (my parents both became Christians in university), and as a result, God was always there, almost in a physical sense. Hanging on the wall of our apartment back in Singapore is a wooden carving which reads “Christ is the head of this home”. Searching far, far back into my mind, I find memories of bible verses written on large sheets of paper and stuck onto the wall for my brother and I to memorise. I remember Christian camps, during which I made several internal and external professions of faith, not all of them genuine. I remember Sunday school.
I remember God.
All those years growing up, the idea of God, and more specifically, the God of the bible, had been drilled into my mind. And while this might sound negative, in fact, I can only be grateful for the incessant reminders of God. The bible tells us that, as human beings, we would naturally have no desire to seek Him. I certainly experienced that. It often felt like I did not want to acknowledge or face God, let alone seek Him.
I must have been thirteen or fourteen before I truly started to ponder some big questions for which I desperately needed answers. Who is God? What is my purpose on earth? What does my future hold? But even more than that, one question often loomed at the back of my mind: have I been predisposed to believe God because I was born into this family, grew up in this church, and live in this conservative environment where it was simply convenient and natural to become a Christian?
Those questions led me to begin reading the bible more intensely, as well as other books that helped me to understand the bible better. I stopped reading the bible out of “Christian duty”, but began to actually seek God. This thirst eventually led to answers, and I realised that they satisfied my intellectual desires. I became convinced that Jesus, a real, historical man, came to earth approximately 2000 years ago. I believe that He did many miracles, healed the sick, told parables, and attracted a large number of followers. I also believe that, as per C. S. Lewis’s argument, an examination of this evidence leads to the conclusion that Jesus had to either be a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord and God he claims to be. I had come to understand, in my mind, that there was good reason to believe that the resurrection happened, and that Jesus truly is God.
However, these answers, intellectually satisfying as they were, did not quite reach down into the deep recesses of my heart. I still spent sleepless nights wondering if I was being completely inane by believing in any God at all. I distinctly remember a night when I had been so consumed by the fear of death that I ran to my parents’ room, woke my mother up, and tried to explain, tears rolling off my cheeks, the inexplicable feelings I was having. I finally realised, after days of confusion and distress, that the problem lay not in the mind, but in the heart. Deep down, far beyond being a son, brother, friend, student, musician, leader, and follower, I was a sinner. I had fallen short of God’s standard: perfection. I was proud and conceited, often lording my accomplishments over my friends. I was unkind in my speech. I placed tremendous trust in my own abilities. I had refused to acknowledge God in my life. I was ungrateful and unhappy. I was disrespectful and unloving. I had hurt people. The list just goes on and on. And because of my sin, I knew I could not go to heaven to spend eternity in his presence, no matter how good a man I thought I was. I had to turn away from my sin, repent, and go to God alone for salvation. I had stumbled upon the crux of the matter.
C. H. Spurgeon once said, “If there be one stitch in the celestial garment of my righteousness, which I am to insert myself, then I am lost.” I have been saved solely by grace through faith – I claim no credit whatsoever for my salvation. I was given a gift that will never fade nor perish. Ever since I was touched by his love, my desire has been to reciprocate as much as I can by loving God, living a holy life, enjoying Him and glorifying Him. While I do not know the exact moment when I was saved, I believe that salvation came when I realised these things. I have enjoyed a most unexpected and beautiful relationship with Him ever since.
There might not have been an obvious and immediate change in my life as God was in many ways not as new to me, compared to someone from a non-Christian background. Nonetheless, there has been a difference and I see life in a way I never did before. I wake up thanking God that he has preserved my life one day longer, thanking him for that extra breath. I particularly enjoy long walks during which I can rest in His presence and tell Him, my heavenly Father, all my joys and worries and ask for guidance. The fact that my life has been preserved for so long leaves me in humble awe of Him. However, I also constantly remind myself that life is but a vapour, which is there for a little time, then vanishes away. I tell myself not to waste my life, but to use it wholly for Him.
My journey with God since conversion has been anything but boring, or restrictive. He has led me in so many mysterious and wonderful ways: from my difficult birth, to two years in the Singapore army, to providing for me to study music in Oxford, to adjusting to life in a foreign land, to becoming a trained singer as opposed to a pianist (something I would have genuinely laughed at if you told me a few years ago), to having the most wonderful opportunities doing short-term missions in Cambodia and Johannesburg, He has guided my footsteps all the way. All the things He has given me have been reminders of His never-unfailing love. And all the decisions that I have had to make that seem foolish to people around me make complete sense in light of his love.
Indeed, I have been most touched by God’s love for me. This has caused me to love Him in return. I leave you with part of the lyrics to one of my favourite hymns, The Love of God:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
If God can love me, He can love anybody.