Who am I? // 我是誰？
Are you trying to live up to what the world wants you to be? Last year, Serene slowly gave up her idols and went on a journey of incredible highs and incredible lows… resulting in the most intimate relationship with God yet.
I’m not one who think too much of new year resolutions generally but for the year 2012, I made a resolution to find out who I am and where I wanted to call home. I’ve moved around so much the past decade that I didn’t even know where home was anymore. For the first time in my life, I felt lost. I was purposeless and directionless and it scared me. It rocked my core.
I’ve always been very sure of what I wanted and where I wanted to be next. From the age of 3, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and pursued that with a one-track mind. I studied fairly diligently and put all my time, effort and devotion into my career. Nothing else came close to its priority in my life. It gave me the security I never had growing up. The respect, approval and financial freedom that came with it fueled the drive to excel in my career even more. With every promotion, I wanted more. I felt I deserved more. It was never enough. The drive was addictive and exhilarating until it became all too much for me. I was burning out.
That’s where the Lord met me. I came back to Christ a few years before that and since then, He has been gently prodding my heart to rid me of the idols in my life. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21) I struggled with the Lord for two years before I finally relented and quit my job. I felt led to China so I packed my bags and moved to Beijing to study Mandarin.
Beijing was an extremely difficult period for me. My dad didn’t approve of my decision to quit my job. He had always been there for me to coach me through difficult life and career decisions but not this time. It was the longest we had ever gone without speaking and it really hurt. My family felt that they didn’t know me anymore and we barely spoke. I could understand because I was so out of character, I didn’t even know myself. Wasn’t this what I have always wanted? Now that I am here and my goals are achievable, why am I walking away? I was confused. I felt like a failure and a huge disappointment to my family.
I was also nursing a broken heart when I got to Beijing. A relationship ended right before I headed to Beijing and it was difficult going through that without my friends in HK. It was also a time I realized that I have not been single much since I first started dating. Even when I was single, there were always hopeful targets or guy ‘friends’ whom I relied on for emotional support. My heart was never free for Jesus alone. Bible tells us to love one another sincerely and I knew I wasn’t. I was misleading others and I didn’t mind being misled as well because I welcomed the attention. I was seeking comfort in the wrong places. So I decided to dedicate 2012 to the Lord and abstained from dating. It was the boundary I needed to help build healthy relationships with my guy friends and brothers in Christ.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t have any of the things I usually clung on to for security and identity: home, career, stability, financial security, family approval and relationship. It wasn’t intentional at all. All I planned to do was to take some time off work to figure things out and move to Beijing to study Mandarin. If I had known what I was getting myself into, I probably wouldn’t have done it. It would have been all too much for me. My pastor, Jason Young, says that sometimes uncertainty protects us. It allows us to do things we would never have done because it would have freaked us out if we knew what lies ahead. How wise! Looking back, that’s what happened to me.
In Beijing, I got to a point where I couldn’t turn back but going forward meant letting go completely and free falling. It was a point of total surrender because I had nothing else to hold on to. I spiraled into a black hole which I now realize was probably depression, or the early form of it. There were many days where I could not get out of bed. Hopelessness was all I felt. I would cry at the drop of a pin. I barely slept or went out. People around me felt helpless because they didn’t know what was happening to me or how to help me.
The Lord was all I had. I clung on to the Lord and prayed every day. I remembered praying one day that if He doesn’t do something, I would not know how to go on. I wasn’t going to hurt myself but I knew I didn’t have anything left in me to go on anymore. The next morning, I was woken up by a gentle whisper that felt like a breath of fresh air. It was audible. He whispered promises and love into my ear. His words spoke life into me. Literally. It gave me hope. I learnt that He was all I needed. That repeated every morning for about a week. I’ve never felt Him closer. It picked me up for a while but the feeling of despair came back.
After Beijing, I went to spend some time with my cousin in London. When I reached her home, I was pretty broken. I didn’t leave my room or talk much. I ate just enough to sustain me. That was when I realised there was something seriously wrong with me. I felt helpless. Again, I cried out to the Lord. The following Sunday, I decided to check out Hillsong London. During worship, I lifted my arms while singing. Suddenly, my right arm started shaking visibly and uncontrollably. I didn’t want to attract any attention, so I kept my hands back down. I was curious to see if it would happen again, so I lifted my arms back up and my right arm started shaking again immediately. This time, I felt joy came rushing back into my heart and filled my entire being. All of a sudden, the heaviness and burden lifted. I felt free. It was an incredible feeling. Right after the service, I signed up for a road trip to the Hague in the Netherlands for Hillsong’s Europe conference. I didn’t know anyone but I didn’t care because I didn’t feel alone. On the way back to my cousin’s, I saw a sign at the tube station saying ‘Your journey just got better’. You don’t say! When I got home, I was just in time for dinner. I finished an entire plate of Osso Bucco and even asked for a second helping. She smiled and said, “You’re back! I don’t know what happened at church today but I’m really glad you went.”
Last year was easily the hardest year of my life but it was also the best I’ve ever had. I’ve never been closer to the Lord nor had more freedom to explore my passions and dreams. I learnt to dream again. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more time with my friends and family or travelled, ate, read, indulged in music and movies more in my life!
Safe to say that I am very happy to stay put in HK for now. The year I let go and gave the Lord control was also the year I experienced the most love, security and freedom. I have always taken pride in being responsible, independent and self-sufficient. I didn’t realise that I was letting these characteristics define me. I never liked being taken care of because it made me feel weak and dependent on others. What if they leave one day? What if they disappoint? During my journey, the Lord healed many past wounds that caused the insecurities that triggered these characteristics. I found it was really nice to be on the receiving end and being taken care off instead. The love and generosity poured out by my friends and family, particularly by my cousin and best friend last year was overwhelming. I learnt to love from the love they’ve shown me. The healing I received helped improve my relationship with my family. The Lord also restored my relationship with my brother, which was the icing on the cake. I learnt to be content and developed a more grateful heart. Contentment really is a state of mind and not a physical state of being.
So how did my resolutions turn out? Well, I’ve finally found out who I am. My identity is in Christ. My faith is not a religion or philosophy. It’s a relationship with my Creator. He defines me and gives me worth that is beyond this world. Having been to all these places, I also realized that I am actually quite fond of HK. There’s no place quite like it. Besides, my friends and spiritual family in HK are da bomb! They make it quite hard for me to leave again.
Has the discovery of my true identity lifted all my troubles? Well, it’s a process. Coming back to HK this time to face the reality after what felt like a fairy tale journey has been difficult. Job-hunting in the current market is tough. I am also a lot more sure of what I don’t want and that doesn’t make the job hunt any easier. I struggle every day I don’t have a job. There was a period when it got really bad and I felt like a failure again. Then one night, I met Jesus in my dream. He had His back towards me As I approached, He turned His head around, not quite looking at me, He asked “Serene, am I not enough?” In that instant, I felt the love I had for Him rushing back and that He really is enough. I realized I was putting all my hope in my career and letting my career define me again. It is still a struggle but it is getting a lot easier for me to let go and enjoy the ride knowing that He is in control and I don’t have to be. I know there will always be someone who will catch me when I fall. He never leaves or disappoints.
這時我跟神相遇。在發生這事情的前幾年，我重投基督的懷抱。從此以後，祂緩緩地幫我重新塑造我心目中所崇拜的偶像的模樣。因為你的財寶在那裡，你的心也在那裡。(馬太福音 6:21) 我跟神掙扎了兩年後，我終於放開並辭退了我的工作。我感應到去中國的號召，所以我執拾行李，隻身到北京學普通話。
找到我的真正身份有沒有把我的煩惱都帶走？這其實是一個過程。在經歷過童話般的感覺後，這次回到香港再次面對現實其實是困難的。現在的經濟環境比較難找到工作，加上我知道了我不想做什麼，令到我更不容易找到工作。當我沒有工作的時候，我每天都在掙扎，有一段時間情況變得很差，我又覺得我失敗了。然後，有一天晚上，我在夢裏見到耶和華，祂背對著我。然後，當我慢慢靠近，祂回頭但沒有看我，祂問：「Serene，我不足夠嗎？」當刻，我感覺到我對祂的愛湧到心裏，而且祂真的是足夠的。我發現我把所有的希望都放到我的事業上，還讓事業來界定我的身份。 偶爾我還是有一點點内心掙扎，但現在的 我變得懂得容易去放開以及繼續享受旅程，只因我知道一切都控制在祂手裏，我再也不用擔心了。我知道在我跌倒時永遠會有祂看顧著我，祂永遠不會離開或令我失望。
Image credit: flickr.com/eole