During my teenage years, I grew up as a very angry and indifferent person. Everything in life seemed meaningless and it left me very bitter and numb. When I was 18 years old, I was involved in a serious car accident. I believe this was God’s wake-up call for me. My car skidded and landed on the opposite side of the expressway, and was totally wrecked, but I came out of the car with only minor scratches. My search for meaning in life began as I attended a retreat and was being prayed over. I cried non-stop and realised that I was crying out all my unresolved hurts and resentment that I had accumulated over the years. I experienced a deep assurance and comfort from the Holy Spirit that Jesus is with me, no matter how broken I felt. Jesus had transformed my heart which was hard like a rock, into a heart made of flesh, pumping and alive. My life transformed and I was filled with joy and peace.
I was typically known as a good Catholic girl – one who studied hard, achieved academically and active in church. However, it reached a turning point in my life where I started to question my intentions for doing all these “right” things in life. Through prayer and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I realised that my motivations stemmed from a deeper fear of displeasing others as I wanted to gain acceptance and attention from others. Upon realising that God loves me unconditionally, simply as a beloved daughter of His, and not what I have achieved in my earthly life, my actions of doing the “right” things in life remain the same – but God constantly purifies my intentions – that it should stem from a source of love, and not fear.
The shared spiritual experience helped synergise and converge our faith and prayer lives from two individuals into a new family unit
As a newly-married couple back in 2011, we were drawn to discern if we should go for a five-month School of Mission (SOM) by the Institute for World Evangelisation (ICPE) in 2012. We were initially worried about many pragmatic concerns such as lagging behind in our careers, but God’s voice constantly assured us as we prayed the Novena to the Holy Spirit. God truly paved the way forward beyond our imagination as our supervisors were unexpectedly supportive and we were surprised that the amount collected from our wedding ang pows was the amount we needed for the mission! Attending the SOM transformed our lives and was the best honeymoon we could ask for. The shared spiritual experience helped synergise and converge our faith and prayer lives from two individuals into a new family unit, and we grew in greater awareness of our individual baggage and insecurities which we inadvertently brought into our marriage. Our Lord poured out His love and mercy upon us during this time as we sought His healing and purification to break out of our own generational hurts and sins in order to forge a new life in Christ.
This shared encounter is helping us in the way we live, as we constantly strive to discern and purify our hearts; to be intentional and purposeful in why we do what we do. It has put us on the same page that life is more than our work, wealth and even our family, and that God calls us to a higher purpose of proclaiming His goodness and Good News through our marriage. We have learnt to discern our small and big decisions, whether it is made out of selfishness, insecurities, peer comparisons, just going with the flow, or a call from God.
Brandon (in blue) and Samantha (in pink) at the School of Mission by the Institute for World Evangelisation (ICPE)
Marriage: A Bed of Roses?
One of the aspects of our relationship that our Catholic faith has taught us was to give to each other freely and totally. This extended to our finances, whether we should have separate or joint bank accounts or a combination. Many friends and family gave us “well-meaning” advice that we should have separate bank accounts especially for the woman to protect herself in the event the man cheats. We prayed about it and realised that having this contingency plan of keeping our bank accounts separate might be setting our marriage up for failure as it was essentially built on some form of mistrust. We’re not saying that all marriages need to have joint accounts, but having experienced His unconditional love has truly given us the freedom to love each other wholeheartedly and not hold back anything. There’s greater peace and joy when we can truly give of ourselves financially, emotionally, and spiritually.
Having experienced His unconditional love has truly given us the freedom to love each other wholeheartedly and not hold back anything.
Before I got married, I used to be a self-centred person and my friends would tell me that marriage is a restriction of freedom because it doesn’t allow us to do what we want. And we’ll lose our independence, and marriage puts an end to all the fun. I have always held on to the idea that in a marriage I will do my own things, and Samantha will just do hers. But honestly, I’ve learnt that marriage is not about independence, not about the freedom to do what I want, but about the freedom to lay down my life for Samantha, Sarah and others. For “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13
Jesus further revealed Himself through two near-death experiences, as well as two miscarriages. Yet through these crosses (or what the world would call “unlucky”), we felt the Holy Spirit move so powerfully, as we were brought to our knees and tears, which taught us what it truly means to fully surrender all control to God. After the second miscarriage which was life-threatening, we went through a period of extreme darkness and negativity where we questioned His meaning of joy and hope. I found renewed strength in Micah 7:8 “Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I am in darkness, the Lord will be my light.”
The Chin Family: Brandon, Samantha and Sarah
By His grace, these trials and suffering united us in a deeper sense of knowing and trusting that God is God. And how prideful it was of us to think that we can have our 5 or 10-year family and career plans all carved out perfectly with contingency plans. Through these, we have learnt that He is our creator and provider, from dust we came and to dust we will return, and we are nothing without Him.
We struggle to constantly choose Jesus in our big and small decisions as a married couple, especially when the preference these days are convenience and instant gratification. The struggle to commit to each other as a married couple is real given the hectic weekdays and when there are so many competing secular objectives versus faith and Gospel values. It definitely does help to keep each other in check as a couple as we pray, discern and choose the more loving option (not just the ‘right’ option).
A Need for Community
As a family, we’ve been called into community living for the past four years and have been journeying with our fellow brothers and sisters in Seven Graces Communities under the Office for Young People (OYP).
Together with brothers and sisters in Seven Graces Communities under the Office for Young People (OYP)
Being in community has challenged us to be real with one another, not just hovering over “cordial” or “safe” type of friendships or conversations, but to live out a deeper authentic faith where we not only share in each other’s joys, but also carry each other’s crosses and burdens, and be open to fraternal correction. Community has also challenged us to tear down our masks of appearing like “we’re in control… we’re fine,” because at the end of the day, we believe that we are all God’s children desiring to grow closer to Him despite our human imperfections.
We have learnt that is essential to be in communion with community, that leads us to His mission of serving God’s people.
We’ve realised that our marriage needs to also be a gift given to others even though it’s tempting to just focus on our family. That even as a married couple, we do not live for our own family, but for a larger spiritual family. When we serve in God’s vineyard together, we face many discouragements and self-doubts on whether it is worthwhile, but we have learnt that is essential to be in communion with community, that leads us to His mission of serving God’s people.
In serving as a family, our faith in turn gets stirred and our souls renewed as we strengthen our marriage through the shared spiritual encounters. We pray to live out God’s mission wholeheartedly for “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” – Joshua 24:15.