Life didn’t feel “full” at all while I was busy with my career and achieving good progress. There was something that seemed missing. I felt restless and was in search of more meaning to life.
I was drawn to seek and was trying to uncover what Jesus meant when He said “I come to give life to the full” (John 10:10).
A Gradual Awakening
Through a random conversation with a colleague, I attended the Life in the Spirit Seminar conducted at the Church of St Michael in 1995. My good friend from Junior College had spotted me there, and at her urging, I reluctantly joined the choir at this parish, just to help out.
“God gently graced me to realise His deep, deep love”
Along the way, I was led to attend the Sabah Retreat (the predecessor of the current day Conversion Experience Retreat) and thereon, helped at the monthly Saturday sessions, and various other programmes and retreats. The choir eventually moved to and became the Music Ministry at the Catholic Spirituality Centre.
I did not experience visions or any deep spiritual manifestations during the programmes or retreats. Perhaps, due to my nature of “complying”, “following” and being present, God worked a slow osmosis, subtly and gently gracing me to realise (not just in my head, but in my heart) His deep, deep love for me.
God Opened My Eyes
During this period of soul searching, my maternal grandaunt also signed me up to accompany her weekly visits to the Changi Women’s Prison. I unwittingly became a member in the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry, from 1996 to around 2007.
It was a time of grace, for God opened my eyes to His love, forgiveness, compassion and everlasting mercies.
I came to notice His hand and blessings – how narrow the path is, between wise choices and mis-steps; how loved I am to be in a family that provided me with the gift of faith and shielded me with love, which thus enabled my life to be that much smoother; how others can also choose and start again, when given hope and seeds of faith to trust and walk in the ways of Jesus.
Through these two ministries and being with the wider Church community, I experience and know, that fullness of life comes from being with God and His people.
Life continues to have its ups and downs. But I am regularly reminded that heaven is my home, and whatever ups or downs I experience, these are temporal. I try my best to keep my eyes and heart fixed upward (to Him) and outward (to others), and often encourage others to do likewise.
I am grateful to Jesus for allowing me to be His instrument, equipping and allowing me to undertake the range and variety of roles and tasks, which I previously would have regarded as impossible.
During my initial prison visits and worship leading, I often had a soft voice in my head, in awe that if not for Jesus, the ‘old Sharen’ would have fainted from fright! It is truly His gift that I can use the skills and talents He has given me to share hope and trust in His immense love, His grace and His power.
HE Graces Everything I do
He places me and graces everything that I do, at home, at church, at work, at leisure. Be it family time, or worship, leading and singing, or sharing God-moment faith stories with friends, retreat participants, colleagues, I uncover more and more of His love for us through being able to share about Him with others.
As I become more aware of Him and His presence, I have collected quite a number of these God-moment faith stories! These personal experience stories, when shared, have helped to make an impact in the lives of others.
It has become easier and easier, when inspired or at appropriate junctures (during worship and prayer time, over a social chit chat, at retreats), to tell of His goodness. And many have affirmed that the God-stories have helped them in one way or another.
Whether as an account to have faith and trust, or as an encouragement to remain hopeful, many like me have come to realise that God always prevails and He moves at His right time. Sharing of His goodness has been most gratifying, for the ‘old me’ would never have the guts or gumption to talk and share. I am His instrument only.
Faith in Jesus is now a cornerstone in my life. The daily conversations with my spouse, mum, siblings, friends, god children and colleagues are peppered with references to God, musings and reflections of His hands and plans. I often find myself praying about situations, by myself or with my spouse.
I am so grateful to be a cradle Catholic and for the seeds of faith planted by my parents and grandparents. Growing up with family prayer time, rosary and mass opened my heart to search and seek Him, and not to be simply content with the world’s treasures, the 5Cs.
“I am regularly reminded that heaven is my home”
Looking back, I am very thankful for His gracing me to seek and find Him during that major cross road of my life, His quiet hand in my life choices, and directing my steps to Him.
I am also grateful to know that Mother Mary is always close by, and guiding me to Jesus. She has been a major figure in our family life and prayers. Thank you too, Mama Mary, for allowing me to be an instrument for the 2017 Our Lady of Fatima Centennial celebration in Singapore.
My prayer for the Catholic Church’s 200th anniversary
Dearest Mother, please continue to intercede for our church here in Singapore as we celebrate our 200th anniversary; may she shine forth the light of Jesus, bringing warmth, direction, comfort to all souls who are searching; may we, as members of this Church, follow your example, always surrendered to the will of God, and sign-posting everyone to Jesus, Amen.