When ANGIE LIM was called to a year of missions, she knew that convincing her father to give her his blessing would be no simple task. She shares the faith it took to worship louder than her unbelief.
When I was growing up, my father and I were not emotionally close, but everyone could tell he doted on me. In terms of personality, I was my father’s daughter, self-confident and outspoken just like him.
My dad was an agnostic, self-made man. Yet ironically, he was instrumental in my spiritual development, as he would constantly persecute my family for our faith in Christ. He would tempt my siblings and me with permission to watch cartoons if we chose to stay at home and not follow our mum to church. On occasion, when my parents fought, he would taunt me with questions about God that were too difficult for my young mind to process. But his efforts to draw me away from my faith often made me think more deeply about why I wanted to follow Christ.
I ASKED GOD, “WHAT’S NEXT?” I DID NOT EXPECT TO HEAR THAT THE MISSION FIELD WAS NEXT.
After I graduated from polytechnic, I asked God, “What’s next?” I did not expect to hear that the mission field was next. I sniggered, telling God that my dad would never allow it, as if God did not already know. Then at a youth camp that same month, the guest preacher prayed over me that my time was NOW, not years later — not in my old age but now. That preacher did not know me or what God was calling me to do, so I knew that word was from the Lord.
With fear and trembling, I wrote a letter to my dad telling him that I wanted to serve in the mission field for a year, and that I would like his blessing to go. I thanked him for giving me a privileged life, but I also opened up about how I often felt the need to tiptoe around him for the expression of my faith. My tone indicated that I no longer wanted to live my faith in fear of his persecution. I placed the letter on his bedside and went overseas for a week. When I came back, my dad did not talk to me. I didn’t dare face the eruption I knew was coming. The silent tension went on for a while.
One night, I had a dream that my dad was seated alone at the dining table, flipping through the sports section of the newspaper. The dream was so vivid I even remembered the angle of the coffee mug to the right of the newspaper. I brought up the topic of missionary work and he said harsh words to me. The next morning, I woke up late, and my dad, the newspaper, and the coffee mug were in the exact position I dreamed about.
I knew I could not drag on our silent war any longer, so I asked what he thought of my letter. He widened his eyes at me with anger and started shouting the exact harsh words I dreamed he would say. I stood there, crying, and did not respond. But he saw the steadfast resolution in my eyes. He then said that he would give me two months to think about it. By 10 pm of 10 March 2004, if I chose to go without his blessing, he wanted me out of his house and to never come back.
I KNEW WHAT MY EARTHLY FATHER WAS SAYING CONFLICTED WITH WHAT MY HEAVENLY FATHER WAS SAYING.
BETWEEN MY TWO FATHERS
I went to my room and cried and prayed. I felt so stuck, because I knew what my earthly father was saying conflicted with what my heavenly Father was saying. As I prayed, I realised that while my dad reacted exactly as I had dreamed, no part of the dream showed me actually leaving the house. An overwhelming peace came upon me. It gave me the strength to trust in God’s faithfulness to make a way when there seemed to be no way.
I went on to pass the missionary interview process and signed up for training in faith. I told my church leadership team that at the end of two months, if I did not get my father’s blessing, I might have to withdraw from the programme. The pastors were understanding and journeyed with me as I exercised my faith.
During those two months, many concerned church and extended family members asked me to reconsider my decision. Their words did not cause me to waver, because God kept assuring me that this was the season for me to step out in faith. The only weak moments I had was when I saw how torn my mother was, standing between her husband and her child.
WAITING ON A MIRACLE
Nine o’clock at night came on 10 March 2004. My pastors texted me, offering to come over to my home if mediation or refuge was needed. With confidence, I texted back that there was no need for refuge. I didn’t so much as pack a toiletry kit, even though I knew my dad was a man who always kept his word. But by 9.30 pm, with no miracle in sight, I desperately asked God to intervene.
At 9.45 pm, my dad came to my room. He knew that my decision had not changed. Neither had his. I remember the hurt in his eyes as he said, “Fine. Pack up now.
ALL I COULD DO WAS WORSHIP LOUDER THAN MY UNBELIEF.
By 10 pm, I want you out of my house.” As I sat there in a daze, a line from a sermon came to mind: “When you’ve prayed all you can pray, cried all you can cry, all that’s left to do is worship.” I reached for my guitar and played worship songs as tears rolled down my face. There were no more words left to pray — all I could do was worship louder than my unbelief.
All this time, my mother had kept silent. But after she heard what my dad said, she plucked up the courage to challenge his decision. Then at 10.15 pm, my dad stood at my bedroom door again. For the first time, I saw him in tears. He said I had his blessing to go. I had never seen such a soft look on my dad. I was speechless, and in my heart, I thanked God. The miracle had come!
REBUILDING OUR RELATIONSHIP
Even though I had my dad’s blessing, our relationship remained tense. He did not see me off at the airport. I knew he was sad and was coming to terms with the first time I was choosing my faith over fear of his opinions.
The year away from my earthly father unexpectedly gave me space to heal and encounter God the Father in a deeper way. By the time I finished my missionary stint and came back, it was with wounds to heal but victories to boast of as well.
My dad and I did not talk much after my return. It was not for my lack of trying; I feel I got the best my Asian dad could give at that time. I knew I was not going to hear “I love you” or receive a hug, but he showed his love in other ways. He went out of his way to buy my favourite food and would often let me use his car even at his inconvenience. He chose to run his errands earlier, so he could come back and silently place the car keys on the table, then watch TV as a sign that he was done with the car for the night.
It was three months later at a dinner with family friends that I heard him boast about my experiences on the mission field — they were stories that he had heard me tell other family members about. When the family friends praised me for my courage to step out at such a young age, he beamed with such pride. After that night, we spoke amicably like old times before my missionary stint. In His faithfulness, God brought reconciliation that I did not think was possible.