For the longest time, I thought that being born Catholic was a real burden because of the sheer number of rules we have to follow and I also felt weak having to rely on this “God” for everything. The fact that He was apparently all-powerful and in control of our whole life and yet could not bring himself to answer my prayers just really frustrated me as well. One big reason I felt this way was because of my height. As a kid I would just beg him all day to help me grow tall so I could be more confident. If you know me, you can tell He did not answer that particular prayer. But He does make all things new and I stand as a confident man of God.

Being born Catholic was a real burden because of the sheer number of rules we have to follow and I also felt weak having to rely on this “God” for everything.

So yes, my spiritual life was pretty much like Singapore, our very own urban desert – mostly hot and dry but with occasional downpours during December season or in my case, confirmation camps and stuff. The thing is, I was actually pretty cool with this. People from my church community had actually been asking me for over a year to join them and I kept making silly excuses not to – and it was because deep down I felt that I was pretty content with my life and did not need them. That is just one of the many ways the desert can kill you; it changes how you see things. You can see a mirage of an oasis of water, but when you drink from it, you may not realise until it is too late that it is actually sand and that you are harming yourself.

So it really took a lot of convincing combined with a spot of divine intervention for me to decide to attend the School of Witness (SOW) in 2015 and I hate to be clichéd, but things have changed so much for me since then.

The first few weeks into SOW was a real struggle for me. I felt really lost in the community that seemed way too holy for me, and I think the crux of it was that I felt I was not getting anything from the Lord. For example, there were prayer ministry sessions which many people seemed to be responding to and I was just standing there awkwardly wondering what I did or did not do.

But looking back, I realise God’s blessings was already drizzling down on me. It taught me to see the spirit behind those struggles, that even if there was no physical manifestation to satisfy my senses, He had already done his work of simply blessing all of us.

However, I did get my breakthrough in the third week! I was able to rest in the spirit for the first time ever because I finally invited Jesus into an area of my life which I had kept hidden from Him. This was really a huge revelation for me: one of the reasons I disliked religion and the whole idea of God was because of how weak it made me feel, like I had no say in my life at all.

But considering all things, resting in the spirit with Him was my decision. Letting Him into that part of my life, letting go, and resting was, for me, my choice. I felt my knees going weak when I was staring at the Blessed Sacrament, but He would only go 85% and the last 15% was all up to me. This in itself was such a testament of His love for me. The fact that He would bring Himself down to my level, to let ME choose if I wanted to rest showed that He had always been knocking on my door. When I finally – maybe even reluctantly – opened it, He just ran in to embrace me on my terms.

There is this verse in John 21: 15-19 where Jesus asked Peter three times “Do you love me?” and each time Peter replied, ‘Yes, you know I love you.’ For me as a ‘once-in-21-years’ bible reader, I honestly wondered what Jesus’ game was.

Was He on some ego trip, needing to hear Peter say that he loved Him many times before he was satisfied? But then I found out during SOW that in the Greek translation, which the New Testament was written in, the first two times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with an agape love which is basically selfless, complete high-level love. Peter answered that he loved Jesus with a phileo love which was a brotherly love. And so when Jesus asked Peter for the third time, He asked if Peter loved Him with a phileo love because He knew Peter could only love him with such a phileo love and not the agape love He was asking.

And I truly believe that this is how God loves us. He meets us where we are at, no matter where that might be. You can be in the greatest, driest desert of your life and that is where He will go and find you. He will come to you and give you water to quench your thirst, and all He wants is for you to take the first step to let Him in. You do not even need to do it in a big way. You might think that praying five minutes before you sleep might be useless but it is not. Every prayer matters. Do not lose hope. My signing up for SOW was a culmination of a series of events which resulted from a sleepy prayer uttered late at night for the Lord to show me His will!

I am definitely not a holy-moly, up-there Catholic or whatever you might think. I am just at the beginning of this faith journey and I just want to urge you to join me. To come to Him as you are, in whatever desolation you may be in, big or small, and let rescue begin.

Brendan Hoe

This testimony was first published on the Office of Young People’s website.

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