◆ Elise Wang
I’m Elise, and this is yet another story of how God found and rescued a lost sheep that strayed from the herd.
I’ve always been told that my existence is a miracle; and for the most part, I believed it. On the noon of January 3rd, I was delivered through Caesarean birth in a hospital in China as a non-breathing baby that was presumed as dead. My mother was losing a fatal amount of blood, and it was only until God sent two friends of my parents’ in the hospital with extra help to the rescue in the nick of time, that ultimately saved both my mom and myself. Ever since then, it was anticipated that I would grow up with intelligence and height conditions because of the swollen head injuries and fatal lack of oxygen I’d suffered from at birth.
Five years later I arrived in Singapore, where I first learned how to pray. Back then life was easy, as much as I remember; reciting a prayer to a God this five year old version of me could not and did not comprehend was nothing more than a daily routine before dinner and bedtime.
The ease and simplicity of a carefree life did not last long. While I was unaware of it, my parents had gone through a hard time and many Godly interventions to finally make the decision to accept a job offer in Canada. As I moved from Singapore to the cold airs of this northern country, it seemed that almost everything I treasured was taken away.
We were fortunate to find our landlord in the newspapers whom we shortly met at china town, whose second floor we still rent and whose daughters I still hold dear to me to this day. Elementary school was what I like to remember as the beginning of my journey to discover myself, no clichés intended. Little by little, I forgot what it was like to be carefree and at school took up a quiet reputation of a “nerd” or “bookworm”.
Middle school crashed upon me like a tsunami wave, inescapable. I had many friends going to the same school, but peer pressure, bad influences, shifting loyalties and drama among “friends”, subtle discrimination and most importantly, verbal bullying and mockery every day eventually caused me to become a total social wallflower, ashamed to speak or show my face. I became accustomed to spending long periods of time in solitude, because at the time I had no idea what was happening to me or how to deal with it. Other harmful traits like perfectionism and materialism also developed and eventually consumed me. Quite obviously, during this phase I had little to no room in my life for God. Going to Sunday school once a week didn’t impact the other six days at all; for one reason or another I “forgot” about Christianity the moment I stepped in to a non-Christian environment. Sometimes I even caught myself being ashamed of my faith and deliberately avoiding talks about it. All the while I was constantly deceiving myself, thinking that I’m “Christian” enough to secure my ticket to Heaven, thus taking the ignorant “religious” path to Christ and not having an actual relationship with God. Ultimately as a result of all this, deep inside, I didn’t know who I truly was or who I was even supposed to be. The accumulating facades, low self-esteem, frustration, and desperation for a way out became so horrid that I was overjoyed at the chance to start fresh way up in Etobicoke School of the Arts.
Quite surprisingly for me, as high school began I became more and more committed to Christ for one reason or another. Little spiritual renewals were poured on to me when I needed it most, and a few months in I felt like I’ve opened my eyes for the very first time. The world around me seemed to shift before my very eyes; I suddenly understood what it meant to feel the presence of my Creator-to see his majestic beauty echoed in each and every one of his creations, and ultimately, in myself. To feel that overwhelming joy and peace as the “Holy Spirit descended upon me like a dove”. And because of all that, my personality went through what seemed like miraculous Godly transformation; as if He had chosen this moment to “replace my heart of stone with a heart of flesh”.
And because I’ve experienced and now know the attributes as well as the breathless beauty and power of God’s love, I’m able to go out of my way to strive to do the same for others. Regardless of whatever I’m going through at the given moment, I’m now able to truly love and care for the people God has placed around me, no matter who they are or what they think of me. I have now become a “peacemaker” among my classmates and a “bearer of burdens” among my friends. Seeing their true needs for perhaps the first time, I realized with a new sense of urgency the importance of sharing with these people what I have with Christ, as soon as I can, so that they may at least have a chance at eternity.
However, like always, life isn’t nearly as easy as we often hope it would be. As much as ESA is a massive improvement compared to most regular schools in social equity, tolerance and respect, many unexpected and shockingly different issues arise. Matters like homosexuality are strongly and especially defended, even encouraged throughout the school, and typical problems like substance abuse are kept so loose that a dominant majority of first-years, even in such a famous, tiny, monitored school, casually partake in, and deal it. The very beliefs and standards I live by are challenged virtually every morning as I step in to that building. But those issues have yet to go on my list of personal trials to overcome on a daily basis.
Unlike before when there was still a connection between school and church as a few of my classmates were also my Sunday schoolmates, all my ESA friends are either atheist, agnostic, Catholic and so on. And of course, Satan has his own master plan for my personal downfall. There’s the constant battle between sin and righteousness that never fails to wear out, if not destroy my poorly-assembled “armor of God”. All the “sweet temptations” designed to target my exact weak spots win over me too often to speak of. The accumulating stress of homework tempting me to neglect my essential quiet time with God, which in turn reflects my own lack of faith making me weary of my salvation the moment life gets hard. To top it off, my own old self with its set of bad habits—like disobedience, “chronic” procrastination, holding grudges, etc.—have yet been completely nailed to the cross. All these shortcomings and temptations threaten to drown me the second I look away from God-which, more often than not, I do. I veer off the Path of Light and find myself in dangerously steep crevices, where there is only darkness. However, there wasn’t a time when God didn’t pull me back when it counted, brought me back to the cross in repentance, cleansed and refilled my cup with His loving Spirit.
One of the things that had helped me most was finally being able to see God’s plan being revealed in every single little thing, good and bad, that happens to me. For the first time ever, I am able to feel assured that my “abnormal” life was, is and always will be completely in His control.
Recently in March, missionary Paul Washer came to preach in Toronto which was arguably another turning point in my walk with God. Through his ten powerful sermons over a period of three days God has given my knowledge of Him and His plan a wonderful new dimension. A few things that really stuck with me were: the fact that “the evidence of justification is sanctification” which answered some of my questions about salvation at the time, and the comforting reminder that “He who started the good work, will finish it”. God took this opportunity to answer the biggest questions and confirm the doubts I had behind my faith, so I can now embrace and share my faith with new confidence.
And now as I look back, my life has been one little miracle after another. Yes, for the most part it was a rollercoaster ride—emotionally and spiritually—with its extreme highs, lows and loopholes, but what stayed the same through it all was God. He has always been there for me, wanting what would ultimately be the best for me even if it meant an extra mile. Through His love I have finally found my identity, as a faithful follower and servant of Jesus Christ. God has forgiven my endless debts and slowly healed me, even to the point of removing my scars so that I could also happily forgive. And His grace, poured out new every morning is as breathtaking as ever. My life and salvation is depicted exactly in the famous hymn “Amazing Grace”:
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.”