During my university years, I kept my faith hidden in a corner and devoted all my time and attention to my studies, ensuring that I did well enough to get a headstart in my career. It was only four years after graduation in 2016 that the desire to live out my faith started flickering.
Life as a Sunday Catholic
Before my encounter with God, I had different persona for different situations and settings – one for weekdays at school or work, one for my family, one with friends. Although I am a cradle Catholic, who was brought up to go to Church and to pray, my faith was always tucked in the “Sunday” corner; separated from the other spheres of my life.
As you can clearly see, my life was very disconnected.
The awakening of my faith started with my breakup, and I began to view life with a new perspective. I decided to make the choice to follow Jesus, because my life had become so knotted up by my own doings, and like Simon Peter, I said, “Where else can I go?”. Taking a leap of faith and clinging on to Hope saying, “Yes, Jesus, I will follow you”, I dropped the nets of my old life, like Simon Peter and Andrew, and stepped into the light and life of faith.
Come Lord Jesus, But Not Too Close
After experiencing God’s mercy in my life, I did not want to miss another moment without Him. I yearned to get to know Him all over again and to have Him in all my decisions. Over the past three years, my faith sphere now has a name – Jesus, and He has grown much bigger and more central in my life. I also desired to bring the other aspects of my life closer to Him. I started to see some of the spheres overlap, and consciously looked for Him in these areas of my life. Sounds good right?
But when I took a closer look, I realised that there were still chunks of my life which were outside of Jesus. He did not have full influence over my work, family, friends and relationship. Why? Because, as much as I have encountered God and have been renewed, there is a daily fight within myself to surrender and bring all parts of my life under the Lordship of Jesus.
One of the biggest conflicts I have, is thinking that Jesus will compete with my aspirations and my personal time. There is a lot of tension rolling the spheres in its entirety into Jesus. In fact, it seems so much easier if I gave Him some selected portions of my life.
But in St Paul’s letters to the Galatians, we read “… you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” and again “… all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” It took me some time to understand what living in Christ Jesus really meant, until I saw the diagram below.
If I claim that Jesus is Lord of my life, then He should be the Lord of my whole life. Yet, I also struggle and worry that if I brought all aspects of my life into Jesus, He will remove the things that I want and love, from me. Maybe, I might not have the relationship with the person I have chosen. If I will not indulge in excessive drinking occasions, that might mean losing the opportunities to network and have a better standing with my peers and bosses.
But, what is the Truth? The truth is that Jesus does not take anything away from us that is good. He comes to so that we ‘…may have life and have it to the full’ (Jn 10:10), and this fullness, can only be received if we surrender our control and allow Jesus to enter completely into our lives.
After my encounter, I knew my heart is new and alive again. Yet, I harboured a secret identity, which appeared only after work-hours or on weekends. I struggled to reconcile these disparate identities within me, and realised recently that the only answer was to integrate all the spheres of my life and claiming my one identity as a Christian.
What does this mean to me, concretely?
- Small steps: Inviting Jesus into every space, e.g. work, friendships, family. I begin the day, and tasks (work meetings, interactions etc.) with a simple prayer, “Come Lord Jesus, fill me with your grace”. Offering to pray with colleagues, friends and in turn being open to receiving prayers.
- Accountable: By claiming I am Christian, I face scrutiny of my actions, and when found wrong, I have to be open to correction too. Once I was carried away giving “feedback” about another colleague, until my boss remarked that I was being catty. I admitted I was in the wrong, and have learnt to use my words more mindfully to build others rather than to tear them down.
- Intentional: How will this new job bring me closer to Jesus? Do I treat others with a ‘task-oriented’ mindset, or do I treat them with dignity and respect? Do I bring Jesus into all my interactions, especially in my family?
- Be prepared to share my story of Jesus, and to answer questions
- Bear discouraging remarks: “You are too nice, too Christian”; “You lack ambition”. Following Jesus is the biggest ambition in one’s life! In these situations, I ground myself by remembering that I am God’s chosen one with His gifts and plan for my life.
- Saying “No”: Decline activities that compromises on my Christian values e.g. deceiving, gossip.
Clara’s work desk
Living Out Our True Identity
Being a Christian definitely takes effort, but it has set me free. I no longer juggle multiple identities. At work, I place a cross at my desk to remind myself who I belong to, and who I am truly labouring for; how will my work help me help God. When I re-orientate my focus to God and live out His call, I see so much fruitfulness and purpose in my life.
This is the integrated life – living in Christ Jesus. Striving for an integrated life should not be abnormal to us Christians, but it should be our way of life.
There is only one identity and one face that everyone sees, and that is the face of Jesus. To lead an integrated life requires a consistent effort every day; and we need to choose Jesus over that of the world. My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be transformed through His will, and not be conformed to the world. Jesus is the way to a life worth living!