“Why me?” this financial advisor asked, when her son ran away from home and her marriage crumbled
Konstanze Tan // January 18, 2022, 2:50 pm
Her family's relationship restored, Jennifer Chan (left, with husband Alex Tan) involves them in showing care for the kids of her clients. Her children (from left) are Jason, 25, Joycelyn, 24, and Julien, 19. All photos courtesy of Jennifer Chan.
When Jennifer Chan’s 15-year-old son ran away from home 10 years ago, he sought refuge at her boss’ home or at the restaurant of a client.
“Jen, he is with me now,” her French client called to assure her. “Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. I was like him before. So I understand.”
This was followed by a text that made the high-flying financial advisor weep: “You just go and sleep.”
Said Jennifer: “With so much on my mind, sleep was that one thing I needed so badly.”
“Jen, he is with me now,” her French client called to assure her. “Don’t worry, he’ll be fine.”
The tiger mum and her family had spent their days “waiting for the next explosion”. The strife at home also rocked her marriage.
“On top of that, I wouldn’t let my husband wear the pants at home,” Jennifer, now 50, admitted to Salt&Light.
Jennifer shared her troubles with a few good friends; among them, clients and believers. “Please keep my son in prayer,” the new Christian would text.
“My son disliked me so much, and yet he turned to my friends when he ran away from home,” she marvelled.
“They are my God-sent angels and prayer warriors. Without them, I don’t think my family would have walked out of that phase of life,” she said.
Today, Jennifer’s own home is a “halfway house” for children of clients. Together with her three children, she hosts regular barbecues and board game sessions, takes them to places like the zoo and playground. Her clients’ children also know they can drop by if they need space from tensions at home or school-related stress.
Just as her friends had once provided a haven for her son, “if these kids decide to run out of the house one day, at least they have some place safe to turn to,” she said.
Sobbing in the back pew
The uncertainty and sudden loss of clarity at work drove Jennifer to accept a close friends’ invitation to church.
“It’s a lifeline thrown to me. Since I am drowning, I shall just grab it first.”
Jennifer had once mocked believers. For instance, when her sister said grace before meals, Jennifer would say: “Why are you thanking your God when Mum was the one who cooked the food?”
Yet when the altar call was given, Jennifer found herself saying the sinner’s prayer.
“It’s a lifeline thrown to me. Since I am drowning, I shall just grab it first,” she had thought to herself.
She became active in church – sending her children to Sunday school, attending discipleship classes and going on overseas mission trips.
The believers in her circle all seemed to lead “happy lives”, so Jennifer thought the Christian life was meant to be easy.
Instead, her family life went into a tailspin and she “fought hard with God”.
“Everything was smooth. Why did You put me to shame?” she asked God.
On Sundays, she sat in the pews at the back of the sanctuary and sobbed as sermons and hymns spoke directly into her situation.
God’s first answer to Jennifer’s desperation for clarity came through a line from Hymn of Promise – now her favourite song:
“In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be unrevealed in its season, something God alone can see.”
Said Jennifer: “Through those lyrics, I felt God was saying to me, ‘It’s okay, it’s okay, I’m here’.”
It was a strong assurance of His presence.
Conflict before resolution
Jennifer would soon see God work on her marriage.
To attend, Jennifer and her husband, Alex Tan, now 54, would have to avail themselves for eight consecutive Friday nights. It was nearly impossible because of Alex’s schedule as a flight steward.
Right before the session on conflict resolution, the couple argued in the car.
The friend insisted on praying for eight weeks of protected time. But Jennifer, whose walk with God was not very strong at that point, was not hopeful.
God answered, and they were able to attend all sessions.
During the first two sessions, Jennifer could not keep her mind from wandering to other matters – such as how their kids were going to get dinner.
Right before the session on conflict resolution, the couple argued in the car.
The eight-week course was a “wake-up call”. Jennifer came to appreciate the importance of carving out “me time” and “couple time” from her hectic schedule. And what it meant to “place my husband and my marriage first”.
“The marriage course saved my life, marriage and family,” said Jennifer.
The couple would go on to bless other couples as course facilitators for eight consecutive years.
From rebel to personal assistant
Jennifer would next see God’s hand in her relationship with her son.
A woman who sang in the church choir, whom Jennifer barely knew, gifted her a book, Praying your Prodigal Home. Reading it, Jennifer started to understand the reality of spiritual warfare. It helped her make sense of what was happening at home.
It started with her being able to ignore her son’s behaviours that used to irk her.
Realising that “we are not up against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, which are unseen” (Ephesians 6:12), Jennifer surrendered the strained relationship to God.
“Though I fought Him so hard, God never gave up on me.
“God was changing me while I was trying to change my son.”
Like Jennifer’s surrender, the healing of the mother-son relationship was a gradual process.
It started with her being able to ignore Jason’s behaviours – excessive gaming, a messy room and late nights – that used to irk her.
He even had a stint as his mother’s personal assistant.
Jason started becoming “less explosive and more receptive” when they spoke. The wall between him and his parents started coming down as he became more willing to explore options for his future and started taking ownership of his studies.
He even had a stint as his mother’s personal assistant, attracted by the prospect of earning an income through a job with flexible hours. (Jennifer stopped giving her children an allowance when they turned 19).
Through helping to file a claim for a woman who had lost her husband to an accident, Jason became so “emotionally charged up”, he decided to become a full-time financial advisor.
Jason has followed in his mother’s footsteps in other ways as well – in being present for troubled friends who come to their home.
Jennifer, who still finds it a constant challenge to parent each of her three children, acknowledges that God’s presence and control in her life has helped her to be less tense about the outcomes.
“I can run to God anytime,” she said.
Why not me?
From asking God “Why me?” when her family life crumbled, Jennifer now asks “Why not me?” as she shares her family’s journey to encourage clients.
Jennifer has also been able to use, in her workplace, the skills she learnt from facilitating The Marriage Course.
Once, a couple got into a major fight before an appointment with Jennifer. The wife stayed in the car, while her husband went to meet Jennifer.
“I’m not going to talk about insurance today,” she told the couple when she persuaded the wife to join them.
Instead, she asked them to each write out how they met and what they enjoyed when they were “paktor-ing” (Hokkien for dating). This exercise, borrowed from the marriage course, is designed to rekindle a couple’s first love.
“Because of my job, I know so much about my clients and their families.”
As the couple exchanged answers, the tension eased.
That Saturday, she did not sign them up for a policy. “But the couple eventually trusted me enough to come to me for all their insurance needs,” she said. Their marriage is also stronger now.
It is her relationships with clients that she prizes above the accolades she has received in her 29 years with AIA Singapore.
Jennifer is deeply convinced that her career and her mission field are one and the same. “Because of my job, I know so much about my clients and their families,” she said.
As she helps her clients with financial planning – whether saving for their children’s education, retirement, or arranging how their assets will be bequeathed – they often open up about their personal woes – parenting problems, spendthrift children, marital troubles.
Please order my day
Early in Jennifer’s career, “racing” to make enough sales to earn prestigious awards in her agency almost cost her her life.
Her asthma would act up – and her husband would even offer to make sales calls on her behalf as she lay on a hospital bed. (She has not had asthma since receiving Christ.)
But in 2019, something changed.
Applications that normally took a day to get approved took seven days or longer.
“I heard God so loudly and clearly. Normally, I cannot hear Him, as I am such a noisy person.”
Even though physically- and mentally-exhausted, Jennifer would kneel down and pray, “God, order my day”, when she rose at 5am at the start of each long day.
Afterwards, as she journaled – reflecting on questions from BSF sessions and thanking God for his guidance – names of clients to follow up on, and even the words to speak, would flash across her mind.
She also received God’s direction and peace through Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) sessions.
“That year, I heard God so loudly and clearly. Normally, I cannot hear Him, as I am such a noisy person,” Jennifer said.
“God was with me,” she said. “He sent people to me and made the race seem less formidable. He just made the impossible so within my reach,” Jennifer wrote in a journal entry on racing to qualify as one of the top 10 financial advisors in her agency. This was the closest she had ever come.
She clung to God’s promise to Joshua before his 13 battles: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Dealing with hoarding
At the end of 2019, when many financial advisors were calculating if they had met the qualifying criteria for various awards, Jennifer decided to take a breather and visit her daughter who was then studying in Switzerland.
“I’m done, I cannot run anymore,” she told her son, who was then her personal assistant.
She was tens of dollars away from being counted among the top 10 advisors in the agency.
The day after Jennifer arrived in Switzerland, her son called to say that she was tens of dollars away from being counted among the top 10 advisors in the agency.
To close that gap, Jennifer was tempted to make last-minute calls to clients in hopes of accelerating outstanding premium payments.
Instead, she chose to rest. Besides, the poor Wi-Fi signal in the Swiss mountains prevented her from making calls.
She had already given her best, including closing $40,000 worth of cases within two weeks.
Two things would happen within the first week of her holiday.
First, a congratulatory text from her boss: She was the ninth best performing advisor in the entire agency.
A grateful Jennifer told God: “You are really kind to me. You really love me.”
Jennifer was not surprised she won: Two weeks earlier, she had received a vision from God.
Next, she received a slew of congratulatory messages from excited bosses and colleagues – for winning the top prize of a Mercedes-Benz at AIA’s annual lucky draw.
From Switzerland via livestream, Jennifer had watched her proxy in Singapore unlock the box containing the key for the Mercedes-Benz, after two nail-biting attempts.
Jennifer was not surprised she won: Two weeks earlier, she had received a vision from God showing this win.
Almost immediately, an image of Assisi Hospice – where she had been visiting a client – had flashed across her mind. She knew that she was meant to give the car to the Hospice.
“I was greatly overwhelmed and cried,” she confessed of her win. “God was dealing with my hoarding of earthly treasures, and I struggled with Him.”
After being convicted by God, Jennifer learned to “let go and focus on accumulating heavenly treasures that are eternal”.
“God has moulded me to use my financial stability to bless others.”
“This is how God wants me to honour Him for a miraculous December,” she texted her mentee, on giving the car away. She had shared the vision before it came to pass with just this person.
“Being generous was not in my DNA,” she told Salt&Light.
“What I gave away was not from my own pocket. The car was never mine to begin with. So there was no reason for me to hoard it,” she explained.
“God has moulded me to use my financial stability to bless others. It’s my way of loving Him.
“The car is actually nothing compared to all else I have received from God – my good health, my career success.”
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