Jessica Fong

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Defining God and what He means

God: just a faceless and unknown being – merely words and inscriptions and drawings and art. Sure, I knew of God; I heard the mentions and prayed through the Buddhist upbringing from my paternal side of the family, but there was nothing personal to that recognition, it wasn’t even a relationship because I felt there was none. I was just praying with a mindless jumble out of obligation when my grandma or dad asked me to.

My maternal side of the family however, leaned towards Christianity, so I was also introduced to Sunday schools and church events via my aunts and cousins. As I’ve always loved to read any book that came my way, I gradually picked up books about Jesus and those biblical stories. I came to knew of Jesus, and despite how I still felt nothing of a relationship to be concerned of – I began to be intrigued and terribly curious; so it seemed there’s ‘another God’ out there besides the ones I had been praying to.

I had a rather good life of a wonderful childhood and teenage years, with a loving family and we were never in dire need of anything. I got good grades, I was a school prefect, I wasn’t overweight or horrible to look at, I was one of the popular kids, I had boys who liked me, and so forth that most girls at that age would be concerned of. Still, inside of me, there was always an unspoken and unfamiliar territory of loneliness and absence. I wanted to be assured, to be placated of this quiet fear that I didn’t quite recognize.

So I secretly began to pray to this ‘new’ God, Jesus, whom I came to know of from books and all. I called upon Him, and entrusted Him to do the things I wanted to be done; examinations, crushes, etc. Surprisingly, or maybe not, almost everything I hoped and prayed for – were always realized. Yet I still wasn’t aware how much all of it meant to me. I was taking Him for granted, only looking for Him when I wanted something. When my Christian friends brought me to their church parties and events, I went along, but I never came around to committing myself to the faith despite their attempts to also bring me to church service and all. I reasoned that I didn’t really need Him, I didn’t need to commit to anything. I was good as I was, and if I need Him – I’ll just call upon Him then. It was if Jesus was just a genie, good for granting wishes.

Until the day my mom went into surgery for her mastectomy due to breast cancer and I cried at home, all alone, terrified and pained with the fear that I’ve always had, gnawing at my insides. Out aloud, I asked what it was that I am missing. I was 17 then, and I had no answers.

I met my one of my closest of friends, Melissa, earlier that year in my first year of college. I knew she was a Catholic, but I was never inclined to follow her to church – until one day, sometime after my mom’s surgery, that I finally asked Melissa if I could go with her to Sunday mass. I’m not sure what made me wanted to go, but I felt a little nudge that perhaps I should. Melissa was more than pleased to have me come with her, and her family to their parish church. She answered every question I had, patiently and lovingly so, and her family were welcoming and never once pushed me to anything beyond my comfort.

When I first stepped into the church with her, St. Francis Xavier’s Church (SFX) – I was floored with the sudden feeling of belonging, acceptance, and fulfillment within me; I felt I was home. The feelings of absence and loneliness were assuaged. It was as if I was an empty bottle suddenly being filled with emotions to the brim.

So I began to attend mass as often as I could with her and her family. I asked plenty of questions, even the silliest ones, and she was never flustered as she always answered with an indulgent smile and a simple explanation. As I understood better of the faith, I began to commit myself a little more by being more consciously aware of the things I say, do and what would be pleasing to Jesus and not. I also started to realize that whatever my little heart wished for in those days – each one didn’t happen by sheer luck, the Lord was at work with His choices and plans for me. There were reasons to why some things happened and some not.

It was the start of a relationship – in a mixture of love, fear, and trust. My conversion didn’t happen overnight. It took me seven years.

Seven years of getting to know Him; I was already attending mass regularly, I knew the Holy Days of Obligation and the church calendar, I had read the Bible from cover to cover, I understood the precepts of the faith – I had even obliged by Lent by fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and even abstaining from meat on Fridays. Yet I was always not ready to be baptized throughout those years.

Melissa always told me that I’d know when I’m ready and I didn’t have to rush; her love and understanding supported me in my indecisiveness. I believe now that it was Him who brought Melissa to me, to guide and support – it was one of His ways to lead me to Him. Everything was adding up to the puzzle I was unknowingly trying to sort all my life.

At 24, I knew then I wanted to be fully committed to the faith, yet I knew that it wasn’t fair or right of me to ‘get into it’, so to speak, just for the sake of it, because after everything He has done and been for me – He deserved all of my heart. I briefly panicked with this love I have for Him, as I was also aware that I don’t want to have to ‘leave’ if I were not to be able to follow through on the Sacraments of the church and faith either. What if I faltered from Him somehow and just lose my way all over again, or the big question of relationships – what if I ended up marrying a non-Catholic and I left the faith for my husband’s – clearly, I’m going to have to narrow down my ‘ideal guy’ and that would leave me with lesser options at love?

I had the sentiments of one not wanting to leave home, the loving arms of a parent, the security and safety of the comforting presence. I asked Him what I should do – and the Lord answered in His own way, like He always does.

In the midst of my uncertainty I met a Catholic guy who was always even-tempered and kind, with the brightest of smiles, and his faith in Him was firm and certain. Naturally, I fell for the guy and it was then that I realized – he was the answer from Jesus that my fears and uncertainties were baseless. The guy came along, unexpectedly, at the very timing to address that insecurity of mine. It was a loving reminder from Him in letting me know that I’ve never been, and I never will be alone because He is always, always around to love me – and that’s all that matters. Jesus will always look out for me, and I can safely and wholeheartedly trust in Him. He was, is, and always will be, omnipresent in His merciful love.

I told Melissa I was ready for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, and she became my sponsor and companion through the 10 months or so. I’ve never felt so assured in my entire life with the Lord’s graciousness in guiding me to His truth and love.

The day I sat in silence with the Blessed Sacrament, a month before my baptism, I cried – in happiness, for I felt His loving presence wrapping around me and my heart. My heart rediscovered and adored Him, and I finally understood that home is where He is. The best part of it; He is always omnipresent – never defined by place, time or space, so home is never far.

I still feel His presence, even after 3 years since my baptism – and He has never allowed me to feel fear and loneliness. At mass, even if I attend alone, I’m never truly alone; I feel the Lord’s presence to reassure me that He knows all that I’m feeling at that moment and the burden or fears I may carry.

God may not have a face that we can clearly define, and I still find Him in words, texts, pictures and art – but today and always, I know for sure that He is all-gracious and loving, omniscient and omnipotent, and I’m blessed and loved by Him.

— It takes us different stages to get to know Him and to feel His presence. I’d love to know how you feel and your search for Him – to journey along with you if you’d like a companion to simply hear you out and pray for, and with you. You’re never truly alone

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