Christ Paid the Price
by Juliet Pragasam (Singapore)

Why did you put me into this family? Why didn't you make me a boy, than my life would have been different? At least mum would love and cherish me. These were the questions I often asked God whenever I was mad or lonely. Thank God that He never held it against me and never stopped reaching out to me with His love and patience.

I was born into a large pagan family who was bound in superstitions. My first-born brother was given away because he was born under the year of the tiger that clashed with my father. Shortly after my birth, my father, the only breadwinner, lost his job and had great difficulty in providing for the family. I was perceived as the unlucky star because my horoscope clashes with dad and they tried desperately to give me away for adoption, unsuccessfully, to three families.

When I was eight months old a nominal Christian woman bought me for S$2,000. My adopted mother came to Singapore at the age of 12 to work as an AAh Ma Cheh, a black and white uniform clad maid for the rich and famous of old Singapore. Subsequently, she was seduced and became her boss' mistress and kept her dark and shameful secret from her church pastor, members and distant relatives. Very often she would teach me to lie about my father being away on business trip whenever anyone asked me about my father.

I never knew or saw my adopted father until one day, probably when I was about five - six years old, mum brought me to meet him face to face. It was a traumatic experience for me and I couldn't call this total stranger "father". He declared that this adoption was not his idea. Besides he would never allow her to manipulate him with this scheme to marry her. Soon after, he started to avoid her and ended his relationship with her and stopped supporting us financially.

Life became very difficult and mum would often accuse me of being the jinx and that now I had ruined her life. She became a diabetic and often became depressed and withdrawn due to her own unresolved frustrations. I would find myself being the cause of mum's occasional out burst of rage, and a victim of emotional and physical abuse. I never knew or understood why I was being disciplined severely over minor offences. Her constant reminders to me were: "Don't ever trust any men, they will only use and dump you." "The only reason why I paid a price for you was to look after me in my old age". I felt like an object being tossed around and I strove to earn mum's love and approval. She would frequently tell me that if she died, I would have to live the rest of my life with a corpse. I would be filled with unexplained anxiety and fear whenever she fell sick praying that she would never die on me. Being young and ignorant, I believed that should anything ever happen to me, no one will ever come to my rescue.

I used to resent being so weak, having no courage to run away from home whenever the pain became so intense within me. At that time I couldn't understand why I could not bring myself to be close or loving toward her because there was no affirmation at all from her in all my growing years.

Eventually due to financial constraint, we had to move out of our comfortable house to live in rented rooms. I never felt safe, secure or bonded with mother. Emotionally, she was very distant, withdrawn and hardly expressed any other emotions except her rage and coldness. I don't even remember being hugged or touched by her. I was left growing up practically all by myself from early years as she numbed her own pain with mah-jong games till the wee hours of the morning.

From early days, I would fantasize being intimate with men and yet at the same time I felt a sense of deep hatred towards them. My teen years were filled with uncertainty and unhappiness as mum had to struggle through financially. I felt very lonely, numbed and afraid to have close relationships with others as separation often brings about a lot of anxiety and sadness within me.

In school, I enjoyed being in leadership over a uniform group as it provided a safe outlet for my imagination as a "boy". Soon everyone started calling me "tomboy" in school as I would often behave and think like I was one. I enjoyed the attention and respect given to me in an all-girls school and began to hang out with others who were into drugs, heavy metal music or the gay lifestyle at discos and bowling alleys. There I found "acceptance and love" that only gave me temporary relief to my pain and emptiness.

Though I grew up in Sunday school and gave my life to Jesus when I was 12 and was baptized at 15, I never could experience or relate to God as my Heavenly Father. I was sincere in wanting to know God but soon found out that being active in Sunday School and praying did not help me resolve many of my issues like rejection, insecurities and fear. In fact I often felt frustrated about my inability to experience the reality of God. I couldn't relate to the traditional way of worship or relate to authorities and peers in church as I felt so different in many ways.

Most of my friends were into drugs, heavy metal music or the gay lifestyle. Soon I lost interest and stopped attending church as my leaders would insist that I dressed appropriately like a lady and not be so "tomboy" if I wanted to be part of their youth group.I couldn't find acceptance and friendship. Soon I gave up the idea of attending church, as I couldn't conform to the norm.

With my gang, I felt freedom to dress, think and behave like a boy with no pressure to be good enough. I felt "belonged" and "accepted" among my other male friends and began to drink and smoke to be part of them. I never dared to experiment with drugs but would always volunteer to hide the drugs whenever there were police raids and got away free feeling so proud of myself for doing such a noble thing. Little did I realize at that time that it was God's mercy and protection for me! Eventually, I began to date guys though I couldn't trust them. To my dismay, many of these relationships were not lasting as I soon found myself being dumped by them. I was furious and decided that I would be the first to call off a relationship whenever I felt that the other person was interested in me in order to avoid hurts and disappointment. I started working in a hotel straight after my secondary education. To cope with my lack of love in my family, I strived very hard at work. I compensated my deep sense of loneliness and pain by indulging most of my time in lounges, discos, drinking and smoking. But each time I returned home, I found myself lonelier than ever. Soon even the fun of dressing like a male wears out. I never felt loved or quite normal as I hoped it would be.

Later, I found a job in a leading Japanese bank. Months later, things took a terrible turn - my boss promised me a promotion in the Foreign Exchange Department but he was soon replaced by another Japanese manager. I felt very shaken as the new boss and my supervisor gave my promotion to someone else. This caused my self-confidence to crumble and I experienced a lot of problems with my superiors.

A Japanese colleague who was a new spirit-filled Christian began to share Christ's love with me. Through her, I could feel the peace and joy of God. Very often she shared about her own relationship with God in very personal ways. Through her love, acceptance and prayers, I decided to follow her to church and rededicated my life to Christ. From than on, I decided to choose God despite my emotions that were like a roller coaster as I was too afraid to drift away from His love and I clung to His promises in Isaiah 54:4

"Do not be afraid, you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace, you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your own youth, and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood."

I learned Christ had paid a price for me because He loved me! Praise God for His loving kindness and faithfulness.

One year later, my fiancé accepted the Lord and we got married. I thank the Lord and many others whom He brought alongside me to help me in my journey of recovery from brokenness.