28 Feb 2013 by Adeliyn Lim-
My journey as a Christian started when I decided to be an atheist when I was 14. It started when I told God, ”I know You are out there, but I just don’t want to believe in You anymore.”
It was decision made after contemplating for a time, and it was a difficult decision to make. You see, I was born in a Christian family. Like most Christian children, my parents encouraged me to be involved in various church activities: Sunday school, Boys’ Brigade, cantatas and weekly Bible study. In terms of a Christian upbringing, it was not deficient from my parents’ end.
Three things pushed me out of the faith: the gift of tongues, the hypocrisy of the community, and a sense of abandonment.
The gift of tongues
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with the gift of tongues. It is a gift from God to a believer, and it is a good and wonderful gift. What made that gift turn into a spear of discouragement towards me was the way community of believers used and pressured others to receive the gift.
I was attending a church in Butterworth, Penang at that point in time. A new pastor was assigned to the church and this man was really passionate about the gift of tongues. Every week he would preach and encourage the members to get the gift of tongues. The church initially was rather antagonistic to this pastor because he had this guns-a-blazing attitude on how the church should be run. One Sunday, after the church had just returned from a church camp, the church’s attitude towards this pastor changed drastically for the better. Apparently many received the gift at the camp. During the service, the pastor read out the prayer items and announced to the church, “Let us pray in tongues!” Immediately, the church burst out praying in tongues, some were crying hysterically while praying, and some members were slain while praying.
It was the first time I witnessed speaking in tongues. To put it mildly, I was in shock and was terrified. It definitely did not help the fact that the event happened in the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar calendar*, in the state of Penang nonetheless.
To be honest I thought the whole church was experiencing “kee daang” – Hokkien for “spirit possession”.
I began to question whether the God I believe was the correct one, or had the church I attended become a cult. It didn’t help that no one knew what they were praying about, but was just deeply convicted that the Spirit was ‘leading them in prayer’. Worse still, there was no one to interpret the things they were saying.
*Chinese believe that in this month the Gates of Hell will be opened, and spirits and demons are free to roam the earth for the month. Demon- and spirit possession are common phenomena.
Hypocrisy of the community
The church was now hard selling the gift of tongues. How great it benefited their prayer lives. How much more they felt blessed after receiving the gift of tongues. How they were able to bless others through the gift of tongues. Week in week out, newer and more fantastical the testimonies came in from church members.
Yet I couldn’t see real change in these people’s lives. Outside, they were still very much the same folks before they received the gift of tongues. In my opinion, after the event of receiving the tongues, the hypocrisy of the church became even more pronounced.
They acted very caring towards one another in church, but gossiped about one another outside of church.
They told everyone how God had blessed their lives in church, but complained about their lives outside of it.
They speak of blessings and bringing up others in church, but harsh words were hurled at their children the moment they stepped out the door.
Sarcasm often played in my mind as I continued to observe. How great is the Christian faith. How great is this God of the Christians. Big deal.
Sense of Abandonment
My father is a dedicated Christian man, who works in the military. When I was a child, we would try to sit down as a family once a week to study the Gospels. My father had aspired to study the entire Bible as a family, however due to his work duties, it became an increasingly difficult task as time passed. He had to take on night shifts, and be outstation at periods of time.
When I was twelve, he was posted to KL for work. My parents decided that for the sake of our education, it was better to stay put in Penang for a year (as I was to sit for UPSR and my 2 elder siblings were to sit for PMR). However we stayed on for another 3 years because my siblings didn’t want to move again. They were comfortable with the set of friends and wished to finish secondary school in Penang.
Initially, I was all right with the arrangement. Dad came back every weekend to see us. However, after a few months, we grew estranged. It came to the point where I would look at my father with the head knowledge that he was my own father, but in my heart, he was a complete stranger.
The Big Blow
One fine Sunday when I was twelve, a church member’s neighbor and her family came into church. The lady was suffering from 3rd stage breast cancer and heard the healing that could be attained by praying to God. She decided to give God a try.
The church prayed for her in tongues. They prayed that she would be cured of her cancer. They prophesized, that her body will be restored to full health. They prayed that “the spirit of cancer” would leave her. For a time, it seemed to work. The malignant tumors became benign. She didn’t need to go through chemotherapy after awhile. The surgeries removing the tumors seem to be successful.
A few months after surgery, she went back to do a follow up with the doctors. She found out the cancer had came back with a vengeance. It was at stage 4 and had spread to her lymphatic system.
The church began again their praying and prophesying. The family grew disillusioned by the promises of health and restoration as she wasted away under chemo- and radiotherapy. Strangely, the lady’s faith in God never wavered. Perhaps she had her encounter with God, thus had full faith in Him.
After 6-8 months of suffering, and listening to the promises, she passed away. I wasn’t surprised when her family left the church, disappointed and angry. Soon after, I told God, ”I know You are out there, but I just don’t want to believe in You anymore.”
For 2 years, I was an atheist. I still went to church out of family duty. I went through the motions of church and read the Bible as I never had the courage to tell anyone I had chose to be an atheist. Towards the end of those 2 years, my father rededicated the family to God. I wanted to decline my father’s wish, but I decided not to rock the boat.
Then I moved to KL with my mother to join my father at the age of 16. My siblings decided to stay in Penang for another 2 years. The experience of moving to a new school, being in a completely new environment, being away from my siblings, being verbally harassed by foreigners, and living again with my father was extremely stressful for me. I never felt so helpless, or so much rage in my life. Most nights, I couldn’t sleep. One night I felt something pressing me, and I couldn’t breathe. I tried calling for my parents but in the end I cried out for Jesus instead. That thing left.
I grew desperate, desperate enough to seek God. I began praying again. I was introduced to the MYF in KL Wesley and met a group of Christians who seemed genuine in the faith. They talked and guided me like I was a young Christian, as they didn’t know that I was an atheist. Soon curiosity and a want to know God more grew within me, although I still reject Him. As I grew to know the leaders of the MYF, I felt strongly that these people had real faith in God. My rejection of God weakened, and I came to accept that it was people and circumstance that were the ones I was rejecting, not God per se.
Coincidentally, that was the year the movie “The Passion of Christ” came out. The MYF watched the movie together in a camp in Rawang. As Jesus was tied to the post for whipping, I felt a voice within me speaking to my heart: every whip stripe Jesus is about to take was for you.
I cried as I watched. For the first time, I felt God really coming close to me, and digging me out of my misery. I felt a hurt deep within me, from the years of rejecting God, from the times the church made me feel inadequate for not speaking in tongues, for the lady’s death and grief for her family, from feeling abandoned by my father, even when I knew he did not abandon me at all. All those hurts that I accumulated over the years, became the whip stripes on Him.
After the movie ended, the facilitating pastor, Rev. Yew, came over to me and prayed with me for the hurt I felt, and the hurt I caused to God and my family. I decided there and then that I would be a Christian. I prayed for wisdom and discernment, and that I will never repeat the mistakes of those who hurt me. I also prayed that until the day He grants me the gift of interpretation, I do not want the gift of tongues.
Many years have passed since then. I still haven’t received the gift of interpretation, and thus do not have the gift of tongues. There are many hurts that God and I are working on, and I suspect that I will be constantly a work in progress until the day He calls me home. However, there is one thing I know for sure: God is faithful and merciful, the One who will seek me out and keep me under His wing.
Adeliyn Lim has oscillated between Kuantan, Penang and KL, currently working as a human resources specialist in a telecommunications company. She admits that the walk with God is at times like a walk on the beach in sunny weather and at times like stumbling on cobbled alleys on dark, stormy days. Her philosophy in life is, “Life is a bed of roses. Thorns included.”
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