I love hearing testimonies. They are true redemption stories and reflect God's overwhelming power, love, grace, and goodness. I pray my story gives hope to whoever reads it.
All to His glory.
Being raised in a Christian household, I regularly attended church, VBS (Vacation Bible School), and retreats. However, I did not fully understand who God is or the gospel. I simply knew that Jesus loves, and He loves a lot.
When I was young, my parents divorced and my father moved back to South Korea. While this should have affected me more, I did not notice his absence. As long as my mother was around, as long as I was loved by her I was content. In a way, she became my "god." Growing up, I was generally obedient and we rarely argued, and I wanted to be a "good daughter". My mother was and always will be my best friend, and her love, selflessness, and character is a reflection of Jesus.
Because my father was miles away, he would send my siblings and I letters on our birthdays and Christmas. It always included a bible verse and child-like doodles. I did not know a lot about him but he smelled like Juicy Fruit, cigarettes, and our encounters ended with a nose-kiss. He has always encouraged me to attend church, read the bible, and be part of a church. He may not have been the best husband, but he has and always will be a wonderful father. He does not spoil me with material objects to make up for lost time. Rather, he falls on his knees and prays.
My mother re-married when I was in elementary school, and their marriage was not perfect. It is difficult to put in words how their relationship affected me, but it definitely influenced my perspective on love and marriage. In general, my step-father raised my siblings and I as if we were his own. He was strict, sure but he created structure. He did not express his love through hugs, kisses, and comforting words but he expressed it in other ways. I respect and appreciate my step-father.
High school was pretty normal and typical. I was never an over-achiever and I disliked studying, but I loved to sing, dance, draw, and write. I was on the lacrosse and soccer team for a day, and I eventually got accepted into the honors choir. My sophomore year, I had an a-ha moment that if I did not get better grades, I would not be going to college. I studied harder and took school seriously, but it was a little too late. My mother had this gut feeling as well, so she did a Google search for voice professors at Rutgers University. The professor agreed to have me as her student, and my mom drove me one hour each way every week for a private lesson. I did not always enjoy it as there were a lot of rules, but it gave me confidence and purpose. I eventually auditioned for Mason Gross School of the Arts, and I was 1 of 5 (or 6?) sopranos accepted into the program.
Freshman year of college was difficult. I was taking 18 credits, having difficulty understanding music theory, and I missed home. I was not mentally prepared for this new chapter, and I did not seek help. Shortly after, I started dating a non-believer and while it was unhealthy, it distracted me from reality. By the grace of God, my mother stepped in and both of my fathers expressed their disapproval, and the relationship ended.
Life was not getting any easier as I continued to struggle in school. One day, I told my mother that I wanted to change my major and transfer out of Mason Gross. She supported my decision and I was accepted into the School of Arts and Sciences. My grades improved, I loved my classes, and I started attending church again. However, the condition of my heart was the same and I did not repent of my sins. I also did not fully understand the gospel.
Post-college, I moved to New York and started two internships. I had plans to build my career and be successful, but reality kicked in fast. I felt lonely, sad, and I was struggling a lot. When I expressed this to my father, he encouraged me to start the day in His Word and pray for strength. As soon as I prayed, I felt the presence of God. At that moment, I knew God was real. My faith started to grow and it became my own. I started reading the bible, having devotionals, and I repented of my sins. I also started to see changes in my lifestyle and heart. For a while, I lived in shame and I carried the weight of my past on my heart. After reading "Unashamed" by Christine Cain in Central Park, I realized I was spiritually dead before knowing Christ. I sought love, comfort, and acceptance through men and it left me empty. I know now that He does not love me any less because of my past.
I see beauty in and appreciate the life I have been given. As you can see, it is not perfect. But if life were perfect, I would not have had a reason to seek Christ. As you grow up, you realize your parents cannot protect you from everything. And you realize how messy, imperfect, and dark this world is. But Jesus changes everything. I no longer put my hope in this world, my parents, relationships, career, or success. Rather, I have put my faith and hope in Jesus, which all things flow out of. I have new life because of the cross.