“Take your love out of the freezer!” these words jolted me out of my daily routine.
They were spoken by a young, temporary professed Sister with the Good Shepherd Sisters in 1979. She would share with me the work of the Sisters – loving and care for the “marginalised and the rejected” in society. She would tell me the life stories of the teenage girls staying in the home run by the Sisters. I felt moved with compassion towards the girls. The next thing she did was to invite me to a weekend vocation camp. I replied with a firm “No” and gave a million reasons why religious life was not appropriate for me. I felt inadequate for that kind of work.
She persisted and said to me, “Lucy, why do you put so many obstacles along God’s path? Why do you keep your love in the freezer? Why not take it out and share it with those in need?” This person is also none other than my own younger sister.
For a period of time, the questions kept pounding in my ears and churning in my heart. And in my quiet moments, I could not avoid them. I was so pre-occupied with them that I started to ask myself, “If I were to be a religious, in what way could I help those girls? Could I even be a religious?” It sounded so impossible. I was happy with my life at that time and was reluctant to change it. Yet, I felt that if I allowed myself to be led by God, surely God will make the impossible, possible.
It has been 30 years since I attended that vocation camp. I left home at 29 to become a Good Shepherd religious. Over the years as I cared for many women and girls, heard their stories, and seen how their lives had changed, I also witnessed God’s merciful love at work. And as I witnessed their courage and hope in rebuilding their lives, despite the painful realities, I felt the broken bits of me being healed as well.
Today, I feel blessed by God’s intervention in my life. Religious life has changed and formed me into who I am today. I see God’s love at work the graces God gave to me to respond to God’s call, the many people sent to touch my life, even the life-threatening illness, which struck me in 1994. I was then on the threshold of death. Surviving the illness has led me to live my life to the full and in authenticity. It was a passage to the deeper places within me where I realised both my limitations and my potential. I was able to remove my mask and embrace the person that I am.
Now, I find much joy and meaning in what I do. A friend teased me recently, “Lucy, the only thing you keep in the freezer today is food!”
I am grateful for the transforming action of God in my life, which is still at work today. I am grateful to my own family, especially my parents, for their unwavering and unconditional love for me. Let me share the following words of Nelson Mandela that have inspired me to keep growing:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others,.
~ Sr. Lucy Chia, rgs ~