Years passed. At seven years of age, I had been most upset by what I deemed the most uncharitable gift in Christendom. Now, at the ripe old age of 12, I had grown wiser, having experienced something of life. At school, there was the usual jostling in the popularity stakes of being a friend and not-quite-friend. Meanwhile, parental pressure and the competition to excel in school, not just within one’s class but within one’s school year, was tough. One had to work hard, very hard indeed. Aside from the usual classroom hours, I had the unmitigated tedium of enduring hours of maths and Mandarin tuition: twice weekly of the former, and thrice weekly of the latter. Thus homework comprised not only of those exercises set by my class teachers but also of papers and tests set by my tutors. Oh, and then there were the school’s compulsory extra curricular activities twice a week as well as piano and violin lessons and exams.
Life, as I was now beginning to realise, was really far too busy to fret over those discarded items that had been carelessly wrapped in a brown paper bag and handed over to a 7-year old because the giver had been too mean-spirited to enter into the joy of Christmas giving. Besides, I had suddenly ‘grown up’ spiritually – and this, more than anything else, enabled me to finally forgive my Aunt and Uncle for their stinginess. It all began when I and all the kids from my year upwards attended a talk by a former prisoner. His name was Neville Tan, and I will never forget his testimony of how he became a Christian whilst in jail. Mr Tan’s words pierced my heart (and I am really not being dramatic here). I was so humbled to learn how much Jesus loved me – so much that He died for me! Me! I was nothing! Not particularly pretty; not terribly hardworking; probably more selfish than selfless. I wasn’t worthy of someone dying for me, much less the Son of God. I felt such shame, such contrition, such gratitude that God would love me so unconditionally. And I felt – and feel – so grateful that He did, had always done so, and still does to this day. On that wonderful day, when I heard Mr Tan’s sermon, it made me want to try my best to please Him. And it made me want to give Him back myself, His creation. That was when I surrendered my life to Jesus, asking Him to come into my life as my Lord and Saviour.
Of course, it is easier to promise to be good than to be good! I was 12 years of age. Christians will tell you that the devil does not like it when souls turn to God. And, in truth, he doesn’t. One becomes doubtful: ‘Did God really say that I will go to heaven if I truly believe in Him and salvation through His Son?’; ‘Am I really saved?’ Worse yet, the world is full of temptations. Look at the headlines and you will see what I mean: people lie, cheat, commit adultery, kill, etc., all in the name of money, self-aggrandisement, hatred, and, basically, the inability to contain and control those baser instincts of the spirit. Christians are not exempt from less than honourable thoughts or actions. We are humans after all and the devil likes to see us fall.
It is now decades since I committed my life to the Lord. It has not always been easy. The world beckons, and condones sinful behaviour (i.e. what is considered sinful behaviour in the Bible) – and it is so much easier to fall in with societal rather than biblical mores. Doubts arise when one goes through difficult times. Is God there? Does He care? I can’t feel Him.
BUT I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVES! He has taken me through thick and thin. Even though it seemed that He might have been light years away, He never left me. When I was lonely, I prayed. When I was sick, I prayed. When I was worried, I prayed. Often with tears; as often with joy. Some prayers seemed unanswered, but He was always there. (They are too many to enumerate, but some things I prayed for may resonate with my readers, so do feel free to get in touch.)
Thus, I have the ultimate Christmas gift already – Jesus Christ Himself. He is a living gift, a forever gift, the gift that will go with me through life and death, and thence to life eternal. Is life frightening sometimes? You bet! But He is right beside me even if I cannot always feel Him. Despite this, I know He is always by my side.