“Don’t believe, believing is losing.” This was my personal mantra. I did not want to believe in any sort of relationship, be it family, friends or gods.
I was born into a Christian family. When I was little, I went with my family to church. When I turned 13, I started distancing myself from the church, finding it to be full of gossip and politics. During that same period, I got into bullying, both as the aggressor and the victim of other aggressors. Relationships were not what they seemed to be. The ultimate despair came when my own parents' marriage hit the rocks.
I concluded that there was nothing good or pure in this world. That became my excuse to move away from the Christian culture that I grew up in. Instead, I turned to a world where I could define my own rules. I figured that since the world was never going to be perfect, we should not even need to try to be good. I formed the perception that human nature was dark with inclinations that were primarily ugly and depressed. I therefore felt no reason to love or trust people, developing all sorts of theories on human behaviour and building walls based on that to protect myself. That was how I lived my adolescent years.
By the time I was a student at the university, the concept of God had become more like a fairy tale to me. God was very far from my daily life. As an art student, I needed to find my own inspiration but instead of exploring about God or understanding who He was, I dug deep into my inner self in search of that idea of a dark human nature and how that world might look like. I began to develop images of a dark world through my artwork. Looking back, I think I was creating darkness in myself instead of discovering it. As a result of years of dwelling in this condition, my mind was filled with strange and dark images or sounds of all kinds. They even manifested into my real life and I began hearing them talking by themselves in my head all the time. Sometimes when I was alone, I would sense them flying over my head and I was drawn to join in the conversation with them, like a monologue. The frequency increased as these thoughts could come to me any time, particularly at night through dreams. My life became very disturbed and restless as I was caught deep between the worlds of the real and unreal. As I spiralled deeper, I became less receptive to having any close relationships with people. I was in great despair as I felt no one in the world could help me.
But against all expectations, one year before I completed my studies, a man entered my life. He was to become my husband. I thank God, because for someone who did not believe in relationships, it was almost beyond belief that I could actually meet someone, let alone marry him. There was a great ‘push’ in me to move along and trust this relationship, as in just one week, we were engaged, and a year after that, we got married. It was a mix of bliss and doubts, but somehow we pulled through. That was more than 13 years ago and my marriage helped me move away from the pursuit of the dark side of life for inspiration as I continued in life as an artist.
Three years into our marriage, we met someone who introduced us to the Alpha course, an introductory course to the Christian faith for non-believers. I was still doubtful as I dragged myself to the course every week. My husband, however, was very encouraging as he was simply interested to explore any religions or philosophies, which kept me going.
Through the course, I had a better idea of who Christ is but I felt that there was more than just an understanding. I could feel a strong sense of uneasiness in my heart – it was yet another “push” in me. No matter how I tried, I was unable to resist this strong calling in me. During one session, I decided to give in and surrender my life to Christ even though I still knew little of the Bible or who God is. My journey of faith began, as I learnt to trust in what I could not see or understand.
A lengthy detoxification process was needed to get rid of the dark images in my mind. Far from living a peaceful life after becoming a Christian, people and things in my past lifestyle revisited me and challenged my new faith. All sorts of temptations came to my mind trying to convince me to turn back to my old self. But I stayed on in Christ because I believed that I would end up with nothing if I turned back. I started to let go of the past, one bit at a time. It took me about five years of cleansing before I felt more free from the past. I am still going through the process of repentance daily, but I feel I am in a better state now. The more I dumped the rubbish I had accumulated over 40 years, the more space I freed myself for better ideas and new experiences. It is like a picture of four walls, formed and hardened by mud on the outside but containing slime on the inside. These walls started to break down and melt into mud slowly, by water pouring from the sky, until these walls were almost gone and the slime washed away.
The detoxification process has not been easy but it is nothing compared to the grace and forgiveness I have been given, and am still receiving now with my husband and two wonderful children. A relationship with God does not depend on mood, feeling, timing or my own works. I can have an ongoing relationship with God without fear of losing it, or rejection by Him.
The concept of a “perfect world” does not exist on earth but the process of healing that God gave me was perfect.
Tamae Iwasaki is an art educator by day, and an artist by night but her real job entails being a role model to her two daughters, a helper to her husband, and being a servant and child of God! She is half of "KEYAKISMOS" through which the couple embarks on little adventures that make art accessible to the community. They have an upcoming book to be published on HDB (Housing Development Board) interiors in Singapore. Soon they hope to be involved in taking the gospel to the community.
(Tamae's testimony was published in Feb-Mar 2017 issue of Impact magazine)