Towards Reconciliation: A Personal Testimony

On 13 March, Ps David Ho delivered a sermon titled "Towards Reconciliation: Laying Down Our Rights". Read it here.


Following his sermon, he shared with Loaves+Fishes his and his wife's personal experience with reconciliation.



David:

I was born into a poor, Taoist, Confucianist family. I am the youngest of nine children. One of my brothers, a fraternal twin, died not long after birth. My mother was a child-bride given to my grandparents to be brought up to become a future daughter-in-law. Just before I was born, my father was not a responsible breadwinner, and my mother had to work hard rearing pigs and poultry to feed the family and literally to keep the roof over our head from leaking.


At the age of 13, I accepted the Lord as my personal Saviour. I wanted very much for my parents to come to know the Lord. However, my mother considered me unfilial for following another religion. I wanted to prove to her that I was not by making sure that I cared for her and prayed that she would come to know the Lord.


At the age of 20, I went sailing as a merchant seaman for the next ten years. During that period, I had a number of broken romances and had given up the idea of getting married until…




Chew Kheang:

It was at a prayer meeting in 1986 when I first met David. I never thought that it could happen to me but it was love at first sight. But I did not quite dare commit myself to the relationship as I had an unsuccessful one before.


However, David was really impressive. His intelligence, good humour, wisdom and, most of all, his understanding of the Bible attracted me. Right from the beginning, we knew that unless God is in our relationship and marriage, it was not going to work.


After getting to know each other for less than three months, David left for his sailing assignment. In the six months when he was away, we corresponded by writing letters to each other or made long-distance phone calls when the ship was in port. (There was no email then.)



David:

God is good. Finally, at a ripe old age, He provided me this beautiful and intelligent bride. We tied the knot in 1988, two years after we met – believing that we do not just love to marry but we marry to love each other more.


Chew Kheang:

After our wedding I followed him to sea and we were away on the “Love Boat” – a cargo vessel – for 5 months. Married life was adventurous and refreshing.

Upon our return, we made our marital home in a HDB flat, as did all of David’s siblings. David’s mother, however, continued to live alone in her kampong house until…


David:

One day, I visited my mother and found her sick in bed. She was unable to get up by herself. As she was old and alone, I invited her to stay in our home. I wanted to fulfill my filial duty and hoped that she would come to know the Lord.


Chew Kheang:

During her initial stay with us, my mother-in-law enjoyed recounting her past to me, which included her hardship and her opinions of her other daughters-in-laws. Because of her strong character and being an extremely sensitive person, I told myself that I would not share too intimately with her lest she misunderstood my good intentions or me. Though our relationship appeared to be cordial on the surface, there were already cracks. There were times when I would subtly remind David about the advice given in premarital class about not living with in-laws at least for the first year of marriage. I felt that she was vying for David’s affection and approval. When she noticed her son not eating well because of David’s fussiness with food, she would personally cook some of his favorite food the very next day.


David:

I could not understand why two women should fight and fuss over me. Sometimes, I wanted to get away from it all. I expected my wife to be more understanding towards my mother. After all, aren’t we Christians supposed to be sacrificial like our Lord Jesus? Doesn’t God expect us to honor our parents? My mother does not know the Lord, aren’t we supposed to be a good testimony? Besides, she may not have many more years left on this earth. Shouldn’t we provide for our parents’ sunset years?


Chew Kheang:

After I gave birth to my twin boys, my mother-in-law, who promised to help me with my confinement, was taken ill after one day. My mother then came to help. As my mother-in-law was a sensitive woman, casual comments made by my mother were later to be interpreted by my mother-in-law as hitting out against her. She would belittle my mother in front of me. That increased my dislike for my mother-in-law as I enjoyed a close and loving relationship with my mother.


David:

For my job, I traveled often. Knowing the situation at home, I felt very unsettled whenever I was away.


Chew Kheang:

During David’s absence, my problems with my mother-in-law often intensified. She would claim that the domestic helper bullied her when I was not at home. Once, she waited for me outside the house and threatened to leave if I did not discipline the maid. There were occasions when she would report items such as soap and small wine samples being missing from her room. When she misplaced an item, she was sure that the thief was me. (On hindsight, we were not aware that she was suffering from dementia.) Though she was living in my house, I dared not enter her room for fear that she would accuse me of stealing her things. My own parents loved me dearly and I did not marry to have a mother-in-law who kept finding fault with me. The children’s needs were tremendous. My mother-in- law was not easy to get along with. I was sure that married life made me really miserable and I felt trapped. I was not sure if my husband understood me. I felt so lonely. It was a low point in my life.


David:

When I returned home from my overseas assignment, my mother would pour out all her grievances and her displeasure with my wife on me. I wished I were back overseas. I was not good at resolving conflicts and usually avoided confrontations. I was torn between trying to be a filial son as well as a loving husband. I failed miserably in both ways.


Chew Kheang:

My husband kind of understood what I was going through. He would remind me of his mother’s unhappy past that has left her hurt, bitter and unforgiving. But why was I made to suffer for her past? I was sure David loved his mother and was willing to do so even at the expense of his wife’s happiness. When he said “I love you”, the words were superficial and meaningless to me.


David:

I cried to God. I said, “Lord, if only my mother would know you, I would be able to share with her what it means to forgive. What it means to release her past hurt to You.”


Chew Kheang:

We had a cell group that gathered in our home at that time and David was the cell leader. We had a group of good cell members who loved the Lord and went out of their way to befriend my mother-in-law. She began to enjoy the fellowship of God’s people.


David:

Early that year, the church challenged me to serve full time. Though I had sensed God’s calling when I was younger, I struggled having to give up my financial pursuits as well as some of my material dreams. (I say some, but they were all the 5Cs). The Lord has been very good and gracious to me. There were many times I rebelled against Him and yet He has saved me from the pits. I knew I could not say no to Him.


Chew Kheang:

Though there were a lot of struggles in our lives and our family, we were committed to love and serve our Lord. It was in Him that I found my strength. It was in His people’s support in prayer that I found my encouragement.


David:

Not long after I renewed my commitment to serve Him full time, my mother followed me to church for the first time. While I parked my car, I threw in another bargain with the Lord. I said, “Lord, if you would save my mother, I would be more than willing to serve you.” The Lord so graciously gave in to my bargain even though our commitment was already sealed earlier. The Holy Spirit touched my mother in such a way that she was crying at the end of the service, telling the Lord that she would release her past to Him. You must understand that this is miraculous as my 80-year-old mother, though intelligent, was illiterate. She had never been to school. So, half the time she did not understand what the preacher was saying or what we were singing during worship. It was just the Lord’s presence that overwhelmed her.


Chew Kheang:

David and I were delighted when she accepted the Lord. The cell group was delighted too. As the days passed, my mother-in-law began to be more comfortable with the cell members and started to share more. Until one day…


David:

My wife had to be absent from cell meeting because of work. My mother took the opportunity to unload the conflicts she had with my wife. And she did this in strong words. Just then…


Chew Kheang:

I came home. I was very hurt on hearing her complain about the hurts my mother and I had inflicted on her. Those accusations were so untrue. They were so unjustified. I was so angry. I cried before her and told her that it was never the case.


David:

I was crying too. I was in a terrible dilemma. It seems that I was forced to make a stand. Any stand I took would only alienate either my mother or my wife. Not only was I torn between having to be a filial son as well as a loving husband, I had to be an exemplary cell leader before my members, one who was going to be a pastor. I cried to the Lord, “What should I do, what should I do. Lord, teach me. If you were I, what would you do?” The Lord answered me. I went to the washroom, took a basin and a towel, knelt before my mother, and washed her feet. I begged her to release forgiveness on us and also asked her to forgive those who wronged her in the past just as Jesus had forgiven her.


Chew Kheang:

I too, was convicted by the Holy Spirit to ask for forgiveness. It was really difficult because I did not think I was guilty. Yet the Holy Spirit convicted me that it didn’t matter whether I was right or wrong. The fact was she was deeply hurt and I had to seek her forgiveness. From asking for forgiveness, I went on to wash her feet too and begged her for reconciliation. She accepted. Why was I eating the humble pie? It didn’t matter; I just obeyed the Lord. There was a pouring out of our hearts and healing by the Lord as the cell group prayed and ministered to us.


David:

Washing someone’s feet is such a humbling experience. It means laying down our rights. But if Jesus who is the Almighty, Majestic and Holy God, the Creator of heaven and earth was willing to come to wash our feet, we who are miserable sinners, how much more should we be willing to lay down our rights and be willing to bear one another’s burdens.


Chew Kheang:

Laying down our rights is still not an easy thing for us to do. But each time we are faced with a situation requiring our decision to do just that, we can only look to Jesus who had set an example for us.

David:

I learnt another lesson too. The Bible teaches that a man is to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh. In no way does that mean that I should be unfilial. It only teaches me that my correct priority is to my wife first. And my mother needs to know that too. If I want my wife to be on my side, to stand with me, I have to first show that I am on her side and to stand with her. Only then will she be able to be with me in loving others, including my mother. This lesson helped us to understand how to relate better not only with my mother but with others as well.


David & Chew Kheang:

Today we are together because we choose Jesus to be the Lord of our marriage and to obey His Word.


Conclusion (Jn 13:3-5, 12-15)

Jesus has set an example for us to follow:


He washed His disciples’ feet. When the almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the King of kings and Lord of lords, high and holy would lower Himself to wash our feet, we who are sinful, undeserving and mere creatures, can we say we can’t wash one another’s feet? Doesn’t Jesus’ act humble us?


Jesus said, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”


Indeed, if we have confessed Jesus as our Lord, then it calls for our obedience to lay down our rights and to seek reconciliation with those you have broken relationship with.


“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God…”


Jesus is secure in His relationship with His Father. We too are secure in Him. So, we just need to act in obedience and leave the outcome to Him.


Will you respond today in an act of obedience? Will you be willing to lay down your rights and be reconciled to those God has pointed you to? Let us pray