The Scar No One Sees
A life-threatening blood infection forced my mind to race to the throne of God. I prayed, “Lord, if it is time for me to go home to heaven to be with you, I’m ready. However, would you somehow spare my elderly parents the grief of losing their youngest child? At ages 91 and 87, it would be unbearable for them!” As it turned out, I didn’t die. But two months afterwards, I was still struggling to have sufficient energy to do my job, which required that I be physically capable of climbing and crawling, as well as being mentally alert.
In the midst of my battle to stay alive, a voice in my mind kept urging me to write about my experiences with God throughout my life. I couldn’t imagine why God would want me to do this. There are many people who have far more powerful testimonies than mine.
Then, while I was recuperating, my mentor friend, Cecilia, called to check on me. She had been out of the country, and upon her return she had learned of my illness. She asked if I had been scared or worried. I assured her that I had had true peace. Then I casually mentioned that my background had prepared me to face death. For the next hour, I filled her in on how my life began and how God had turned a deep scar into a blessing of trust and dependence on Him as my Maker. Cecelia exclaimed, “I’ve known you for many years, and I never knew that part of your life!” It’s true; for almost four decades I had not told anyone about my early life. Cecilia—a pastor, missionary, and author of many books—said she believed my experience would bring healing to many people, particularly women with scars that no one sees but who are hurting deeply. If my testimony would bring glory to God and healing to others, I would write it! I hope others will see how God worked in my life—rather than what I have done.
The Miracle Birth
In the early 1960s in Hong Kong, our family shared the rent of a small flat with another family. Dad, the sole breadwinner for our family, worked as a truck driver delivering various goods to vendors throughout the city. His salary was not a lavish sum, and Mom had to be creative to make ends meet. She had five children to feed! Many times she had to ask for help from friends. My parents were having marital issues—besides the stress in life—and it was under these circumstances that I was conceived.
During this time, abortion was a common practice among women who, after conception, did not want to have their babies—for whatever reason. Many women who chose abortion were desperate and running out of options. That was the category my mother fit in. She tried twice to abort me. But by God’s grace I survived both times when my mother took herbal medicine to abort the fetus. Even after I was born, in desperation, my mother wanted to throw me out the hospital window. She was stopped by a nurse who talked her out of doing such a thing to an innocent baby.
I, of course, have no memory of what happened to me while I was in my mother’s womb, or the incident at the hospital. There was no physical scar on me that marked my journey to birth. I was loved, nurtured, and provided for by my parents just as my five older siblings were.
I don’t remember exactly when I was told about my pre-birth ordeal, but it was at an early age. Mom, getting upset with me, spilled out the supposed “secret” in frustration. She made the point that if I had been successfully aborted, she wouldn’t have to deal with my mischief. Before I was seven, I had heard the story a number of times. Honestly, I don’t remember that I was that naughty growing up. But a scar was carved deep in my heart! I constantly told myself that I was an unwanted child, that my existence was a mistake. It hurt so deeply that I often felt I didn’t belong in my family. It was just too much to bear for a kid not even seven years old!
I didn’t feel anger at my parents; instead, I felt that I was the cause of their problems. Unable to communicate my feelings to anyone, and thinking that no one cared to know, I was a lonely and sad kid. Every time I was scolded for something, I felt a fresh stab at the scar. A huge gulf existed between me and my siblings because they were the “wanted” ones and I had forced myself into our family. In reality, the distance I felt between us was probably due to the age gap—we ranged from two and a half years to sixteen years apart. My older siblings were occupied in their studies, sports, and careers. I didn’t understand their worlds, and they didn’t understand mine.
During my younger years, I had frequent nosebleeds—almost a daily occurrence. I often woke up with a glob of blood in my mouth and stains of blood on my pillow. This is something I have never grown out of, although nosebleeds are much less frequent now than in my younger years. I have always wondered if the nosebleeds are somehow a result of the abortion attempts.
With a nearly photographic memory, I started school well. I was able to retain almost everything the teachers taught. Then in the second grade, two weeks before the year’s final exam, I contracted chicken pox. For twelve consecutive days I had a fever of 104 degrees. The doctor at the neighborhood clinic where my mother took me predicted that I would have brain damage as a result of the prolonged high fever. Mom, however, did her best to nurture me back to health, and I was able to return to school to make up the final exam I had missed. Unfortunately, I was not able to recall the things I had studied before having chicken pox. I ended up falling from being third from the top of about 150 students in the second grade to being third from the bottom. And even though I tried very hard, I remained far from the top ranks for the rest of my schooling through the sixth grade.
My inability to rank top in my class increased my feelings of unworthiness. I was only eleven years old and carried that feeling like a suffocating weight on my shoulders. My parents did not understand that I really tried my best to do well. I studied hard, but I could not retain the material I studied. I failed the secondary school entrance exam big time in sixth grade. The worst part for my parents was when friends and neighbors called up and compared scores between their kids and me. My parents—once proud of me for my good grades—were now very disappointed. I felt again like the black sheep of the family!
A New Chapter
In 1976, a new chapter began for our family when all except my elder sister Betty and her family immigrated to the United States. My parents, sister Acker, brother John, and I landed at San Francisco International Airport in November and were reunited with my brother Dan and my sister Florence and her family. One week after our arrival, Florence prepared a Thanksgiving dinner for us. I had no idea what Thanksgiving was all about, but we had a lot of food and people got together.
Once school started, I was meeting new friends and adjusting to my new environment. Most of my friends were also immigrants from Asia, so I was able to communicate and identify with them. Learning English was not easy for me, but I worked hard at it. Being able to play sports and have hobbies was new to me, as was having more independence.
About the time I entered high school, my brothers, Dan and John—both good badminton players—began taking me with them to the Chinese Center in San Francisco to play in the gym. I quickly picked up badminton, and it became a great confidence booster for me. When badminton was offered as one of the P.E. classes at my school, I took it, and ended up on the school badminton team. It was a lot of fun playing the high school league, but it was also a lot of work with practices and league games. Quite a few weekends my brothers and I would go to open tournaments in Northern California. In the course of playing badminton, I learned a great deal about discipline and teamwork. The success I achieved in badminton created a new confidence that I never thought I would have. But a humbling experience was about to unfold in my life.
A very warm and friendly lady named Sue at the Chinese Center often invited me to go to church with her, and I would brush her off with a comment like “when I can find the time.” My rather curt response began to bother me. I asked myself why I didn’t want to go to church. I had attended Catholic schools in Hong Kong and going to a Christian church was not something foreign to me. I decided I just didn’t believe the Christian faith, and my conscience wouldn’t let me go. But there was something in me that made me want to prove that God was not real. I determined to diligently study the Bible to find flaws in it. Over the following two and a half years, I read through the Old Testament once and through the New Testament three times. At first I used my new knowledge as ammunition to debate people in the church. But over time, instead of finding flaws in the Bible, I was finding the Bible’s claim that Jesus was God’s Son to be true.
My brother and sister, John and Acker, were attending another church at this time, and their behaviors and character showed a distinct difference. I have known them all my life, and I could see the difference—and the change wasn’t something humans could do. It was from a deeper experience—from the inside out. One big difference was that they started to care more about me.
Eventually, after my years of searching to disprove God’s existence, I came to the conclusion that He does exist! I couldn’t deny the fulfillment of God’s words and Christ’s claim to be the Messiah who died for my sins in my place. And there was God’s work in the lives of my siblings! Kneeling by my bedside, I said to God, “You win!”
While I collected more trophies from wins at badminton tournaments, God put a cap on my confidence in myself. After putting my faith in Christ, my confidence was not diminished but grew even stronger, because now my confidence was in God and not in myself anymore. In September, 1979, at an evangelistic event in Acker’s church, I went down front at the altar call and publicly professed Christ as my personal Savior and Lord. From then on, this church became my spiritual home.
Badminton was my confidence booster, but it did not heal me. The Bible teaches loving and honoring your parents. And since God had forgiven me, I forgave my parents—to a point. But my forgiveness was not complete, and that bothered me. Every time there was conflict between my parents and me, they would say things that upset me, and that would bring me back to my childhood sadness. I could not shake off the hurt feelings. Then in 2001, after a night of struggling, I cried my heart out to the Lord.
“Lord, You have taught me to forgive my parents, and I have done everything in my power to do so. Yet I struggle with hurt feelings every time we have conflict! I can’t go on like this, saying I have forgiven them, but feeling differently. Please take over my feelings! I’m too exhausted to keep struggling.”
After an hour of pleading with the Lord, I fell asleep—the best sleep I have ever had. God had given me a deep peace. Since that night, I no longer struggle with forgiveness. When my parents and I have conflicts, the hurt feelings don’t surface anymore. I pray for them the prayer that Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”
In 2014, my parents became Christians and were baptized the following year. I give thanks to God for His forgiveness, loving-kindness, patience, mercy, and grace!
My Story in Hindsight
It was either my instinct to live or my rebellious nature that made me refuse to submit to my circumstances. I chose to give life my best try and fought for and earned what other kids normally take for granted. I knew since I was given a chance to live, God has a purpose for me.
God knew how to mold me into a usable vessel. My self-worth had been in the negative column from birth, but God slowly built me up through the years. He healed the wound within. He brought me to a peak of success in the game of badminton. Then He took me down by showing me in Whom I should place my confidence. After two and a half years of searching and researching, He planted my feet on a solid foundation of faith.
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, For I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14, NASB