From the beginning
According to my parents, I was an outgoing young child: curious, extroverted, even precocious; fond of impressions and jokes. I laughed a lot. In the eyes of some people, I must have been a pest, but generally I would describe myself as normal and happy. Things changed, however, when I was old enough to attend school. My family moved around a lot, so I was always the class outsider, the stranger, the different one. My playful antics often invited scorn and rejection, from other children as well as the teachers. It was not a happy time, and during my elementary school years I began to undergo a change. I became shy and nervous about being singled out for any unwanted attention. Sometimes I experienced bullies and school violence, which caused me to become quieter and more withdrawn. More often than not I was alone at school, most secure with books and toys rather than the company of others. Then there were troubles at home. My parents began having difficulty managing their money, and other relationship problems, so they quarreled. When they weren’t arguing there was often a gloomy silence, a black cloud of unhappiness and insecurity that seemed to hover over all of us. We had some good times, but the next dark day was never far away.
By the time I became a teenager, I was sad, disillusioned, and increasingly angry. I was experiencing a variety of troubles coming into my life, seemingly for no reason. Mum took me to church sometimes, and I learned stories from the Bible. I’d heard the message at an early age: "God loves people." It attracted me, and I enjoyed thinking about God from time to time. But that message didn’t seem to match the world around me. In my world, good people suffered, bad people prospered. I remembered the Bible stories about a loving God who is supposed to care for the downtrodden and the righteous. I thought, "God is letting all this stuff happen?" I wasn’t satisfied. I thought he’d really let us down. It just didn’t make sense. So God and I stayed apart for quite a long time.
Most of my family troubles and school problems continued through junior high and high school, with more intensity. Even some classmates I befriended eventually turned on me. The effect these experiences had on me was not good. The older I became, the more cynical my worldview was. I became aware of so much random suffering all over the world. Life isn’t fair, and there’s little justice for people here on earth. I thought the best thing to do was to look out for myself, rely on myself. I also thought that since God had turned his back on us, I wasn’t under any obligation to be morally good. If I was already rejected by my peers, and given an extra portion of unhappiness in life, what was the point of obedience?
Thankfully I kept a peaceful, respectful relationship with my parents at this time. They knew little of my whereabouts when I left the house, which was fine with me. For some reason I wanted to hang around people with bad backgrounds and lifestyle habits. Through a blurry chain of events, I came to know binge drinkers, shoplifters, pot smokers, LSD and mushroom eaters, drug dealers, sexual predators, petty break-and-enter burglars, even a few car thieves. Most of these people smoked and drank and took drugs and cursed in every sentence. Many had come from single-parent families, poor neighborhoods. Some had dropped out of school already. They were often confused, angry and directionless; in this regard we had much in common. Our social activities usually involved getting high, prowling for promiscuous girls, or breaking the law. I knew it was wrong, but the sin appealed to me. Perhaps it was my way of taking revenge on the world, though I was only hurting myself and the people around me.
Looking back now, I am amazed that I managed to graduate from high school (1991) and enter university. I certainly could and should have been caught and punished for some of the things I had been doing. My worldview hadn’t improved either. I was very tense, hard for people to understand. By then my life had become me against everyone and everything. I had so many "why?" questions about life, questions with no answers. I started each week with a quiet fear about which problems would come and attack me. Sure enough, some kind of new problem usually did come along. I often wondered about God in the back of my mind, but I still didn’t believe he was interested in me.
The refining process; escape and reconciliation
Memories from the 1990s are mixed and muddled in my head, like clothes in a washing machine. Still, at some point, more good things started happening, and the bad things began to decrease. In university I developed my writing skills more, and had some great times working for the student newspaper. I met better friends, and separated from many of the bad, dangerous friends who would have taken me towards more trouble. I earned some money at a few part-time jobs. I did have two great and bitter disappointments, narrowly losing two separate elections for positions at the school newspaper and at the student government. For three years I endured an unhealthy on-again, off-again relationship with a capricious girlfriend. Near the end of our relationship I had debilitating bouts of depression followed by waves of frantic anxiety. During one semi-lucid episode I almost purposely drove into oncoming traffic. Soon afterward, I checked myself into the psychiatric ward at a local hospital, fearing that I might be a danger to myself. But despite all of this, I look back on these years as the time when I began to turn towards the light. Academically, I was successful, graduating near the top of the class. I even went on to have a nice, normal dating relationship with a Christian girl. She helped calm my spirit and turn my thoughts more to the promises of Christianity.
lad to escape my hometown and the string of bad memories. In Taiwan I started to enjoy life more. Finally I wasn’t broke all the time. People treated me with more kindness, respect, and less suspicion. Taiwan was a chance to start a new life, a place where everything could be different. I took a lonely walk in the park one evening, looking to the sky and speaking out loud to God, though I wasn’t sure if anyone was listening. A few steps later I came across a book someone had left on a bench: the Bible. I met my future wife while working as an English teacher. Then I got a job as a writer for Studio Classroom. As a Christian company, they asked me for a statement of faith before hiring me. I wrote them an honest note saying I believed there was a God out there somewhere, but I wasn’t yet settled in my faith. They gave me the job anyway. Less than a year later, I prayed a prayer to become a Christian.
Looking in the mirror
It wasn’t easy for me to get off the fence and become a Christian, but all my life experiences brought me to the point where I knew I had to make a choice. Re-reading the Bible stories I’d heard so long ago, I began to receive them in a new way. The truth in the Bible began to make more sense as I considered my life growing up. Many of my experiences matched those of Bible characters. Though I’d gone through lots of bad times, God had somehow worked in my life over the last few years, refining me and preparing me for better things to come. I realized that He cared about me, and had a plan for my life. On my own, I would never learn the answers to all the "why?" questions I had. My mind was tired out, and my spirit was tired out. I was looking forward to the peace I missed for so long. I had to let go of my own attempts to understand the world. I had to let myself believe in something I couldn’t see or prove.
I also realized that I needed the steady guidance and forgiveness of a savior. When I was growing up, I didn’t handle those problem situations as well as I could have. I made too many bad choices, bad thoughts and actions. With faith I would have been more patient and relaxed, with less of a temper. I would not have taken so much of my anger and frustrations out on my younger sister, a mistake that stands out as my life’s biggest regret. I wish I could take my brain out and wash it clean, to forget all the bad stuff I’ve seen and done. It’s not possible alone, but God covers sins and forgives. He helps me be a more gentle, patient, responsible and kind person.
God’s gift for all
Today, I can’t say that I understand or believe every single word in the Bible. But when I turn around and see where I’ve come from, I can tell that God has helped me along the way, even when I was estranged from Him. I still have the same ups and downs in life as other people, but these days I am more at peace with the world. I consider myself a saved person, saved from the road that leads to darkness and destruction. His gifts of forgiveness, salvation and guidance are available to all. If you’ve sensed He’s there, that’s half the problem solved already. If you let Him in, and move forward with faith, I’m sure you too will see your life change for the better.