In life I started out being a child genius reading Shakespeare and doing algebra at 5 yo. I also quickly learned that my parents didn’t know what to do with me nor did the school system. So I learned one way at school and learned my way at home and the public library. Autobiographies and stories of the likes of Alexander Fleming, Florence Nightingale and the Joan of Arc captured my imagination – I wanted to do good to save and heal others. None touched my 8 yo heart more than Jesus the little Nazarene, as I would listen in rapt attention wide-eyed at the big felt storyboard where my Year 2 teacher would weave stories of sitting on rooftops and clearing of the temple, and narrate the parables. I loved Jesus and believed with all my heart that He was the One for me to save me from sins I hadn’t yet committed. More importantly, protect me from evil that surrounded a tiny girl living in an incense-filled home with a wizenly shaman grandfather in a neighborhood frequented by drug addicts. Interesting times.
Fast forward 10 years, fervent and on fire, I contemplated theological college and becoming an ordained minister. I loved my parents and the thought of disappointing my Taoist-Buddhist-Confucian parents deterred me as I didn’t want them to feel robbed of their eldest and smartest. My pastor consoled me and told me that the Church extended beyond the walls of the building and the world could be my ministry. Appeased, I turned my sights to studying psychology - another no-no as my parents dreaded a life of asylums and mental institutions for me. I then had a brilliant idea – since I wanted to work in service of others and have opportunities to influence others’ thinking, I would study accounting and finance, become a chartered company secretary, organizational behavior and development, plus do a minor in psychology, and someday become a CEO.
Roll over two decades of working up the corporate ladder in a Muslim country where gender, race and religion worked against me. I found meaning and purpose in whatever role I took on, seeing opportunity in being a living witness of God’s grace and finding joy in the Lord in all circumstances. It helped that I was born with a happy disposition. Weekend youth counsellor and Brigade captain, while leading small group bible study, I thought then that was God’s Plan for me. Little did I know what lay ahead.
At 45 yo, I’d reached the pinnacle of my career as Managing Consultant in a global consulting group. I had an epiphany that that I could support my clients better with psychology. Within a year, I had completed a three-year undergraduate degree in psychology, and succeeded in being accepted as a pioneer in the inaugural Master of Applied Positive Psychology program at UPENN. As I prayed that God would sanction this and vowed to apply all that I learn in His Service, He helped me fund my studies in the USA. It was my dream come true. Ivy league. Really? For one such as I?
Eleven months later, I returned to a home in disarray – my husband had left me, my mother had an enlarged heart and needed medical attention, and my young daughter was hurting in ways she couldn’t understand. I decided to work as an independent consultant and executive coach. My prayer was “God, provide me with work that will pay for Mum’s treatment and long-term care and my kid’s education, and give me my daily bread. Everything else, anyone else you send to me I will serve pro bono in Your Name”.
13 years later, Mum is Home and EJ is an accomplished violinist and creative artist. Believe it or not, I had prayed desperately for money to pay utility bills or school fees, and the Lord would send a job or two. I would earn larger sums of money just in time to pay for Mum’s emergency hospital and specialist bills. When I saw the stress of the school system on my artistic child, I prayed for guidance and asked for a sign - she was awarded a music scholarship in a country with currency valued at three times my local currency. God provided me with a monthly client contract, renewed 93 times, that terminated the month my kiddo graduated. Talk about grace, faithfulness, and providence.
Last year I took a year off to rest and seek counsel with Our Heavenly Father as to what I should do with the rest of my life. I threw my lifelong dream of doing a PhD out as I wanted to spend my time serving God’s people. Yet I did not know in what way. I had the luxury of time and could afford to wait. 2020 was the year I would COMMIT (my one word for the year). To what, Lord? Show me. Lead me. Guide me. Push me. Then COVID-19 came, and the world was flailing in bewilderment. I stepped up to teach new WFH survival skills from anger management, to creating safe spaces for empathy and connecting, and even Zoom online training skills. All pro bono. Still praying for direction even though I had opportunity for money-making. I stayed still hoping to see the light to the path ahead.
Lo and behold! He is directing cases of broken people, broken relationships, lost and troubled – believers and non-believers, to me. I now see how He had led me a whole cycle through youthful zest for the Word – into the world exposed to commerce and industry – into self and others in pain and in emotional and psychological healing, and now back solidly into the Word and leading others to the Peace, Joy and Hope of salvation and God’s love – armed with experience, wisdom and blessed assurance that He indeed has a plan for me. All I had to do was to trust completely and acknowledge Him in all ways in thanksgiving and obedience. He has made my paths straight and has blessed me abundantly.
I am eager to see what unfolds in the days ahead as I am committed to walk with Him even more nearly and love Him more dearly. I know my days in the marketplace are not over. Merely that my new role has been transformed - to work with clients in mind, heart and soul matters, and their physical wellbeing.
… as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15 NIV
By Sulynn Choong, Malaysia.
Founder - Positive Change Strategist, Human Capital Perspectives
Founder - Chief Engagement Officer, Asian Center for Applied Positive Psychology