Thursday, 30 December 2004

Faith is built on stories like this.

The reason why I write is because of stories like this.

You're a What?

I have never faced as much challenge to my faith and belief in my life as I had over the last two weeks.

I became a Seventh-day Adventist when I was 19 and as such, had the fortune of never having to face Sabbath issues in school like many of my SDA friends in Singapore had. Six months after my baptism, I moved off to Australia to begin my college education at Avondale College. Upon graduation, I went on a one year volunteer stint with Newbold College in England as a Public Relations assistant.

The SDA community surrounded me for probably the whole of my born-again life. I lived the “easy” life where I had Friday afternoons free to prepare for the Sabbath, and nobody questioned me about going to church on a Saturday.

That has all changed since I’ve returned home to Singapore two months ago.

Not wanting the commitment of a full-time permanent job just yet, I decided to take up short-term temporary jobs. Unfortunately, most jobs required working through the weekends and as such, job opportunities were far and few between.

Two weeks ago, I decided to start hunting for a full-time job. Besides sending in applications, I also signed up with a job agency. The phone calls for interviews came pouring in and that was when my true test began.

Practically all the phone calls I received required me to work on Saturdays and going through interviews soon became an ordeal. Interviewers would look at me questioningly when I said, not without regret, that I could not work on a Saturday because I had to go to church.

“I thought church happened on Sundays?”

“Yeah, a lot of denominations do that. But because I’m a Seventh-day Adventist, I go to church on a Saturday.”

“You’re a what?”

And thus would begin a historical lesson on Sabbath and Sunday worship that I’m not sure the interviewer actually wanted to hear. To their credit, they listened to me with patience and understanding. Of course, that also meant that I never got the job.

It became quite exasperating because I would get job offers that I would be happy to take up, but had to immediately decline upon hearing the work hours. However, I managed to do so with a light heart largely because the jobs were never much of a temptation to begin with. I liked the job scope, but it was something I knew I could live without.

So my test got harder.

Recently, I was offered a job with a well-established production house in Singapore. It was everything I wanted in a job and would help me gain much desired experience in film production. The Managing Director of the company himself spent more than an hour talking to me about the company, its past and future projects and the responsibilities I would be taking up. I was filled with so much passion and enthusiasm for the job that I was prepared to take it up immediately.

Just as we started discussing my salary and benefits, the MD mentioned in passing that I would be required to work on Saturdays as well.

My world came crashing down.

“I can’t,” I told him, tears nearly filling my eyes.

After hearing my reasons, the MD actually spent close to two hours trying to convince me otherwise.

“Religion is about a relationship between you and your God. It’s about your heart and your mind. You don’t have to worship God on a special day to be a Christian,” was the MD’s line of argument. “Surely your God would not smite you down if you did not go to church on Saturday. It’s not as if we are worshipping the devil here. You’re working and your God would understand that.

We are living in the real world and when you are, you have to leave religion aside. Having a religion is a good thing, but when it interferes with your life, you need to realise that you have got to live and that your work has to come first.”

When I told him that I knew God would still love me despite me working on a Sabbath, and that I agreed with him that Christianity is about a relationship, he could not fathom what then was stopping me from working.

He shot back with, “But if you take up this job, you never know, you may pick up skills that would be useful for your church in future.”

Our discussion went on forever without any conclusion. He finally told me he thought I was making a stupid decision, that I was throwing away a perfect opportunity and that I was too rigid to my beliefs. But I left with him asking me to reconsider, and that if I changed my mind, he would be happy to take me on and have me start work immediately.

I would have to go through almost twelve hours of pain and agony after that as I had to decline the job three times during that time period. The increasing number of times I had to say no did nothing to numb the pain. On the contrary, the loss I felt for giving up what I felt was my dream job became more real after I said sorry to the MD for the third time. I could not help it, something at the back of my head was saying that I would probably regret my decision in years to come.

Naturally, I started questioning my religion in the days to follow. I started wondering if it was even worth it to be a Christian, and began harbouring the idea of turning my back to God. But it is something I simply could not do.

God has become a part of me and giving God up would be equivalent to choosing not to breathe. I have my ups and downs with God. At times I don’t even feel his presence. But I could never ever knowingly give him up. Especially not when I realise that the only reason why I have gotten to where I am, with the experience I’ve got to put into a resume that enticed employers to call me for an interview, is all thanks to him.

And certainly not when I know that my younger brother’s own faith would be shaken if I chose to break the Sabbath.

This afternoon, I had to decline two more jobs because of Sabbath issues and I still feel the loss. Yet, I trust and know that he is going to provide me with something that would be beyond what I could imagine.

And in the near future, I know I will be writing a sequel to this article, on how I have found my true dream job. A job that would help me honour my God. A job that I would love, embrace and call my own.

An article written sometime in March 2004.

An article which existence I had forgotten about.

9 months on, it has become an article which I have already unwittingly written a sequel to.

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