God has done many wonders in my life and He has shown me many beautiful things, both of which led me to believe in Him in the summer of 2016. I want to share one piece of the puzzle that has solidified my faith to encourage those that seek healing in this broken and difficult world, and to give hope and a voice to those suffering in silence. Romans 5:3-4 says, “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
When I was a boy in elementary school, God gave me a bad stutter. It was hard for me to say my name, let alone speak without messing up. This brought a lot of shame and fear into my life over the course of my school years. I grew up in suffering, rejection, and isolation from my peers. I became afraid of the people around me, and I began to believe the lies in my head that I will continue to be rejected, I’m not good enough, I’m not lovable, and I’m going to be alone.
I developed social anxiety, and on my worst days I would have panic attacks at the mere thought of meeting new people and being in a social setting. I started avoiding social interactions and genuine bonding to protect my broken and fearful heart. The reality was too painful to bear, so I hid. I often pretended that everything was fine even though I was in agony and depression under the surface.
Yet, I couldn’t hide from God. He knew me and loved me first, even though I was an atheist who rejected Him for the longest time. He saw the pain that I hid from everyone else and had compassion on me and showed me mercy and grace after so many years of adversity. There I was, down and out—my face ‘marred by dust and sweat and blood,’ like Theodore Roosevelt would say—and Jesus stooped down to me, took my hand, and lifted me up. He started to bring people, ideas, and tools into my life that encouraged me to develop my character, build courage, and step out of my comfort zone.
I began to gain fluency and for the first time in more than 20 years; I found my voice, and I was able to speak! To my surprise, God took it a step further and made me into a public speaker to encourage and motivate students at the University of Toronto to see the hope that I received when God came to be when I was a student. I hid, but I couldn’t hide from what God had planned for me.
After I came to faith, God showed me how much He loves me and how much He accepts me for who I am—flawed and all. That levelled the playing field and I no longer had to perform to be loved because the Creator of the universe loves me. God kept working in my life during this season. A few years later, I was at Union Station in downtown Toronto waiting to take a GO train up north to see my parents. I was contemplating my life and the meaning of it, and that’s when God spoke to me in my mind and my heart. He told me that He gave me a stutter because He wanted to develop my character and soften my heart for the broken, among the other beautiful things that later emerged after enduring this ‘baptism by fire.’ I found closure as to why I had to go through life this way, and I was able to forgive those that caused my suffering.
God did not stop there. Over the next five years, he began to bring me into close relationships with those around me. I formed beautiful, lifelong friendships with so many wonderful people that I otherwise would not have known if God had not led me out of that pit of sorrow and solitude. I was no longer an outcast and I began to experience a huge part of what it means to be human: connection with my fellow human beings.
Just this past year, those feelings of shame and fear were replaced with an earnest desire to talk to people, know my neighbours, and be a part of my community. Oh, what a precious, newly-found feeling that I’m clinging onto for dear life! I have never known a redemption like this in my life. Just like Jesus healed a man and gave him sight after 38 years of blindness (John 5:1-9), all those tears and heartaches I faced over the decades were washed away by Jesus, the Great Redeemer. There is so much hope and healing in Christ.
God has been working on me for many years now, and there is still much work to be done. After decades of trauma, some harmful thinking and emotional patterns have been deeply ingrained into my being, but God is breaking down these lies little by little. For example, every time I’m about to speak publicly, my heart beats faster and anxiety starts to creep in and muscle itself into my heart. Yet, most of the time, a divine peace washes over me as I begin to speak, as God is instilling faith in me to step into that fear and trust Him to overpower it with love and confidence. Sometimes I still mess up my name too, but God has been taking the sting out of it by removing the shame.
I am who I am, just like how God made me. I would have never imagined God would take me where He has taken me today. If he can take a man that has no voice and no friends and transform him from a ‘closed-off caterpillar’ into a ‘social butterfly,’ then God can perform any miracle! I’m finally experiencing a taste of freedom and peace in my life because the truth will set you free (John 8:32).