I postponed writing this as much as I could in some hope perhaps that I would never need to write it. But after Friday sharing and not really saying all that much I knew that it was only fair that I gave some explanation. First off, I think I have in some way been feeling these things for some time but only more recently have they become more real and unbearable. I gave a testimony on Mel’s request during the YV retreat. The topic was on “Empty Tombs” and about experiencing emptiness in community. I really struggled whilst writing it out. During my reflections, I discovered quite a bit of hurt within myself and forcing the testimony to take shape in some way also gave form to my griefs. I was terrified. It is one thing to face such thoughts in your head but when you voice them out they suddenly become frighteningly tangible.
In the past few weeks, I have continued to ask myself why do I feel discontented, frustrated and lonely and I have concluded that it’s because of my own expectations of community. It would be extremely unfair to ask all of you to do more than what you are already doing now; committing already your fair share of time and effort. Hence, the responsibility lies with me to change my expectations. Unfortunately, I have not been very successful and still I find myself feeling things I rather not feel. It has reached a point where I do not think I can ,at this present moment, be part of you all in a full enough capacity that would justifies my attendance.
As such, I wish to take some time off to perhaps gain a better perspective and maybe miss LoG a bit. I just ask that you forgive me this selfishness and any hurt that I caused.
“Experience of emptiness in LoG
So to start off, a little about myself and some context.
I’m 20 this year and I’m in my 2nd year of NS. I joined LoG at the end of Sec 3 so this would be coming to my 5th year in community. When I joined LoG I only knew two other people: Nigel Rankine and Mel Wong. They were my friends in servers which I had recently quit and my reasons for joining LoG. (Funny how they’re no longer in LoG) I hardly knew the names of my other batch mates who joined let alone the older ones in LoG. Back then I was extremely awkward and shy (I still am but just less so) and I remember the first few sessions I would just sit quietly in a corner being lonely and regretting that I had quit the servers. But slowly I warmed up to community and it became a place where I could tangibly encounter God. LoG became something I treasured very deeply and to quote myself from Christmas 2010 at 4.30am “Sundays gradually had one more reason for being my favourite day of the week and I dreaded every session I missed.” and “each of (them was) God acting in my eyes”.
I saw this group of people who were so closely knit and bonded and in love with God. And I wanted that as well for myself. How much I wished to be like them, to be one of them. I think as a person I do not want a lot of things in life. But that day that I wrote that note on facebook I became wholly convicted that if there was anything in life living for it would be community. I felt so strongly that this was God’s plan and I was exactly where I was meant to be. At that point I still felt a bit like an outsider in community, I did not know the people in community well but I told myself that so long as I continued to turn up, to come share on Fridays, to devote time on Sundays I will have what I seek. For indeed did God not say “seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be open to you?”
So I persevered. Except for the occasional thing, community was my priority. I remember even in the midst of my A levels, when others in my community were studying I would come as much as I could, despite the protests of my parents. I would put myself up to do camps because along with the growth I knew that shared experiences would make me grow closer to community. If I was ever asked to do a session or praise and worship I would always say yes eventually. I knew that being an introvert and that I struggled with talking to people so I would always compensate with my attendance and my willingness to say yes. I did these things despite my great fear of socializing because those fears were nothing in comparison to my fear of not attaining what God had set out for me. That fear that my own inability to just open my mouth to say things would cause me to lose out.
Despite my efforts however, I would still feel like I was the person outside looking into a great party. I still did not feel that I was as close to community as I would like. There were many a Sunday morning that just sitting around and having breakfast with community I would cause me to have bouts of loneliness. Everyone would be busy talking to each other discussing church, life, school, job and I would only find myself contributing meaningfully on a few occasions. It did not help that it seemed to me that my peers could blend so seamlessly with everyone else. They would know the latest news about someone because they “journeyed with them” and leave me wondering if I would one day experience this “journeying” for myself. I remember there were a few nights after sharing I would return home angry. Angry at everything and nothing, at God, at community, at myself. I was frustrated by the fact that though I gave my time I was not making the kind of progress I would like with community. I was frustrated because it felt like I was bashing my head onto a concrete wall trying to get into some inner circle hidden to me because I did not know some magical formula but others did.
Those nights I really wanted out of community and I wondered why I tormented myself so much over these things; I wondered why I cared so much to be accepted by these people. I felt unappreciated and I thought that it wouldn’t matter much if I just showed myself the door. But always on those seemingly darkest of nights, I would always be drawn back to community and to try again. And it was in those struggles that I came to realize, by the grace of God, how unfair my expectations of community were. I had envisioned a group of people that would just know me inside out and would just accommodate my needs. I realized how much I thought about myself instead of my community members. I realized that the behaviors that I was so hurt by I did so in kind to others and that in my bouts of self pity and loneliness I did not do my best to reach out. At one point I heard this phrase that “those who love community destroy community and that those who love others build community” (or something along those lines) and it was true that my ideals and expectations were a cancer that poisoned my community life. They made all the sweet moments of fellowship turn bitter just because they were not up to my lofty expectations. They clouded the kindness and love that LoG showed me on many occasions. So I thought less of my ideals and more about how I could genuinely love others.
Now, I wish that the wisdom and lessons that God showed me would take root in my heart but unfortunately I tend to stumble into the same pitfalls. So I find myself always relearning the wisdom of God and if anything the fact that this testimony was so hard to write is evidence enough of how much I am struggling with these things. I know as long as I am in community they will continue to haunt me. But I just want to tell you this: that on those nights I wanted to walk away from community I felt like I was in an empty tomb; that I am caught at a dead end. But God has always led me out from my graves into renewed zeal, faith and strength by his love. And that when I think that this is all there is to my journey I realize that this is just a new beginning. And I would not have it any other way.”