Trauma hurts and continuous trauma can leave a hole in your soul that nobody and nothing can fill. I should know – life dealt me a deck of cards where the royal flush was four years of pain and abuse between 2011 and 2015.

I cannot go into all the details here as that could fill a story of its own, but suffice it to say that any semblance of self-esteem, self-respect and confidence was almost totally eradicated by the time I said enough was enough and got out. I had gone from hero to zero, and several times even thought of ending my life.

But God had two angels set aside for me – and they were in the form of the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, and my pastor, whom I shall call Pastor L in this story.

I had read Lincoln’s quotes and memorised the Gettysburg Address (quite unusual for a Singaporean!). I also admired his steel resolve despite personal tragedy and a tumultuous married life, which he channelled capably to lead the United States to victory in the American Civil War and free the slaves in the process. His quotes and simple yet shrewd intelligence and canny observations of human nature made him a role model worthy of admiration and emulation. And none more so than when I was faced with this great despair between 2011 and 2015.

Pastor L was and still is a man of conviction, stern and sometimes strict. He did not suffer fools gladly and there were many times when I was at the receiving end of his stern admonishments. He was also quirky and many in his congregation found him hard to get along with, hardly the model of the pastor and shepherd of the flock.

But that veneer was just a front that covered a man with a heart of gold and unconditional love. When I found hardly a listening ear to confide in, he was a calm and non-judgmental presence. He gave good counsel and one Friday, he asked me to join him for dinner the next day.

I agreed, and when we met for dinner, he told me to listen to his words before eating.

“Come to the church and stay with us. You will be safe and welcomed. Start tomorow!” That was all he said and his tone made it clear that he was not going to take No for an answer. And I knew better than to disagree for Pastor L could clearly wear me down in any war of attrition I cared to take on against him.

I went to his church that Sunday and have never left there since. He walked alongside me and counselled me and sent godly friends and counsellors who gradually helped me get my groove back and move from Zero to Hero back again.

Along the way, I realised how much my world had changed because of these two men. Mr Lincoln showed me that the world’s most severe problems were never resolved by people with Ivy League or Oxbridge degrees, but with shrewdness borne from country wisdom that understood that “the heart is exceedingly wicked” but still neutralised evil with good, although he eventually paid the ultimate price through an assassin’s bullet.

When all I knew was grey, Pastor L showed me what conviction could do. Where others had offered platitudes and excuses, he acted decisively and took action and I will be forever grateful for his action.

So from the bottom of my heart, thank you Mr Lincoln and muchas gracias Pastor L – for the rainbows both of you painted in my sky and the colours I now know in my new and redeemed life!