Proverbs 16:9 “the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
This verse came to life for me over the past 3 years as I saw how the Lord reconstructed all the plans that I had set out for myself and brought me on His intended journey instead. Though everything seemed bizarre and messy when I went through the process, looking back now, it was all a beautiful ‘mess’, overrun and intertwined, that God directed.
I entered an Integrated Programme (IP ) school, Dunman High, at 13, with only one thing in mind – that I would eventually leave the school at 19 with an ‘A’ level certificate. My school ran on the GPA (grade point average) system, and everyone’s target was to score as close to the maximum score of 4. I recall the times after the end-of-year examinations and I would whip out my calculator, estimate how I would score for different subjects, and try to gauge how high (or low) my GPA would be for that year. I would fret and worry, try to gauge the number of A’s and B’s I had, and calculate over and over again. And I remember how I used to freak out at the amount of work I had to do, thinking that I had absolutely not enough strength and time to complete everything.
I took the grades reflected on a report card extremely seriously because of the “paper chase” society that we are in. We chase after these numbers daily, weekly, yearly – all in futile attempts to secure something that has been sold to us as the idea of a successful future.
However, at 17, things changed.
When I was 17, I switched from being in Singapore’s education system to taking on the American homeschooling education instead. The decision to do so garnered many surprised and alarmed reactions from people in my school. Many asked me where I had gotten such an absurd idea from, or whether what I was going to do would even guarantee me any future at all.
When God impressed upon my heart to make such a drastic change in my education route, I thought I heard Him wrongly. After two weeks, the thought of homeschooling did not leave my head, but prodded my heart even more. Eventually, I told my parents about it and they said that for a matter as major as this, they needed time to pray about it. Deep inside, I knew that if this were what God wanted me to do, He would place the same conviction upon my parents’ hearts.
A week later, I came home from school and my mother told me that she had received confirmation from God. While doing her quiet time, she had been led to Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.” Instantaneously, she had felt an overwhelming sense of peace flooding her heart, and knew in her spirit that it was a clear sign to change my education route.
Stepping into something that wasn’t recognized in Singapore definitely struck plenty of fear into my heart when I pondered the future. Thoughts of “What if my American certification cannot land me in a local university? Will I have any universities to go to? If I don’t, what if I don’t even manage to get a job? How am I going to survive?” were thoughts that I battled with initially.
I thought that by my human strength, I could work hard, get good grades, and get to where I wanted. However, from how things changed drastically for me, I knew that it wouldn’t be so simple as that. I had to come to a realization that wherever God was leading me to, He would bring me there, with or without the required grades.
Ending my homeschooling education around September last year, I decided to take a gap year before entering University this year. TLBS was never an option for me. Instead, I contemplated working, internships, missions trips, holidays etc. The first time my youth leader mentioned it to me, I brushed it aside. When my parents brought it up during lunch and told me to consider, I asked God to send people to talk to me about it. Sure enough, three people mentioned “TLBS” in our conversations over the span of 2 days. I decided to give God an “ultimatum” and jokingly said to myself that if He provided the school fees for TLBS ($1500), I would immediately sign up.
That very night, at an annual family Christmas dinner, my grandparents said that they had a surprise for all of us. Instead of the usual red packets they usually bless us with, they passed each of their grandchildren a cheque. When I opened it up, the figure read $2000. It was not what I needed, it was more than what I requested.
I was completely blown away because I felt like God was explicitly telling me, “Sign up for TLBS.” And so, I did it the very next morning.
My initial plans for my gap year were being scraped away and God took me on a completely different path. Mirroring my homeschooling experience, God showed me once more that if He intends for me to be at a particular place at a specific season of life, He will open the gates wide enough for me to enter in.
Being in TLBS for the past weeks has allowed me to say with full conviction that it is one of the best decisions that I have made. From the friendships forged, to communities formed, to the rhema words I have received, and the daily privilege of receiving inspiring teaching, all these make me more than blessed.
Looking back now, these two incidents allowed me to have a paradigm shift in how I perceived life ought to pan out. I have come to realize that all my human plans will fail to compare with the heavenly design of my life by the Father. Perhaps, all we have to do in the different seasons of our lives, be they good or bad, is to always come to a place of obedience and sweet surrender. When that is so, we find ourselves being caught breathless at the way God works mysteriously yet powerfully behind the scenes, and see how He allows everything to fall into place perfectly.