Broken, Loved and Beautiful


“You have an irreplaceable role to play in this world and important purposes hang on your life.” (Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge)

The lingering disbelief that many have towards this truth is evidence of the long assault on our hearts in this broken world. Growing up with absent fathers and overworked mothers, we have presented ourselves bare first to our families and then everywhere else, in search of a love that satisfies us. All appears futile. We strive in every possible sphere to prove ourselves (to ourselves and) to the audience of the world – our planners are filled and every commitment is a search for affirmation, asking “Am I good enough now?”, “Am I beautiful enough now?”, “Am I loveable enough now?” Underlying the insecurities is the critical question of “enough”. Our hearts are broken, dreams broken. Our vulnerabilities have been trampled on more times than one and we wonder if the brokenness has any room for fixing anymore.

This one is for the Beautiful One behind the screen, this was written specially for you. The pursuit of perfection is misguided and our understanding of beauty has been corrupted; my prayer is that you open your heart to the endless waves of gracious love that surrounds you and open your palms to receive the contentment that comes with starting from ‘I am enough’. Receive the promise in every sentence – broken, beautiful and loved one.

You are a recipient of love. Look all around you: at the friends who shower you with endless care and the family that protects you in your most fatigued of times. See the gentle smiles of those who care for you and feel the warmth from the hugs you receive – not just physical smiles and hugs, but the ones you see with your heart, and experience with your eyes closed. Allow them to embrace you. Let the fond memories of hearty laughter and joyful days affirm you: you are loved. You are deeply loved. You are loved not because of what you do and achieve, but simply because of who you are.

From the day you were born and even before, you were loved as you are today. You have inherent worth and beauty, you are precious in your being. The beauty you possess is a light that radiates from within, it is in your soul. It invites those around you to rest and brings life to the powerless or weak. You are that beautiful. And you are so very loved.

We have mixed up our starting points and destinations. Too often, we begin from a place of “I am not enough” and strive to prove ourselves worthy of love, thinking the destination lies in hearing a close one say “I love you”. Misguided, we wonder, “When people see all that we really are, will they still say “I love you” and mean it wholeheartedly?” We question, “Do they love me because of me or because of what I do for them?” The truth is, there is a love that sees all of us and says, with a compassionate smile and a humble heart, I love you. This was the voice that was present even before you were born, it persists today and will continue to forevermore.

If you are here reading this today, I want to tell you that you are already loved with that love – the one that fully knows you and fully embraces you. You were not made to live in fear or endless striving. Just by being (and without doing), you are loved. May you find the courage, then, to live in every moment with the starting point that “I am loved and I have nothing to prove”. Watch your life transform as you come from a place of enough.

We are in a world vulnerable to emotional assaults of different forms – the temptations to compare our lives with others, the contest to proof ourselves more productive than all around us and the passing remarks that seem to tell us to “try harder”. We are imperfect people offering imperfect love, and that’s okay. Forgive others and forgive yourself. Forgive the cracks and brokenness, forgive the tears that stream uncontrollably and the times you felt you fell short. Forgive the number of times you have given your hearts away with high hopes only to be disappointed. Broken again. Our cracks are where light shines through and it is our brokenness that makes a way for true beauty.

Remember this: you are protected by a shield of love, you are loved and you are blessed unconditionally. Let the truth be etched in your heart that this is enough and you are enough.



Celebrate 2017: Way, Truth and Life

Creatures of habit, craving pattern and crafting stories, we try year after year to form relationships of correlation and graphs of linearity with the happenings of the year. As with the passing of each year, the countdown to the next deserves immense celebration – in an age of extreme poverty in many parts of the world where children barely live past the age of five, in the midst of the refugee crisis that reshuffles the geographical placement of people all over forced from their homes by circumstances, and in a time of amplified busyness that suffocates our minds and souls; we truly have to count our blessings in making it to yet another year. For years, I have ended the year with a piece that celebrates the year (see for 201420152016); this year I am convicted to depart from the compilation of achievements and memories that will fade away in a matter of time. I have been assured of their brevity, realizing how little these trophies and titles amount to who I am.

Shifting the focus unto the lessons of the current that I am learning in this season, my prayer is that this piece will inspire you to consider: What are the lessons that you can be learning in this time? How are the happenings in this season impacting your character that will last over time? Let’s fix our gaze on the things that will remain valuable and even more so with the passing of time, as we step forth into the new year. It is with immense privilege of sharing my story from this season that I write this piece. I overflow with gratitude towards the infinite grace that I am a blessed recipient of, coming with a heart of lightness and rest: I celebrate 2017.

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I am learning that the way is not always easy. Difficult roads lead to beautiful places – unexpected twists and turns sometimes lead us on a vertical drop to rock bottom, but it is in the valleys that we uncover our solid foundation and revisit the very basis of who we are, of what we believe. Departing from home was an emotional challenge, the safe harbor and its beauty too close in sight that I was reluctant to let go of the comfort. Who I was and what I believed had become so strongly associated with this place I called ‘home’ that a single step beyond its boundaries evoked fear and hesitation. The truth is, who we are is an exploration of a place so deep that it is independent of our geographical placement: the accent, the pace of footsteps, the humidity and the food all too unsubstantial to fill the crux of our identities. They are only the wrapping paper of a beautiful gift; to keep it wrapped is as silly as to receive a wonderfully wrapped present only to leave it unwrapped for years and years because we are content with the sparkle and glitter of the paper. Or because we find the task of tearing apart the tape and paper too much of a hassle. In all this time, the wondrous gift beneath awaits. Unwrap the present – just as the work of unwrapping the paper is necessary for the unveiling of the gift, so it is with the uncovering of our innermost selves. It is in the confrontation of difficult situations that the unwrapping of our captivating souls begin.

In 2017, coming to Sydney for my university studies was one of the most difficult decisions to make but it saw, too, the birth of countless miraculous beginnings that remain the best decisions of my life. The bravest decisions take faith: we don’t have to completely understand or see all of what lies ahead fully (this is impossible for most decisions we make daily anyway). We have to take the step and trust the way. The first step of faith has taken me to unimaginable adventures of wonder and I am walking on the way still.

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I am learning that the truth is to be seeked. We all have an inkling of truth: when we think to ourselves a “got to be” statement (“there has got to be more to this”, “what she’s doing has got to be wrong”), we are preaching our convictions of truth. The promise is that the truth will set us free and as we long for freedom in our lives, we are all called on a journey of seeking truth. The oblivion that blinds us is the greatest enemy to our freedom: it threatens our full and abundant lives because it evokes indifference. When we are oblivious, we are unaware of the broader perspectives that lie beyond our mobile phones, beyond our daily conversations with friends who are like us and way beyond our homes or families. In that oblivion, our understanding and knowledge end at the borders of our devices and an illusion of vastness is created by the endless scrolling of our feeds. What we feed grows and when we feed this oblivion, we are growing a sense of indifference – it is where we don’t know, and on top of that, we don’t care. Indifference nips our search for truth at its very roots because we have no concern about what is true.

In 2017, I was inspired to search for truth. If truth is truth, it is absolutely true. Truth remains true regardless of people’s sentiments and thoughts, it remains true in spite of popularity and not because of it. The truth that stands firmly with certainty is a safe place to put my trust and confidence. I am learning that to take ownership of my story is to take on the responsibility of living one in truth. This determination does not end at its declaration; it only begins. As we decide upon the end of oblivion and indifference, we have to declare the beginning of our search. It is wholehearted devotion that says, “I’m all in.” I wake up these days declaring, I don’t know what lies ahead today and this day is filled with uncertainty but I will be thankful for every breath and actively seek out what is true in every moment so I might live fully in truth.

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I am learning that the life of fullness is worthwhile. Our lives are these and our lives are now. They are what they are at present; all at the same time, they encompass what has past and hold hopes for the future. There is a story of a man named Nehemiah who lead workers in rebuilding the fallen walls of Jerusalem a long time ago. As he assigned people to work on the different parts of the wall, he called each of them to work on the part of the wall that was closest to their homes. Perhaps, if we consider experiencing fullness in life as the grand project of building a wall, where we have to start is right where we are. We have mastered the ‘ideation’ part of concocting the masterplan – we have some idea of what we want our walls to look like – we almost meditate on it with longing every single day. We are meditating on them as we look with yearning at the Instagram posts of others’ or as we make “if only” statements that point at our future. What we have overlooked all too often, though, is that act of building that wall. The grandness of the project all too daunting, we settle for imagining.

Dreaming is easy, we do it every day. Doing is the challenge and yet without which, living does not even begin. We remain in mere existence. The life of fullness awaits our willingness to start where we are and do what we can. Transform your dreams into actions – extend the dream of a lasting relationship with a commitment to love those who are already around you, extend the dream of attaining a job that “changes lives” with a commitment to influence those already in your circles, extend the dream of becoming that person with a commitment to grow the person that you are at present. Make a promise to do, the dreaming will come to fruition. As we step forth bravely into the new year unsure of what lies ahead, may commitments pave the way to unwrapping the greatest present of this Christmas season: the gift of our lives.

Christmas Is About Christ


“It really comes down to that: God loves us. The story of Christmas is the story of God’s relentless love for us. Let him love you – if God was willing to wrap himself in rags and drink from a mother’s breast, then all questions about his love for you are off the table. God has made his case: there is no place he will not go. No place is too common. No person is too hardened. No distance is too far. There is no person he cannot reach. There is no limit to his love.”
(From Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado)

5 days away: the LED lights are set in place adorning every mall, every corner of every street. The mistletoes are plenty and Christmas trees well set up. The jingles of fa-la-la-la and ra-pa-pum-pum ring in our ears endlessly. Peace swells within our hearts and an unspeakable joy arises at the wonder of the season. It’s Christmas time. For years and years, the Christmas season has created excitement – an unexplainable generosity and tender-hearted kindness characterizes this time and a divine wave of restoration comes upon us, washing away debts and betrayals, emotional assaults and hurts. Renewal and healing reigns. There is just something about Christmas. Every year in this time, a floodgate of questions would be opened – What renders this season of such love? Why is there overwhelming generosity in this time? What are we celebrating anyway? This year is extraordinary for me: I am celebrating Christmas for what it is, truly. Returning to the reason for the season, this Christmas I am going home walking in the truth. Christmas is about Christ.

 Christmas is the celebration of an arrival as we await another – the arrival of a Savior. His name is Jesus Christ. The English name ‘Jesus’ traces its origin to the Hebrew word ‘Yeshua’ which means ‘God saves’. The story of Christmas is that of a God who loves His people so so much that He wrote Himself into the story in the form of the human flesh. An author comes to life in the midst of his characters; a playwright comes on stage amongst his cast. The story of Christmas is that of a love so so great that it saw the King of all Kings humble Himself to come into the world in lowest of forms – a little baby wrapped in rags, birthed in a manger. The all-divine, all-powerful, Almighty Prince of Peace comes into the world for His people to do for them what we could never do ourselves – to save.

For a long time, I had immense fear and resistance to God because the mention of Him would bring to mind a fierce disciplinarian waiting upon my failures and mistakes to reprimand and despise me. He was vastly misunderstood in my image of Him that was built on lies; the biggest lie of all was that He comes just to condemn and punish me. The story of Christmas tells the truth. The truth is that God is love and He comes first to save us from the darkness in which we unknowingly live, that which we ourselves have no power to leave. The truth is that God loves you relentlessly and He pursues you still with the wildest promise that He comes to save. God’s power is to be feared, His anger and wrath are real; but what is no less real is that nothing separates us from the love He lavishes upon us unfailingly. He is waiting on your ‘yes’. Yes, the God who created all of heavens and the earth came down beneath the very stars He created to extend the long-standing invitation to be in a relationship with you. (It is beyond imagination and beyond understanding. It is amazing grace.)

Perhaps you are confused, unsure about what you believe about God or Jesus Christ. Then, as you are reading this I pray for the eyes of your heart to see that you are not here reading this piece ‘by chance’, not ‘by the coincidental click on the mouse’ or ‘by the random leading of gut feeling’. This is an invitation from God Himself, He calls out to you and pleads with you to receive the love that is in Him. He brought you here. The truth of Christmas is that the baby in the manger knows your brokenness and understands your sorrows, He knows what is holding you back and the insecurities that trap you. He took on your face in the hope that you would see His. He sees right into the heart of your fears and wants to free you. In the words of Max Lucado, “If the King was willing to enter the world of animals and shepherds and swaddling clothes, don’t you think He’s willing to enter yours?”

There is confusion where we let Christmas be just about the jingling bells and smiling Santa Claus, where we celebrate the ornaments adorning trees and indulge in the endless sales along streets of the homeless. Do you hear the inkling in your heart saying, “there must be something more”? There is more Christmas is about hope that persists in the possibilities that life can and should be better than it currently is; Christmas is about faith that joy, peace and purpose will emerge victorious in our broken world and broken lives; Christmas is about love that remains faithful forever regardless of trials or failures. Christmas seeks the face of the answer to our questions, it seeks a love that each of our hearts long for deeply.

The face you’re seeking exists and the most radical love story is still being told today: they are found in a person that Christmas is all about. His name is Jesus Christ.


Life Is: To Love and To Be Loved


The countdown to returning to the sunny island we call ‘home’ begins. It was just months ago that we packed our luggages, bid our farewells, (maybe) shed our tears and embraced our loved ones; vivid memories at the airport still remain. At milestones as this, the fleeting nature of time confronts us and somehow takes us by surprise each time. Shouldn’t we have arrived at enough milestones as such to realise that our lives are like fog – here for the moment and gone in the next? Shouldn’t that realization compel continuous pursuit for greater? From the earlier days in Sydney, I had been seeking ‘love’ that I knew ‘had all answers’, that ‘always makes a way’; the ‘love’ that fills us with joy and peace, ‘love’ that builds character. Preceding years of service and volunteerism, convicted me of the incomparable value of ‘love’ that I yearned to be the foundation for my life.

Months on from leaving home, I discover the truth that we all receive an incredible love that my words do little justice to. My prayer is that reading this would encourage you to, too, seek true, pure and complete love that exists instead of settling for the counterfeit love that hinders us from that which is authentic and immeasurable.

Love is not selfish

In primary school, idle afternoons would be taken by poor movie choices, consisting mostly of chick flicks. Each of which provided an inaccurate and incomplete illustration of ‘love’ –  friendships were littered with betrayal and backstabbing, while the so-called ‘love’ between the couple that eventually gets together was more often characterized by attraction and affection, nothing more (think Mean Girls, High School Musical or Easy A). As my female peers (and now myself) enter university, there has been increasing pressure to seek ‘love’ in the ways of the world that we have been taught. We hear stories of “who’s entering the upcoming pageant”, “who’s dating who” and “who’s done it already” within the first weeks of university. No one talks about it aloud but within, fear and insecurities brew – What if I don’t find someone? What if I am unlovable? What if there’s no other way to love but this? But since when did being attached and engaging in sexual activity become measuring sticks for love and ‘lovability’.

These lies compound and we so often settle for the selfish love that is not love. The opposite of love is not hate, it is selfishness. ‘Selfish love’ is an oxymoron, for true love does not demand its own way. Love is not self-seeking. Today’s relationships (both boy-girl relationships and friendships) are so often premised on how the other can meet one’s emotional and physical needs – the increasing co-habitation trends in young couples are reflective of our taking one another on ‘trial sessions’, to see one’s fit to meeting our own needs. Friendships are no longer about sticking it out with each other through the ups and downs, but about the unspoken transactions. Until we commit to learning love that is not selfish, we are nightmares to be friends with or to date; betrayals and heartbreaks waiting to happen.

How many of us truly enter the relationships in our lives seeking to serve the other person wholeheartedly, instead of considering what we can gain from the relationship? Have we chosen selfishness over love that is not selfish?

Love is complete acceptance

For some part of my life, my frizzy hair was a source of great insecurity. Growing up amongst girls with long and straight hair made me think that my curly hair was unusual rather than unique. It is rarely discussed, but I came to find out from vulnerable conversations that every person struggles with some part of their appearance or their character – it is a shared human experience. Each of us, if asked for a part of ourselves we hoped to change, could most definitely come up with a list immediately. There is a difference, though, between wanting that change from a place of love (seeking growth) and wanting that change from a place of resentment (seeding destruction).

Especially in the Asian context, we are taught to treat ourselves harshly as a form of discipline towards change and betterment. There is, though, a discipline that comes from love that begins from a place of complete acceptance. Think of someone in your life whom you are certain about his/her love for you and consider this – in your imperfection and many weaknesses, this person has chosen to love you and loves you still. Does that mean that he/she will not want you to seek development and growth? Does that mean that he/she will love you any less when you change because you pursue a better version of yourself? One who truly loves you will love you too much to let you remain the way you are and instead, compel you with that love of complete acceptance to become better and better every day.

I have lost count of the number of times my emotional vulnerability has been taken advantage of in relationships. Over time, I have come to learn that those who truly love me not only protect and cherish it, but support me in learning to harness empathy as a strength. Love rejoices in our gifts being brought to light and tramples upon injustice. Are we pursuing the best version of ourselves every day from a place of love or resentment? Are we assured that we receive unconditional love even if we are imperfect and we will change? Or is conditional love taking the guise of true love, limiting the greatness that you were made for?

Love is life

Let’s ask ourselves, “What in this life is worth dying for?” because that same thing would then, be worth living for. Our futile pursuits that lead us deeper into emptiness assure us of the many things that are not worthwhile – our grades, achievements, travels and even memories will fade away in the matter of time. This strategy of elimination, though, is not quite time effective especially considering the fog-like nature of our lives. The dissipation is already happening; with every moment we draw closer to the end of this life.

We are all on our own journeys towards the truth of what this time on earth is meant for: for a long time, I had been lost in the roundabout busyness that our world draws us into. Today, I feel more alive every day and the turning point started in the moment I decided to make love my one calling. Throwing aside the things that were hollow of meaning, so that I had two hands empty to embrace the calling to love. I challenge you to do the same – reject the counterfeit love of this world and seek love, truly – then watch your life be radically changed as was mine. One that is not selfish and accepts completely, truly. I look forward to your testimony of life change, write to me at

“Many of us live with incredible tension and anxiety because we think that our dreams will come true if we just get the right degree, if we just meet the right people, if we just get the right job. We assume our happiness is tied to our success, and our success depends on our performance. So we sweat and struggle and scheme and strategize, and we wonder why we aren’t enjoying life.” 
 Judah Smith, Author of Life Is ­­­­­­_______


You Were Made For Greater


What if I told you you were made for greater? You were made for greater. Greater than the unending busyness, greater than the relentless routines and mindless pursuits. You were made for greater than travelling to that job you don’t enjoy every day or studying the subjects you see no purpose in. You were made for greater. There is something greater in store for you than the endless scrolling through social media and the conversations that bring you more emptiness than fullness. Greater than you can even imagine and certainly greater than the greatest you think you’ve experienced. This piece is about the greater in store for you, inspired by a recent read Greater by Steven Furtick and the fires we are to start setting should we want to uncover the promise of something greater.

Set fire to our silliness

‘What is your passion?’ is the buzz of the generation. Left, right, centre, we are told to ‘follow our hearts’ and ‘pursue our dreams’ – we are the generation walking on the clouds, seeking something greater but getting lost in rollercoaster rides of adrenaline and burn out. Worse, we are confused and mislead in the false dichotomy of passion and practicality. Say this world we live in were a mansion, we feel like we are taking a gamble whenever we decide which doors to open and which others to close. The door of practicality appears to bring us into a room with cement flooring of stable ground but white walls of meaninglessness; vitality is lacking. Peeking through the slit of the door of passion, there are radiant colours and music plays but we fear that the ground there will not hold us. ‘It’s impractical’ or ‘You’re going to fail’ are the criticisms that hold us back from that first step that could make all the difference.

The greater life that we were made for though, is a mansion of open doors one after another – a myriad of colours painted on the walls and diverse types of flooring await our adventurous steps. There are many more doors than just two, passion and practicality are characteristics (that can coexist) not categories (that are mutually exclusive). There is more than enough room in this mansion to try and fail, if we only tried. Too often, it is not our intellect protecting us from regret but our fear preventing us from revolutionary. In the words of Steven Furtick, the real danger we experience in this generation is not that of losing our lives but of wasting them – wasting them for anything less than the greater we were made for. How greater looks for every person might differ, but we all start from the same place – setting fire to our silliness.

The silly things we do in this life are many. We hold onto our pasts that leave no room in our hearts for the present. We chase perfection to please. We spend more time doing things that mean less to us. We settle for less. We let irrational fears be our excuses. We let the people who don’t value us be our measures of worth. We are less aware of our convictions that shape our everyday lives than we should be. We are slaves to our silliness – making room for greater calls us to set on fire silliness taking up the rooms of our hearts.

What irrational fears and doubts are you holding on to? Who are the people who are telling you you are anything less than strong and courageous? Which commitments are you dreading more and more, to bring yourself to? How are you spending every moment in this precious life?

Set fire to our souls

In Youth Corps Singapore, we speak of the ‘fire in our bellies’ to refer to the innate passions that tug at our heart strings. It is that social cause that brings tears to your eyes, that sport that brings you to your feet, that topic of conversation that brings adrenaline throughout your body, that art form you could indulge in for hours and lose track of time. It takes different shapes and forms for each person but one thing is for sure – the mention of that fire enlivens an inner spark, warming our hardened hearts as if bringing us to life for the first time. It only takes a spark to get a fire a going and I encourage you to be mindful of the everyday conversations and choices you make, for they give you clues to what your spark might be. There is light in each of us, a spark that isn’t meant to remain as it is – like the sizzle from a match that strikes against its box, it is purposed to be thrown into the stack of wood to light ablaze the bonfire.

When was the last time you were excited about something? When was the last time you got lost in time because you enjoyed doing something so much? When was the last time you left a conversation fuller than you were before it? Let’s find that spark and set fire to our souls, the greater life awaits.


Are We Truly Free?

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We say we are free. We love our freedom.

Inching into the mid-semester milestone, the way we abide by our timetables and pursue our assignment deadlines have become almost mechanical. The robotic footsteps that bring us to and from university, then the routine of attending to work has evolved into thoughtless commitments. We recognise the lacklustrer poise and the endless busyness. The downcast eyes and the heavy sighs. ‘Peace’ becomes a far-fetched ideal, a luxury we “cannot afford”. We cannot recall a time we described our schedules as “full, challenging and fulfilling” instead of “busy, tiresome and hectic”. This piece is about the freedom we claim to prize and yet, the slavery we time and again succumb to. Allow me to propose that the freedom we are fighting so hard to protect is not making us feel any freer, not in any sense of the word. (We remain busy and confused as ever, in our schedules and in our hearts.)

Enslaved by what they want me to do | Freedom by what I was made to do

We say we are free. We love our freedom.

Wherever I look, this world teaches me to invest myself in the tangible – the grades, the career, the material possessions that will somehow bring me to a place of fulfilment; a place of fullness. There is a tingling in my soul that reminds me though, that there is little truth in these investments. There is a knowing that endless nights up completing assignments, countless days of overtime work in the office and fleeting indulgences in experiences of ‘pleasure’ (or so the world calls them) will only leave me more tired, more isolated and more unsatisfied. The grumbling of the soul will only grow. The recipe to a meal should take some semblance to the eventual meal I am hoping to cook up; in the same way, if this should be the recipe to the concoction of ‘a life of freedom’, the steps I take should bring me closer. The taste of freedom should brew as I draw closer.

The grumbling speaks but we still choose the path that has been tried and tested and known to fail, thinking maybe for me it will be different, maybe for me it will work, maybe fullness will come. We know no other path and persist in treading incessant busyness. Yet, the more we invest in doing the things society expect of us just because that is expected of us, are we not fastening the seatbelt in the vehicle that is on its way to our cells of misery? Are we not leaving our outstretched arms for the handcuffs of society’s expectations?

Desperate, we choose the path of extraordinary. We take the path less trodden and challenge societal norms. We sign ourselves up for extra-curricular activities, external classes, sports teams and spend our weekends volunteering. We colour our lives with additional ingredients beyond the standard recipe; we add salt and pepper, spices and sugar. On days we are silent enough, honest enough, we know that the added flavour isn’t going to change the dish we are cooking up. So long as what follows our ‘because…’ when answering ‘Why do you do what you do?’ has been a result of what society expects, are we truly free?

C.S. Lewis enlightens us as we cook up (nothing but) lies to ourselves. He writes that sometimes the shortest way round is the longest way home. Where one has been driving on the highway in the wrong direction, the fastest way to the destination is a complete U-turn to cover all the miles that has already been covered. When solving a mathematical problem applying the wrong principle, the fastest way to the answer is to redo the entire mathematical problem. Where our recipe to a dish is misguided, adding flavourful spices will not be as effective as throwing away the half-done ingredients and starting over with the correct recipe.

Enslaved by who they want me to be | Freedom by who I am meant to be

We say we are free. We love our freedom.

Recently, I had the privilege of listening to the story of an inspiring individual – her story is one of breaking free from the misleading messages of media about body image and standing up for who she had wanted to be. There is power in being aware of what has informed the people we hope to become – Is it our parents whose everyday worries shape our ambitions? Is it the peers we interact with everyday whom we compare ourselves to? Is it our past experiences that have scarred us to a place we perceive is beyond repair? Is it the fears for today or our worries about tomorrow? The battles lost before and those not yet fought?

When we see that everything we tell ourselves about who we are is a choice that we make daily, we realise that we are eventually in control of whether or not anything besides what is true becomes who we are. A mantra I had in 2016 was “Be who you want to be, not who they want me to be.” Thank you Brene Brown. ‘They’ did not refer to specific people I wanted to blame for the insecure chatters in my head. ‘They’ referred to the general external myriad of lies that I had become enslaved to over time. I am still breaking free one chain at a time.

Even with the ongoing rallies and debates about same-sex marriage in Sydney, I wonder if we are truly fighting for freedom. Do the rainbow flags, glitter and heels, make up and flowers, truly represent the identities of those in the LGBTIQ community? Are we enslaving them further by parading in a way that reduces their people into merely their sexualities? Today as a minority in my university classroom, I wonder how much I might appreciate a ‘parade for Singaporeans’ to celebrate who I am. I would appreciate the kind intentions, but also desire for my self to be recognised as more than just ‘Singaporean’ – because being Singaporean is part of who I am, but only just a part. Months ago, on the day of Mardi Gras, a play called ‘The Homosexuals’ was staged in Griffin Theatre. Put together by talented individuals, the sense of loneliness and that of being misunderstood conveyed by the powerful literature reaffirmed the conviction that we have to keep asking ourselves, “Who am I? Who am I, regardless of what people think or what society says? Who am I, that I don’t have anything to prove because I am already approved? Who am I, that I believe I am worthy of love and belonging without fighting for it?”

Enslaved by lies | Freedom by truth

The Bible says the truth will set you free. (Whatever you believe about the Bible, this is a phrase that has been quoted over and over; one that we can certainly learn from.) The worst fate I can imagine is to allow myself to be enslaved by what is not true and not even know it.

For a long time, I believed that freedom was the absence of rules. This has been challenged over and over as a history student, for the wars and tragic atrocities of our past show us evidently that laws and regulations are necessary and paramount, even, to the freedom of individuals in society. The freedom to stay out as late as I’d like comes from the laws that protect me against crime, the freedom to spend money the way I’d like comes from the regulations that surround our markets and the freedom to love deeply those around me comes from our unspoken agreements about trust. The overwhelming truth that these that ‘restrictions’ are not antithetical to freedom leads me to pursue freedom in a radically different way.

Perhaps then, it is time to fight for freedom not by undermining anything that appears to restrict but dig deep to find out what chains remain cuffed at our limbs controlling who we are and what we do. Timothy Keller, the author of The Reason for God, writes it like this,

“In many areas of life, freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions. Those that fit with the reality of our nature and the world, producing greater power and scope for our abilities and a deeper joy and fulfilment. Experimentation, risk and making mistakes bring growth only if, over time, they show us our limits as well as our abilities. If we only grow intellectually, vocationally and physically through judicious constraints – why would it not also be true for spiritual and moral growth? Instead of insisting on freedom to create spiritual reality, shouldn’t we be seeking to discover it and disciplining ourselves to live according to it?”

We say we are free. We love our freedom. Let’s say it and mean it.

Church Testimony: The Transcript


5 months from the last time I’ve been given the privilege to speak before an audience and so much has happened ever since. Life has a way of tossing you into the least expected places in the most surprising of twists and turn – today, in a much more humble setting, before an audience of 30, I shared my favourite story yet

“Church, today I am privileged and excited to be sharing my story with you – this is a story of how I grew up and how I ended up in Sydney, a story about who I thought I was and who I’ve found I am. This is a story that God has woven into a masterpiece through my life.

God has been working in and through me before I even came to recognise Him.

For many years in my life, I have been an active volunteer and it is something many people remember or recognise me for. When I was 16, I rallied my class to sponsor a child together in Uganda; by 17, I developed a social emotional learning curriculum that was adopted by a primary school in Singapore; at 18, I lead a team of adults mostly in their mid-twenties to Vietnam’s Ministry of Environment to share a waste management plan we had developed; at 19 (last year), I started a social enterprise with my sister called Strong Mind Fit Body. We bring elderly Singaporeans together with youth volunteers for strength training exercises.

I didn’t know then, but God had been working through me and using me in countless ways to bring blessing and light to the darkness of so many.

 God came at a time I was exhausted and hopeless.

In my family, my parents are Buddhist and my siblings and I grew up mostly regarding ourselves as ‘non-religious’. (I have an older sister and a younger brother) The rest of my extended family on my mother’s side are Christian, but because of past conflicts and other negative experiences for my parents, we pretty much grew up being taught to reject Christianity.

The teaching was, “There are many things in life we cannot explain and there might be a higher being. But this higher being is not here to love you but to punish you – so be careful, do good and you’ll receive goodness but do anything bad and be condemned.” If you understand the ‘karma’, the idea is that “if you want anything you must deserve it and to deserve it you must work for and earn it”. How absolutely wrong we were.

Growing up believing that, even love had to be earned.

In the days I started volunteering, I was schooling in one of the most prestigious institutions in Singapore. Every day, we were reminded of ‘noblesse oblige’, which is Latin for “the privileged have an obligation of serving”. The label that enslaved me was ‘privileged’. The more social needs I saw volunteering, the more I was reaffirmed that nothing in this life that I experience and enjoy are deserved – not this privilege of literacy when millions of children don’t have a pencil to hold, not this privilege of safety when so many live on the streets in fear, not this privilege of a proper meal when millions struggle to even be fed. With no concept of God’s grace, the only logical response to this horrific realization was to be constantly in service to others and to deny myself any more of it if I could help it.

Closer friends knew how terrible I became at taking care of myself – my days would be packed from even before the sky awakens to prepare for our workout sessions all over Singapore, meetings with volunteers to whom I became a personal counsellor, travelling to schools to do mentorships, conducting volunteer trainings, facilitating camps and leadership trainings, speaking at forums and conferences.

Deep within on days I was tired of this life, there would be a voice that says “Who do you think you are? Who do you think you are that you deserve anything more? Who are you that you deserve a better meal? Or a decent sleep?” What I didn’t know then, was that God was in all of it. All the times I held the hands of our elderly participants at workout sessions or gave hugs to those who cried, He was holding my hands and embracing me in His warmth. All the times I missed meals and someone would think of surprising me with a proper meal (that was not fast food), all the times my volunteers surprised me with handwritten notes and affirming messages, all the times random strangers came up to me wanting to pray for me and all the times He let people walk in on me crying from exasperation; I was clueless and faithless, yet He was knowing and faithful.

Just as God chose me; for all of my life, I want to choose Him.

One of the first things I did after coming to Sydney, was to enrol myself into a self-compassion course. I had come to a rock bottom where I almost had no reason at all to be loving or taking care of myself. The voice that said, “You deserve nothing” had grown too loud to be silenced. It was then that a coursemate invited me to a church camp over the Easter Break. The first sermon that broke me was about 1 Peter 2:9. It says “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  

The name of the camp was ‘Chosen’ and the pastor talked about how each of us were God’s chosen people. Not because of what we did or will do or can do, but because He loved us so. We did nothing to be worthy of being chosen but we were and because there is no condition for this unconditional love, there is also no reason the love will be lost. We are chosen, and God isn’t going to withdraw this choice ever – the response we get to make lies only in ‘accept’ or ‘ignore’. There is no option to ‘reject’, for it wouldn’t be withdrawn.

In this world that we live in, everything is transactional – in every relationship and every person, it is about what you can give me and what I can give in return. All my life, this is the only type of relationship I’ve recognised; I can’t even count the number of strangers I’ve spoken to, conversations I’ve had, relationships I’ve been in that came from the intention of putting forth a request – “Could you help us with this?”, “Could we meet you to ask you questions about this?”, “Can you be the one to do this?”

When God came to me, He came, too, with a request. But His was not about what I could give Him or what He wanted from me; His was an invitation to receive. To receive something so so precious, something unimaginable. He didn’t come to count tabs or take back what I did not deserve, He didn’t come to punish or to reprimand. He came first to love and embrace and to serve.

My entire self and life is God’s.

I am an avid reader, I absolutely love reading books and writing my own prose. In a recent read, Desiring God by John Piper, the author proposes that we each live a life pinning our hopes on a single treasure – the ‘treasure’ might be family, career ambitions, grades, that ‘comfortable life’ or that holiday dream. We pin our hopes on those treasures such that our lives would be a waste if the value of those treasures were not real.

I once settled for treasures that were going to fail me eventually, treasures that would truly have made my life a ‘waste’. It is by God’s grace alone, in His giving me what I do not deserve, that I live and breathe in His truth. Every day now, I want to live a life that would be a waste if Jesus didn’t love me, if the resurrection were not true or if God were not real. So I know for sure, it will not be a waste for there is no more certain truth I know than the fact that Jesus loves me more than I can even imagine, the resurrection is the most important historical fact in humanity’s past and God’s presence is undeniable – for all of my days, I will pin my hopes on the One who will continue to pick me up no matter how many times I let Him down, who will continue to forgive me no matter how many times I fall short.

In every moment that He breathes life into me, I wish only to bask in His relentless love and bring Him glory in all that I do. Jesus freed me from the burden of my sins and the weight of the chains upon my soul; I have decided to follow Him with all my heart, all my mind and all my soul. And I’m never turning back. Thank you Lord, for bringing to me a place of childlike faith and untradeable joy.”