By Esther Yang*
Childhood is meant to be a time of love and training in a caring family. I had such a home for the first years of my life.
I was born into an Asian family whose roots are in Buddhism and ancestor worship. My father did not profess any religion, but he practised ancestor worship.
When I was three years of age, my parents and grandparents quarreled and my parents had to leave our home. Because my grandparents loved me so much, they asked me to stay with them. I lived a happy life with them for six years. However, it was hard not to be with my parents. When it was parents’ day at school all the children had parents to look after them, but I didn’t. I felt strange about that. When I was nine, I chose to go back to my parents.
When I missed my grandparents, Mother got angry with me, thinking I didn’t love her as much as I loved them. Her jealousy showed up in verbal and physical abuse. She would tell me she didn’t like me and that I was garbage. She would say things like, “Many people have died and you are still alive.” Or she would curse me and hit me for no reason. I couldn’t go back to my grandparents because they told me I had made my choice.
Life was a little easier for me when my father was at home, but he worked very long hours to provide for Mother and for us children—my sister, brother and me. When Father would come home, my mother would complain to him that I was not a good child and that I made her very angry. My father would force me to tell her I was sorry. I couldn’t explain the situation to him because he trusted her.
I craved praise and encouragement, but I received the opposite. I began to believe that I wasn’t a good child. I tried my best to please my mother by having good grades in school. My sister, too, had good academic results, but not my brother. Mother had helped my brother too much, so he did not become independent.
The hitting and slapping did not stop until I was 18. One day when my mother slapped my face, I got very angry. I told her she didn’t have the right to hit me anymore because I was of age. From then on the physical abuse stopped.
For my secondary school education, I attended a Catholic school. There we read the Bible and I learned the Bible stories. I was so impressed with the love of God. However, I was frightened by the commandments and how God killed the people. I tried my best not to make God angry and break the commandments. But I still did not have peace in my heart. I also learned to pray at school. I prayed for good academic results and for my family. I didn’t pray to Jesus, for I only knew Him as He related to the Christmas story. I prayed to God and to Mary.
When I was in upper secondary school, I attended an evangelical Christian school. My class teacher shared the gospel with me. I was impressed with the love of my class teacher. She told me she loved me because Jesus loved her.
My life dream was to become a teacher. At the College of Education, I met a classmate who was a Christian. He invited me to go to church with him. So I began to have a church life: Bible study, Sunday school and fellowship.
I was attracted by the Scripture that Jesus loved me so much that He died on the cross for me. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). I learned from that verse that I didn’t have to do anything to earn this salvation. Jesus will save anyone who comes to Him because He loves everyone and accepts us all just as we are.
This truth shocked me, because for many years I worked hard to please my mother and to make people love me. I wanted to be the central interest in my class at school, so I had to be humorous and attractive and try to please people. I was eager to come to the Lord because I was longing for a person to love me just as I am.
I knelt down and prayed to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I told Jesus that I was a sinner, that I hated my mother and that I lied and was stingy. I was also jealous of my sister because she was more brilliant than I. People praised her more than they praised me and I was jealous. I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and thanked Him for His love and His death on the cross to pay for my sins. I asked Him to be my Lord and Savior, and I thanked Him for giving me eternal life.
After this prayer I knew I was a Christian. I tried hard to live a holy life, but it was hard. I kept failing and asking for forgiveness. Even though I accepted Christ as Savior, I still wanted to be praised and accepted by others. I did not rely on God’s strength to overcome my problems. I just struggled on my own or relied on friends. I kept attending church and became involved in teaching Sunday school and in children’s ministry.
I was deeply in love with a handsome, intelligent young man who I hoped would some day be my husband. I also had a dear girlfriend who came from a broken home. She was my best friend and I helped her with many problems she faced. She was longing for love and acceptance and was searching for it from the young men she dated. I brought this young lady to church and she, too, accepted Christ as Savior. She became my best friend and would do anything for me. My boyfriend and this dear friend and I played, shopped and went out together. Life was great.
One day my boyfriend came to me and said that he never loved me and that I wasn’t the person for him. I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. He broke off our relationship. I found out later that he went away with my best friend. I felt betrayed and rejected. Hatred and disappointment and low self-esteem all raged in my heart. I had never been betrayed by a close friend like this. I was so angry.
A Christian young woman came to me and said that I must forgive those who had so deeply hurt me, and that I must get back into fellowship with God. She reminded me that Jesus forgave my sins and that He is the only One who is reliable and has unfailing love. I was so angry, I refused her advice. I didn’t think that couple deserved forgiveness, so I prayed to God to punish them.
I would go to my teaching job at the school, but during break-time I would rush into the restroom to cry. My fellow-teachers knew I was hurt and tried to comfort and help me, but I didn’t want to be comforted. I even refused to eat dinner in the evenings.
God, Himself, comforted me in many ways. He gave me some new friends at school who cared for me. The students in my class wrote letters to me and made me gifts. The young woman who said I must forgive, came to see me regularly and prayed for me and had Bible study with me. After a few months I realized I could not continue living in grief and bitterness. I could only start a new life by forgiving. I studied the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. He was betrayed by his brothers, but he forgave them. Therefore, God was with him and blessed and honored him. Because of Joseph’s faithfulness, it turned out well for his family. (See Genesis Chapters 37-45.)
I knelt down and prayed for God’s forgivenesss. I could see that I had betrayed God because I left Him and failed Him. I asked God to forgive my friends. I told God that I didn’t want to condemn or accuse them any more. I no longer wanted Him to judge them because Jesus had given Himself to me and that was enough. I just wanted them to live a good Christian life and to glorify God. Because the two were embarrassed to come to church, I thought it was better that I leave so they could return. I began attending another church to start a new life.
Changing churches proved to be a blessing to me. There I met my husband who was one of the pastors. I first saw him during an evangelization meeting. He was on the platform playing his guitar and singing. A strange thought came to me, “This is the man that you will marry.” I quickly put that thought aside thinking it was a fantasy. Many good Christian girls want to marry pastors.
Unknown to me, the young pastor felt drawn to me, but he had a call to serve in a foreign land. Judging by my appearance, he didn’t think that I would want to be a cross-cultural worker and live a difficult life in a harsh place. He thought it was better to obey God’s will than have a wife that he loved. So he called me and told me not to put my hopes of marriage on him.
I was puzzled and hurt, but I felt God tell me that he was to be my husband and to wait. So I kept serving the Lord in the childrens’ ministry and in the Sunday school.
After a few months the young pastor called again. As we talked, he told me the reason behind that first phone call. I told him that God showed me long ago that I was to be his wife. Of course, he asked why I didn’t tell him!
We began dating and a year later we were married. I had to give up my high-paying job so we could move to another country for a year. We wanted to experience life away from home. While there, God blessed us with a beautiful son who is a joy to us. The Lord has also blessed me with a Christian family. My parents and my siblings have all come to Christ. Now we have the same Lord, the same Bible, and the same goals.
After struggling for so many years, I find that the most precious thing in the world is God’s love and grace, not people’s love and acceptance or material things. The Bible truly says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mattew 6:33). I now want only God’s praise and His recognition. I thank Him for His forgiveness that has enabled me to forgive others.
*not her real name
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