I stood at the edge of the cliff towering over the great blue sea below. I panted for breath as I gazed bewildered at the sight before me. The sea was heaving and chaotic. Its waters were raging, currents were surging and the tide was rising. Storm clouds billowed over me, darkness was unfolding in the skies above, stretching out to fill the vast expanse above me.
From where I stood I could hear the thundering sounds of hooves charging towards me from afar. I could hear the clattering of metal wheels as they crunched the sand dunes, rolling across the desert with thuds of force and fury. I could see trails of dust being traced in a distance, the paths converging to my position. I knew what was coming my way – the army had caught up with me.
A mental image came to me, and it was not a particularly pleasant one. The scene that was painted in my mind was that of horses hurtling in full force, riders with brandished weapons in their hands. They swung the swords wildly in an intimidating, rhythmical manner, the metal blades slashing through the hot, dry air. Behind the riders on the horses were the charioteers, wheeling in with sheer speed and ferocity. The brushing of metal wheels against the sandy ground left visible marks upon the earth. The carriages bounced several times off the ground upon hitting some small rocks. In some of the charioteers’ hands were long spears made from bronze. The charioteers thrusted their poles through the air in rapid successions as they made beastly noises, sounding somewhat like a menacing grizzly bear. Others were carrying whips made of braids of leather. The violent flailing was accompanied by loud swishes and deafening crackles.
I began to doubt the promises that I had received forty days ago that prompted me to leave the city of Pseudos. The voice was so clear to me.
“Come out from the city, for I have new purposes and promises for you. Do not remain in the city, for there you will find only death. Come out of the city, and I shall give you life to the fullest.”
I turned the key to my apartment door and the lock was undone. After putting the key back in my wallet, my right hand reached for the door handle. Grasping it, turning it clockwise, I gave the door a little push and it was opened. I stepped into my apartment room. It was quiet and calm.
I had just returned from yet another tiring day at university. Studying medicine was not nearly as easy as I had anticipated. While there were days which I felt really inspired to learn, there were also days where learning became almost like a chore or routine and the day happened to be one of those days. I removed my sling bag that was dangling off my back and tossed it onto the floor. I turned on my laptop. The screen lit up and the processor came to life. As I stared blankly at the loading screen, my mind wandered off, trying to gather my thoughts for the day.
My mind wanted to take me on a journey back in time to my earlier school days. I hesitated initially to recapitulate those bitter memories but thinking that perhaps it would make a good testimony for the coming Sunday service, I decided to replay those recorded moments in time again.
I entered school desiring recognition and respect, wanting the praises and applause from not only my peers, but everyone around the school. Thus, I worked hard to try to craft an image for myself, to fashion a model of success that would make me so famous and influential around the school. Within the first year of my studies, I ascended to the top of the ladder of scorers and immediately became well known among everyone in the school. During the prize-giving ceremony, I was so proud when my name was announced. As I strutted up the stairs onto the stage, I could hear praises and cheers from the audience. It was truly a victorious moment for me and I savoured it with much delight. “I could get used to this,” I thought to myself, a broad smile etched on my face.
As the years progressed, I worked even harder to secure the position that I had obtained, fending off those who competed with me for the gold. I became more and more influential among the teachers and school staff, basking in the limelight of my continued triumphs. Besides the staff, I also gained respect from my peers, something that I equated to friendship. When several of my peers rose up to challenge me in my studies, however, I immediately used my knowledge of good and evil which I had built up to label them as threats and enemies. Throughout my school years, I found myself constantly comparing my results with theirs. There were particularly stressful times when I did not do as well as them, but ultimately I was pleased with myself that I succeeded in maintaining my reputation of being the top scorer around.
Come graduation, however, the tables were turned against me. All the recognition and respect that I so desired were all gone, in the blink of an eye. All the achievements and success that I tried so hard to amass were suddenly reduced to vague memories and reminiscences. All the fame and influence that I once enjoyed were quickly forgotten. More importantly, I suddenly found myself with no close company of friends. I became so obsessed in making enemies of everyone that I did not find time and space to actually engage and form lasting relationships with them. Thus, I was suddenly stripped naked, exposed for my weakness in communicating with people and my status as “a lone ranger”. Within months, I was constantly drowning in regret and self-pity, living in guilt and shame.
I was born into the city of Pseudos nineteen years ago as one who was in bondage to the emperor Hamartia. Since young, I was taught in the ways of the empire, forced to learn all the customs and practices of the world and made to submit to the principalities and powers of man. I developed the practice of using my knowledge of good and evil upon others and my “art” of comparisons and categorisations.
I was forced to labour for the empire each day, toiling in the building sites erecting huge towers in honour of the emperor. In the city, I could see countless images and idols of the emperor standing at every street corner. Each day my fellow workers and I were made to bow down to the lifeless statues and worship them as though they were the emperor himself. The slave-drivers were hard on us, rewarding us with our meagre daily supplies only if we met a certain level of performance in our work. We were constantly hungry but did not dare to complain for fear of being punished for speaking out. Some of us were badly bruised and beaten, while some who were taken away to punishment never returned. Personally, I did not know what happened to them, but I could care less, for I had to fend for myself. After all, it was every man for himself.
One day, I decided to rise up the social strata. I wanted a better position in the empire. I wanted to elevate my status from that of a lowly servant to a high ranking official. Hence, I worked hard each day, trying to outdo my peers and selfishly hoarding opportunities for myself. I even resorted to lying to my friends, sometimes diverting their attention away from their work so that I can seize the opportunities that were left wide open which, at times, caused them to be punished for their “incompetence”. Soon, I received praises from the slave-drivers and was told that I had prospect of being promoted if I kept up my “good efforts”. Immediately, my ego swelled and my determination to rise to the top was further ignited.
After much effort and a few clever manipulations, there came the day I had been waiting for. The chief officer in charge of the labour called for an assembly of all the slaves. Every eye was on him as he stepped forward to address the rabble, eagerly anticipating some good news. He started off with some technical details and then hammered in new directives from the emperor. He then stopped and turned towards me, a smile on his face. My eyes met with his, and somehow I felt a sense of acceptance and approval. He then raised his voice once again.
Today I have a special announcement to make. I am promoting one among you to be an official of the empire.
Suddenly, the expressions on the faces of the slaves changed from those of apathy and indifference to those of surprise and astonishment. Everyone turned to one another in amazement, wondering who was the cream of the crop, pondering who it was that secured that favour of the officer. In the back of my mind, however, I already knew the answer. It had to be me. I could not help but smile.
College days were not easy for me as I went through periods of loneliness and near depression. I comprehended the mistakes that I made in school, so I made a new resolution to change the way I act and relate to others. I would no longer see them as competition or enemies, but rather I would try my very best to forge relationships and seal friendships.
I was off to a good start, opening up myself to people, relating to them in friendly ways and addressing them in non-threatening mannerisms. For the first few weeks, I was happy that I was getting along well with the people around me, and I was making more friends with my peers. I thought I had it all under control.
However, my smooth sailing was shattered by the stormy winds of fear and doubt. Despite being able to be friendly with the people around me, I discovered that the conversations that I had did not make me feel comfortable at all. The topics of discussion that I had with my new buddies were not really things that I had interest in or enjoyed talking about. Fear of not being able to blend in with the crowd and not being able to please them or to meet the needs of the gang soon took over. Doubts about my identity, my relationships and my decisions soon crept in and gripped my entire being.
I’ll never be good enough in socialising with others. I can’t speak as fluently. I can’t initiate conversations. I can’t contribute in discussions. I can’t get over my introversion and quietness. I’ll never fit in.
In time, however, a different set of events in which I delighted in ran began to run concurrently with my despair, guilt and shame. It was something that I had tried hard to let go and avoid, yet somehow it had caught up with me in my moment of weakness. The identity of success that I had tried so hard to discard, the image of the top scorer and the high achiever began to manifest once again in my life. Once again, I could finally have some form of control over my social life that was spiralling out of control. As I assumed the figure of success that founded the basis of my identity during my school days, I fell back once again to the path of control, comparisons and categorisations that I had tried to walk away from.
Soon, I was known around college, both among the lecturers and my peers. And I tried so hard to hold on to the position. And I succeeded.
Power was sweet. Once you had a taste of it, it was so hard to let go. I found myself enjoying the newfound authority of a slavedriver. I had been elevated from a common, worthless slave to a place of honour and influence. I had been bestowed the ability to rule over men, the right to tell them what to do, and the mandate to exploit them according to my wishes. In a word, it was all so delightful.
I basked in the adulation and praises that were heaped upon me by the officials, who remarked about how hardworking I was, how I was able to intelligently come up with solutions to problems in the construction projects, and how I stood out among all my fellow peers. With the standing that I had now, came the privileges of fine dining, personal attendants, beautiful clothing, and palatial residence. I no longer had to eat grubby food, wear tattered garments or burn myself out in the sun every day but I could enjoy all the comforts of the palace with minimal amount of work. It was bliss.
I could point a finger at a slave, utter a command and he would fearfully carry out his given task without a word. After all, he would be making a grave mistake to offend me. When I said, “Come!”, he would come. When I commanded, “Go!”, he would go at once without delay. Or, I could rebuke another with a word, and he would fall on his knees and beg for forgiveness. Outwardly, I portrayed myself as a cool and calm figure with occasional bursts of anger and temper tantrums. In my heart, I could not help but laugh at the pathetic condition of my once friends and delight in the pleasures that I had secured as one in the higher levels of the food chain.
On one particular day, I walked down the streets of the city, admiring the amazing architecture, the finely carved wood and the well-engraved stone pillars and marble walls. I paraded down the pathway in my long, flowing robe, my bodyguards by my side. As I passed by, everyone bowed their heads in respect and acknowledgement, until I came to a particular slave who refused to bow before me. Curious, I stopped, looked him straight in the eye and raised my voice, demanding him to explain his ignorance.
Hey, why don’t you bow before me? Don’t you know who I am?
He looked at me with an unfazed and undaunted look, and coolly replied.
Well, yes. I know who you are – the traitor from amongst us who trampled upon everybody else so that he could get to the top. You may well have your fine robes and your fancy parade and talk with weight and authority. But deep down, you are truly just an insecure, fearful person who lives on people’s praises and adoration. Without those, you’re nothing!
I could sense the tension of the moment. Anger, bitterness and resentment were building up deep within me. His words carried with them an edge that pierced through my physical coverings and exposed what was hidden deep within me. I lashed out at him in my fury.
You take those words back, you scum! Don’t you know what could happen to you if I chose to punish you? You might not live to see the next day!
My threats proved to be futile. He remained in his composed manner and delivered another painful blow to my reputation.
Well, make my day then! If you wish to lock me up, then go ahead. But you know what, all this shows is how cowardly you truly are, hiding behind your so-called achievements and power. The truth is, you have achieved nothing and you really have nothing more than the dream world that you are living in. There will come a day when you will be discarded like garbage and then you will realise the extent of your emptiness.
I could feel a surge of emotions through my veins, a mix of anger and shame welled within me. All the other slaves were surprised by this turn of events, and began whispering to one another. I had had enough. The commotion had severely tarnished my image as a man of standing. Something had to be done.
Very well then. So be it. Your blood is on your own head! Guards, seize him!
My two bodyguards advanced towards the trouble-maker and took hold of him. He was evidently struggling. I jeered at him.
Hah! Not so tough now, huh?
Raising my clenched fist, I let it swing in full force towards the guy’s cheeks. It hit him hard and he reeled in agony. Dissatisfied, I delivered a few more violent blows that rendered him half-conscious. Feeling the gratification of exacting vengeance, I ordered the guards to then take him to the holding cell, where, in my opinion, he would be held for the rest of his life, never to see sunlight ever again.
As the menace was led away, I turned to the other slaves and gave a strict order.
Let this be a lesson to all who cross me. Now, go back to work!
They scampered off in fear and resumed their tasks.
I winced in terror as I beheld the sight before me. It was the most gruesome display that I had ever witnessed in my entire life. I felt like screaming. My soul wanted to cry out in despair. Yet, I held back and refrained from doing so in the midst of all the other officials and slavedrivers.
The whip slashed through the air, striking the exposed back of the captive. As bits of metal met with flesh, his skin tore apart and his muscles split open. He howled in agony as he cringed at the excruciating punishment inflicted upon him. Bits of skin and flesh were dangling from his posterior, underlying bones were clearly noticeable, and blood was dripping down his spine. He gasped for breath, apparently traumatised and anguished. He pleaded for mercy before his captors, begging them to just kill him, to put his life to an end, to snuff out the flame that flickered within him.
But his pleas fell on deaf ears. Everyone else was enjoying the spectacle. With each shriek of torment came bursts of laughter and amusement. As I stood there bewildered, my heart squealing with shock and terror each time the whip was swung, my “friends” jumped around in pleasure, yelling out mockeries at the top of their voices.
I finally knew what happened to the slaves who did not return to work in the construction grounds. At last, I discovered the appalling fate of those who were brought into the ‘holding cells’, which were really torture chambers. Everyday, about six people would be taken into these rooms. They would be brutalised, beaten so badly to the point of total exhaustion, tortured so severely to the point where their wills for life were simply shattered – all this for the sake of the pleasure and entertainment of all the officials.
I felt nauseated by the inhumane acts perpetrated by my peers, yet I did not dare to go against the status quo, for fear that my loyalties would be put into question and I might even end up in the same fate as those unfortunate victims.
I felt so lonely at that moment in time. I craved the position of honour so that I could enjoy the perks and benefits of the easy life, so that I could escape the life of shame and strife as a slave, not to be part of this beastly ritual of devouring others for the sake of fun and entertainment. I wanted to escape, to run away from all the evil that I had seen, to depart from the meaningless acts of aggression and brutality that left deep impressions within my soul. But I knew that it was too late. I had gone too far to turn back. I thought I had attained freedom, but what I had achieved was truly just another form of slavery. I would have to bear all the dreadful thoughts and hideous mental images, and most importantly feelings of resentment, and guilt for the rest of my life. There was no turning back.
I wished someone would deliver me from the torment of my soul. I yearned for a saviour who could rescue me from this meaningless inhumanity. I was desperate for a redeemer who soul save me from all the evil that I had plunged myself into.
I was so alone…
Hey Brian! Come here!
I was startled by the abrupt call by one of the slavedrivers.
Oh no! Could he have noticed my reservations about their actions? Could he have seen through my approving outlook to gaze upon my disgusted and repulsed inner self? Was he about to inflict the same punishment upon me?
I replied hesitantly, cautiously advancing towards him.
The guy patted me on the back and handed me the whip. He whispered to me, “Go for it.”
My mind went numb, my heart raced and my hands grew cold. My whole body was stiff. I had been given the power to inflict pain, to break another’s body and to smash his will to life. Handed to me was the instrument of death and torment.
Could I swallow the thought of having to break another person’s skin just so that I could save my own? Could I live with the reality that I had caused unbearable grief and sorrow to another person? Do I really want to please my peers that much, after I have seen the evil that they are capable of? Do I continue to give in to their demands?
I had to. I just knew I had to.
Forgive me, O God…
I raised the cord in my hand, preparing to strike the agonising blow.
I was getting nowhere in my relationships with people. I was going around in circles, trying to please people and help them as best as I could. I assisted them in their studies, ran errands for them, entertained them every now and then, but really, I did not secure strong friendships or built firm relationships. All I had done was merely give them reasons to come to me for help.
There were times when I just felt so lonely and depressed. All my intelligence, all my talents and gifting were really useless when it came to building friendships. If I could, I would exchange some of those talents for greater social and communication skills. Then, I thought, I could interact with people better. Then, I could build better relationships with them, and therein forge stronger friendships with my peers.
But they were just dreams that could not be materialised.
Hold me in your arms, never let me go
I wanna spend eternity with you…
The praise and worship session kicked off that night. That was one event that I enjoyed going to – the Thursday night Christian youth fellowship group called Campus Alive. I really enjoyed myself on those nights – friendly people, great music, absolute fun. And who knows, I might even get show everyone my achievements and perhaps get some respect and influence from them.
I started relationships with people with a certain list of criteria in my mind – get people to respect me, get them to ask me out, and get them to acknowledge my presence. Yes, that would definitely be a great way to expand my social circle. Praise the Lord!
However, I soon discovered that the relationships that I tried to build fell far short of my expectations. People did not admire me for my intellect or achievements as much as I thought they would. People did not come to me to seek my opinion or help because I was the smarter one. Soon after, my glamorous vision dissolved in a puff of smoke.
It was then that I realised a different kind of relationships that were built within the community of Christians. It was then that I observed that people were not judging one another based on what they could do, what they said or even what their personalities were. Somehow, they saw past outward appearances to gaze upon the inner person in each individual. My mind could not fully grasp the depth, meaning and reality of those relationships. Surely there must be something that I could do to earn those relationships!
Try as I might, I failed miserably in my attempts to work my way into friendships. No matter how much I tried to do, I still could not discover deep intimacy that I so desired. I was left broken, exhausted and defeated.
In the midst of the stormy seas and gloomy skies one day, a Being called to me.
Brian, get up and follow me. I have purposes and promises for your life that is far greater than all this nonsense that you have been caught up in.
Leave your bags of fear, guilt and shame behind and follow me!
For that moment in time, I had the peace that I had never experienced before, and the sense of being loved so deeply that I could not help but break down into tears. Who is this calling out to me? Who is this that so loved me that He sees past my inadequacies and my weaknesses, and wants to give me a new life?
It soon became clear to me that the One who was calling me out from the wilderness of my life was the Lord Jesus, the One whom I had been “worshipping” in my youth fellowship group. It became clear to me that life was not meant to be lived trying to achieve more for myself, rather it was meant to be lived for His purposes, promises and glory. It was such a liberating experience.
Did I dare to take the step of faith forward to experience this new life that He had promised? Did I have the courage to believe in what I did not see? Did I have the readiness to surrender all that I had unto Him?
More importantly, was following this new life worth all my efforts and my time? Was it worth investing all my heart and resources into? Would it make any difference in my life?
The only way to find out, of course, was to experience it for myself, to immerse myself in the life that He had called me to live, to share in His vision and purposes for the world.
With the step of faith, I stepped out of the darkness and into the light, out from the old world into a whole new exciting world.
I languished in prison as I awaited my inevitable execution.
I could not bear the thought of having to strike down a man and having my hands stained with innocent blood. In a brief moment of clarity, I found the courage to reject what was utterly despicable. Deep down, I already knew that I did not want to become a murderer. I did not want to bring death into another person’s life. I did not want to submit to the beastly actions of my peers or give in to their wicked ways. I could not.
There was a side of me that saw the person behind the bruised and bloodied body in front of me. There was something more to him than mere flesh and bones, a piece of dirt meant to be kicked around and played with. No, he had purposes and destiny in his life, as a living human being. I could feel my arrogance and my pride dissolve, and warmth and compassion was permeating my whole being. I knew that was awaiting me, yet I have made my choice. I would not lay hands on my fellow brother.
In a sudden burst of emotion, I threw the whip aside and turned around to face the crowd of stunned onlookers. Barely able to contain myself, I let my feelings run free.
I can’t do this! This is just so wrong! How can you do this to another human being?
A deafening silence hung in the air. There was no more cheering, no more shouting, no more applauds. Everyone was plainly taken aback by my sudden shift in composure. I could not tell what was going on in their minds. Perhaps they acknowledged what I had said, or more likely they were scheming against me.
Then one of the slavetraders stepped up and challenged me.
What human being? He’s just an animal! We are the ones who are the real men. They are worthless. Why do you even care so much about them?
Shut up, you brute! You are the ones who are the beasts and the animals. This man here has a future and a destiny ahead of him. And you are reducing all of that to a mere existence for your fun and pleasures! Shame on you, you animals!
My words sparked uproar in the room. The officials started screaming at me, hurling accusations and threats against me.
You better take back your words, or we will make sure you suffer!
Yes, who are you to call us animals! Did you forget who gave you this position in the first place? Or did you forget that you were once scum like that animal over there? What an ungrateful piece of…!
Initially I felt intimidated by the sudden retaliation against me but soon it became clear to me that this was what I truly wanted – to be free from all this life of meaninglessness and evil. I was adamant to take my stand.
No! I will never take my words back! Do whatever you please with me, but I will not back down from this. Do whatever you please! This only reveals how beastly and animal-like you truly are.
Suddenly, I felt a blow to the back of my head. My body felt weak. I lost my balance and crumpled to the ground. My vision blurred and I faded into unconsciousness.
I awoke in the prison cell that was meant to hold prisoners in solitary confinement. The room was nearly pitch black and was eerily silent. I heaved a long sigh as I contemplated my fate.
Would I fade away in this prison cell for the rest of my life? Would I suffer the same fate as the prisoner I had seen earlier on? Or would I be shown mercy and given a quick and painless death?
Feelings of regret started to envelop me. Had I made the right choice in doing what I did? Would it make any difference at all?
I was truly in doubt. I was so lost. I was so alone. There was nothing more I could do.
I was prepared to give up when in a spark of divine intervention, light filled the room. I could see a figure of a man that was shining like the sun. When I saw Him, I was so overwhelmed by His presence that I fell down prostrate before Him.
He touched me and spoke to me, “Get up. Be strengthened!”
Instantly, my strength was restored and I stood on my feet. In His presence, I felt the sense of great peace and joy that surpassed all understanding. I could sense the aura of hope that emanated from His being. It’s as if His entire self was so saturated with love, grace and mercy that no words can fully describe the experience of standing in front of Him. I raised my voice and asked Him, “Lord, why have you come to me?”
Then He said to me:
Come out of the city, my child, for I bring a hope and a future for your life. Follow me, and I shall give you life to the fullest. Follow me and I will fill your life with my purposes and promises. Follow me and you will never be put to shame ever again. Never again will you dwell in meaninglessness and death, but you will receive new life in the Spirit and you will be part of the Holy City that I am building.
I asked Him again, “O Lord, wherever shall I go?”
For now, go out into the desert of Peirasmos. Do not worry about where you will go, what you will eat, or what you will wear for it shall be given unto you. Stand firm in your faith in me and all these shall be added unto you. Go now, for the door has been opened for you.
There was blinding flash of light, which gradually receded. The radiant figure whom I saw had left me but there before me was a wide opening in the prison wall. Sensing the freedom that I had longed for, I quickly squeezed through the opening and escaped into the city area.
I noticed a trail of fine blue thread laid out in front of me. Instinctively, I followed the trail as far as it led me and came to an breach in the city walls. Staring ahead beyond the city walls, all I saw was the barren desert. The thought of leaving the comforts of the city to venture into an unknown realm raised uncertainties within me. Part of me wanted to remain in the city where I had a sense of security and certainty while the other part of me prompted me to press ahead to my new future that lay before me.
But my inner self had already made the choice. I wanted to run the race and to endure it to the finish. With that, I wedged through the opening into a whole new world. I ran as swiftly as I could into the wilderness beyond.
My first few weeks in Melbourne were riddled with burden and sadness. It was tough settling down in a complete new territory, mixing with people of a totally different culture. I never had to do shopping or cooking back home, but here, I had to know these things in order to survive. More importantly, I felt that God had made a mistake in sending me to Melbourne, to this unfamiliar place. I was really troubled at heart. I could not feel the joy and the peace of God within me. I was lost.
I came to Melbourne with high expectations that God had planned great things ahead. I came with the sense that I would be able to make a change and make a difference in the lives of the people around me. I came with the hope that I would be able to grow strong in my walk with Him and to be formed more and more into His character.
I went around the city in search of a community to belong to. I endeavoured not to make the same mistake that I had made back in Malaysia, determined not to let all my competitions and shame-blame games get the best of me again. I eventually settled down in Life* Expedition after weeks of arduous searching, sifting and deciding. I settled down at OCF as well, after hearing about it from my pastor back in Malaysia. I was all around the place trying to find groups to belong to and trying to fit into the community.
The two months had been the toughest period of time for me. Aside from the relatively trivial consternations of learning to cook, clean and look after myself, I found it particularly difficult to make friends and form relationships with others. I wanted to participate more in the church activities. I wanted so badly to serve and to minister to others. I felt so alone in my spiritual journey. I prayed hard, crying out to God to open up opportunities for me.
It was on a seemingly normal Sunday morning, after church service on that day, that I discovered that my life was about to change. I hung around after the service trying to mingle around with people, and finding opportunities to make friends and interact with one another. It was then Pastor Tim approached me. We made arrangements to a chat over coffee at Crema. In the conversation, Tim told me about this particular course called Life* 101 that he was running and invited me to be part of it. That opened up a whole doorway of opportunities for me to be part of the community.
I went through a period of testing and refining, discovering new truths about God and integrating them with my daily life. I rediscovered the goodness of God, His purposes and promises for this earth, and His plans for me. It completely revolutionised my way of thinking about this world as well as my faith. I found a new spark of fire in my spirit.
Months after my medical course commenced, I have grown much in my knowledge and understanding of God. I came to realise how cruel society can truly be. I was also pained by the ways of living that so many people in society had adopted for their lives. Most were either wasting away on hospital beds, or too busy comparing and competing with one another in their corporate games, or simply throwing away their lives living in idleness, in meaningless existence. Through medical school, I learned more about social stigma, how people were segregated in society just because of certain disabilities, and society’s indifference towards the plights of these ostracised groups.
It also ignited within me a vision for a community of people to rise up from the ashes of the smouldering ruins of all the evil in the world, a group of people who are led not by their fleshly desires, but by the Spirit of God, a new generation of mankind who can readily lay down their lives for one another, a new society of human beings who invest in each other’s lives to see one another grow strong in their faiths.
With that also came the realisation that in order for me to pursue that vision, I first had to die to myself and learn to lay down my life for other people. I knew I could not do it with my own human effort, but also knew that there is a God who dwelling in me who can strengthen me and lead me in this journey.
Hence, I desired to seal my confession of faith in Him through my baptism. I wanted to proclaim to the world that I have been crucified with Christ and it was no longer I who lived, but Christ who lived in me. I wanted to be reminded that I no longer had the obligations to give in to the desires of my flesh, but had every reason to believe that I could overcome by His Spirit. I wanted to join with Christ in His death and with His rise again as a new creation to a new way of living where I could readily lay down my life for others.
Do I have the faith to believe in it? I believe I do.
God had sustained me in the desert for forty days. The emperor, when he realised that I had escaped sent his army in pursuit of me. But through the grace of God, I managed to evade the armies of the emperor.
After much wandering in the wilderness, God finally led me to a cliff that overlooked the sea of Thanatos. The king’s men had also caught up with me and were charging towards my position.
I gazed upon the raging, chaotic sea. It would have been a magnificent sight, had it not been for the fact that it was very well the only other way out for me. Right now, it was terrifying.
I stood at the edge of the cliff with two options – surrender peacefully to the emperor and go back to my old way of living, or take the plunge into the heart of the raging sea. Did I dare to believe that if I was buried beneath the waters, God would raise me up again to a new life? I did.
The army was about 200 metres away from me now and coming at me at full speed. Surprisingly, my heart was still and I was no longer afraid. Catching a final glimpse of the great, blue sea, I closed my eyes, and leaned forward. I fell off from the cliff and plunged straight into the heart of chaos.
I rose from the water at the applauses of the congregation. It was done. I had immersed myself in the death of Christ, and had risen again to join Him in the celebration of new life.
There was a sense of liberation within me, a feeling of triumph and victory over sin and death, free now to live in the fullness of life for which I was created.
I stood at the Queensbury Street tram stop that cold, winter night. I reflected on what it meant for me now that I had been baptised. The chilly wind was beating against my face, yet I ignored the numbness that I felt as I was deep in my thoughts.
I am a new creation.
The phrased replayed again and again in the back of my mind. I knew what it meant for me. I was free from guilt and condemnation. I was free from comparisons and categorisations. I had the freedom to live out my life that brings out the glory and the character of Christ in all that I do. And I could now learn to lay down my life to invest in a thriving and living community of God’s people. I would not have it any other way.
The tram arrived as my train of thoughts trailed off. I boarded the tram back home to enjoy a well-deserved rest. Tomorrow would be a new day in the rest of my life.