There has been growing awareness that being angry is not a sin but it can lead to sin. Emotion of any kind, including anger, is a messenger. It delivers a message to us that something needs to be dealt with. For instance, happy emotion cues us to repeat whatever causes it. Sad emotion signals to us to take time to process; to grieve an incident. Angry emotion indicates that an internal value is violated and needs correction. Our emotions (of any any kind)are not sinful in themselves. They deliver messages which we need to decipher and choose our response.When I am angered, I could berate the offender or I could choose to sort out calmly with the offender. Our response can be a sin or it can be helpful. The emotion is just a messenger. Our response to the emotion determines if we have sinned; it decides the outcome of an incident.
How about being easily angered? Is being easily angered a sin? Or not Christ-like character?
I was leading a bible study session with a youth and we were exploring the verse: My old self has been crucified (died) with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20a). We wrote down a column of character under 'old life' and a corresponding column of character under 'new life in Christ'. 'Old life' column includes being self-centred which contrasted with others-centred in 'new life' column. When the characteristic of 'easily angered' was listed under the 'old life' column, I struggled for a vocabulary in the 'new life' column. I had wanted to write 'not easily angered'. However, on second thoughts, I wonder about its applicability in reality? What triggers me to anger is violation of a value I hold. Does Jesus want me to give up what is important to me just because I believe in Him? Suppose I value a spirit of excellence in work, someone who does slipshod work will upset me. Does Jesus want me to now give up a good value just so that I will not be easily angered?
I deliberated if it is beneficial to the youth by encouraging her to train herself not to be easily angered. Would it be synonymous with misguiding her to suppress her emotion without dealing with it? Would it be asking her to give up her personality or values that are important to her? I raced in my mind for a suitable characteristic to list under the ‘new life’ column.
Then suddenly, ‘forgive easily’ popped in my mind. (I think God’s Spirit timely bestowed me wisdom.) Rather than ‘not easily angered’, ‘forgive easily’ perhaps better describes the character of God. Multiple stories in the bible narrate of how God is offended by us (human) and how He extends mercy to His offenders. In fact, *Jesus coming to earth was an expression of God’s heart to extend forgiveness to us. In an instant, Jesus’ teaching on Sermon on the Mount flooded my mind. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Mathew 5:9) On numerous occasions, the bible exalts us to forgive others easily; to seek peace with each other. Hence, I propose ‘forgive easily’ as a counter response to ‘easily angered’.
When you are angry, I suggest the following:
As we train ourselves to forgive, our capacity to forgive increases. To be honest, some people are just irritating and plain silly. They come at you over and over again with their sillyness and they can drive us crazy. Maybe that’s how God sees us too. These people drive me mad with their sillyness every day! Haha! Frankly, forgiving is very difficult and hardwork. It is in the category of things that only God can do, like moving a mountain. I suppose that is why it is under the column ‘new life in Christ’. Something only achievable with God’s help. Especially when the person does not deserve it or the person is not apologetic. In fact, I do not really know how to rely on God to do it except praying like this “God, help me to forgive him. Help me not to hold it against him. I don’t quite know how to do this, just help me. And please help me to let go and enable me to sleep tonight.”
Usually, after such a prayer, my anger subsides slowly. Other thoughts that are helpful for me is to consider that sometimes life is difficult for everyone. Perhaps the person had a bad day, or the person was unwell, or the person has a lot of internal hurts and unresolved issues from childhood that resulted in the current state. Maybe if I were to be in the same situation, I would be the same. Empathy for the other person helps to speed up the release of forgiveness.
Hopefully, as we shorten the time gap between being angered and releasing forgiveness, we magnify our sense of joy and freedom. New life in Christ is not achieved by a magic potion or a magical prayer. New life in Christ is growing our character bit by bit enabled by God until we become Christ-like and reflect God’s glory. Whether being easily angered is not Christ-like, I leave to you to decide. I submit to you that forgiving easily is definitely Christ-like.
*For more information, PM me at email@example.com
Suffering or disappointments are ubiquitous. In and of themselves, are not measurements of God's love or lack of love. Much like the man who was blind from birth in the bible (John 9), did he sin or did his parents sin or did God not love him?
It may be too one dimensional for us to measure God's love or lack of love for us by how our expectations of a desired life turned out. In fact, most of the time, we are unfair to God. Out of ten expectations, if God fulfilled nine, we would still think He is unfair. We would focus on the one unmet one, believing that it is more valuable to us than the other nine when in reality, if any of the nine is swapped with this particular one, we would likely think the same way. The unrealised one is always amplified, and its importance seems to grow until the joy of our life hangs on it.
We often wonder if God is all powerful, why can't He just make our suffering stop or cause my disappointments to go away. Surely He can intervene and change the course of our situations.
Perhaps the greatest weapon that Satan could wield at us is our contented worldliness. Not that God intentionally caused our sufferings and disappointments so that we would remain in Him, but He may have chosen not to intervene so that we are in touch with ourselves. The pains cause our search internally and with diligence and courage, we would find what causes the pains to magnify and by relying on God, find wholesome restoration. Then our souls find their places and we become undisturbed by circumstances.
In contrast, if God intervenes every suffering and disappointment and our lives turned out just the way we desire, there may be two detrimental possibilities. One, we would be drunk with our worldly happiness, blind to the state of our souls and be eternally lost. Two, we become spoilt brats because no one has to pay for any mistakes made, neither our own faults nor the errors of others. There are simply no consequences for any choices made. Then we would be truly evil. All of us would then require God's constant interventions to relieve us of the multiple poor decisions.
Our final destination will be where our heart is set on. If our heart is set on God, then all of life's circumstances, both good and bad, draw us to God. If our heart is set on ourselves, we will self-glorify in happy times and self-pity in challenging times. Imagine that relative, that friend or that colleague whose head swells bigger than his neck could hold in successes, how irritating, almost nauseating! Imagine that same person, in troubled times, oh the endless self-pity party! When our focus is on self, no matter what the circumstance is, we end up in self-destruction.
How to avoid deviating from the life God has set before us, here are some attempts which I find helpful:
Could we perhaps rephrase Romans 8:37-38 this way:
Let all of life be focussed on God; on Christ. Assured that He loves us, is with us and is in us. May we, even through our pains, be able to make sense of our godly appointments amidst our disappointments.
This is a note to myself, lest I lose my way in my disappointments as close friends would know where we have been hurting. Also a note to readers of this post, wherever your hurting or challenging point is, nothing separates you from the immense love of God. Maybe for some time now, our altered emotions (a feeling of a lack of love from God) betrays us but if you would guard your heart with the points above, you may discover that God's abiding love has always been with you.
When I first heard this harsh statement from a preacher, I was appalled to realise how true this is for me. I am a worse sinner than an unbeliever!
Believers tend not to sin blatantly because such sins cannot survive our conscience. So we have “upgraded”. We sin abstractly. These sins often “escape” our conscience; we have deceived ourselves to believe that we do not sin much and so it is ok. The weight of our Sin is no longer felt, or for some, never felt. However, until we feel the weight of our Sin, we are not in touch of the reality of the poverty of our souls and hence we do not realise the beauty of redemption provided by Christ on the cross.
How do we sin abstractly? For example, a kindergarten boy drew a detailed picture of a ship. The teacher praised the child and he beamed with pride. This natural pride of having done something special is healthy in growing confidence but this healthy pride quickly becomes perverted into arrogant pride when he begins to feel that he is more superior than his classmates. This slight shift to sin is often undetected. This sin begins to take root, grow and give birth to death.
Last two weeks, I come to realise how Sin runs deep in me. Healthy aspects in life can stealthily deteriorate into sinful lifestyle, with us being unaware the whole time. For instance, as mentioned in my last post, a natural need to seek fulfilment in life which should lead us to God often lands us to seek a sense of self fulfilment instead. A sinful destructive route that will leave us empty.
I will share a more personal illustration. Since the age of ten, I was a latch key child. What that means is I took care of myself and my brother. When I went to school, my parents were still sleeping. When I went to bed, they were still not back home. So I grew to be highly independent. This independence which is a coping mechanism and a developed strength became my stumbling block. I become proud of my independence and ability that I refused to be controlled. Though I may not have rebelled outwardly, but internally I am angry whenever I am being controlled. I became very self-reliant. However, what is so bad about being controlled? What is wrong with accommodating to others? Why do I become self-seeking and tend to prioritise my preferences? These become sins that are abstract. Often undetected by self and sometimes even others. However, sin is sin. It brings with it its deadly effects until God reveals and convicts. Then we repent. Then God restores.
Some Christians in recent years may comment that having to repent is not recognising Christ’s work on the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross has paid for our sins past, present and future. On the contrary, I am beginning to realise that we should repent often and quickly because of Christ’s work on the cross. Because forgiveness is already offered even before I repent, hence I should do so. Why?
Suppose there are two close friends. If A makes a mistake against B, and just because B is always nice about it, should A not apologise for the mistake? And just because B is nice about it, should A keep offending B continuously?
Let’s assume for a moment that B is a difficult to appease person and it would take a lot to placate B. Wouldn’t it be more difficult for A to say sorry and make amends? Would their relationship be strained and tiring?
Since B is always nice about it, it would then make perfect sense for A to quickly apologise, make amends and try not to offend again. The relationship is kept intimate and enjoyable, continuously and for a long time.
In the same way, because our sins are forgiven past, present and future, God is always nice about it, we should repent as soon as we realise. So that our relationship with God is kept intimate and enjoyable continuously. Being able to repent is a grace. Being able to turn and return to God is a blessing. A blessing of always having a second chance. A blessing to know that the moment I repent, the relationship is restored. A blessing to have God empower me to make corrections even though on my own I may not do it 100% well. A blessing to have God restore to me the flourishing in life intended at creation when sin did not compromise His design. As we rid of sin through repentance (changing of mind, heart and deeds), we are restored to the flourish meant for us; we would enjoy the favour of God.
Do you feel the weight of your sin? If yes, repent now and receive forgiveness. The call of God loses its meaning when there is no intimate relationship with God, the caller.
If you do not feel the weight of your sin, pray and ask God to reveal and convict you of your sin. Unless we realise how great a sinner we are, we will not realise how deep the grace lavished on the cross was. Unless we realised how deep the grace lavished on the cross was, the gospel remains as a concept. A good story to ease our conceptual conscience than a redemption of our lives and our immense guilt which demands our souls, our life, our all. May the Lord have mercy on us.
*Reflection One from Day Two of AWE2020*
Oh The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin
When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain, I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride
See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet?
Or thorns compose, so rich a crown
Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross
All who gather here by grace, draw near and bless Your name
Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all
This question has been one of the most popular questions among Christian youths and young adults. However, the question in itself has an issue. The issue is “for me”. Does God exist for us or do we exist for Him?
As I am writing this, I am guilty myself. Moving towards 40s, existential questions intensify. As energy level drops and a feeling that my time on earth is getting shorter, I ask myself if I have actualised myself or at least on the journey of actualising myself. This is a common worldview in our affluent Singapore society because most of us are on the higher levels of Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. Most of us do not worry if we have food to eat but we are concerned if we have meaning in life. Actualising ourselves is a natural need. Nonetheless, it is flesh. From the Old Testament to the New Testament in the bible, it is clear that it was never about an individual’s purpose but it was always about God’s purpose. From prophets to Jesus to His disciples, they were on God’s assignments, going through difficulties to fulfil God’s purposes, than feeling good about themselves.
We tend to be obsessed with the call than the caller. But a call loses its meaning divorced from the caller. (Idea origination from Pastor Benny Ho.)
The issue is not about the need for fulfilment. The existence of a need reveals its necessity, in built by our Creator into our design. The issue is fulfilment in who and what. What or who is our reference point? I have been deceived to think that I have to find fulfilment for my life when it is supposed to be finding fulfilment in God through completion of His will.
The “for me” portion is probably not to be a goal but a reflection. That after I have finished the race of life and fought a good fight, I look back and give thanks for my purpose on earth than to be a focus from the start. My purpose is supposed to be a hindsight conclusion while His purpose is supposed to be my foresight goal.
As we become new creations, renewed by God’s Spirit, may we adjust our worldview so that we may be truly fulfilled in the way God has designed. That the longing in our hearts achieves the divine role it was design for.
God, what is Your will? May Your will be done on earth as it is heaven. Amen.
*Reflection after attending Day One of AWE 2020. For more information on aligning yourself with God, check out: https://archippusawakening.org.*
How do we know what is God's Will?
1. Pray and note promptings in your heart (Some people have dreams, some people have visions etc. most usually hear nothing but just have tuggings in the heart.)
2. Be clear about God's character and principles through the Bible (Check every promptings against the Bible. God's promptings must be aligned with God's Word.)
3. Seek godly counsel (Consult trusted and mature people to hear their views and guidance.)
4. Notice the circumstances you are in (The circumstances we are in are God-ordained. They usually spell out clearly for us our roles and duties. These could be God revealing His will.)
We tend to think of fulling God's calling as a euphoric moment when it is made of mundane small and sometimes irritating and difficult tasks.
Much like couples anticipating an exhilarated moment after the wedding only to realise that what marks a marriage life are mundane small tasks of waking, working, literally putting food on the table, eating, cleaning and sleeping. And repeat and repeat and repeat. The euphoric moment of the marriage is felt after years of these mundane moments, looking back and realising the intimacy built over the years.
Take for example Elizabeth Elliot, Jim's Eillot's wife. It was only on hindsight that her persevering work among the Huaorani Tribe in Ecuador, the tribe which killed her husband, had significance. What characterised her daily life the years after Elliot passed away was coping with grief, raising her 10-month-old daughter without a father, the daily life of reaching out to a group of people foreign to her and other mundane house work. There was no glam; no excitement but diligence in every day tasks. These routine undertakings evenutally amounted to a meaningful life.
Hence, let's seize the moment to be diligent with what God has put in our hearts and hands. Let's not spend time seeking and evaluating about significance till a later time. This is a note to myself lest I concern myself with lofty matters and my heart and eyes become haughty. In pursuing a significant life, I hope I do not end up seeking after myself instead of God. That would become my greatest tragedy.
We are often concerned if we choose right (if we are choosing God's will) because we are fearful that if we select the wrong path, we will face unnecessary hardships. This is a lie. Even when we are right in the centre of God's will, we may face difficulties. Sometimes, precisely we are right on track, our "enemies" may attack. Notice that most prophets of old while they performed miracles in public, they suffered depression and deep heartaches. Most of Jesus' disciples face persecutions, trials and untimely deaths. Let's be seeking God's will because of our devotion to Him and not to secure a path free from troubles. Be warned of this fallacy!
Every year, I look forward to my birthday. It is a day I validate myself (刷存在感). My insecurity often pushed me to count how many birthday wishes I received, even though I think it is stupid to do so. I also await my husband, Asher, to do something great for me. Most of these birthdays ended up in disappointment because no matter how many birthday wishes I received, there will be this internal feeling that it is not enough. Then the day just ended. It ended empty inside. The day did not fulfil the anticipated exhilaration. In some years, Asher just casually (last minute see which restaurant is available) bring me out for a meal and the day wound up without a card (a minimum expectation I have of Asher) and I cried. In fact, one year, I bawled.
However, this year was different. Somehow, I had no expectations. It wasn't that people's care don't matter anymore but maybe I have subconsciously disassociated my value with people's care or lack of care. Perhaps I was distracted by my other internal rollercoaster and my insecurity paled. Perhaps there is a greater awareness that birthdays signify another year older (and I am beginning to dislike the unalterable fact that I am aging.) In any case, this year is one birthday that I feel (not in past tense because I am still feeling it) so wrapped in love.
Asher decided to celebrate my birthday all weekend, instead of one single day, starting on Friday evening. Every day, he planned a place to bring me that we have never been before. Usually, I would like a little more control by asking where he is taking me (so I know what to wear) or what food we are having (tasty food to me is key to a date). However, this time, I thought maybe I should extend my husband the care I offer to youth. In order to encourage youth, whatever initiative they have, as long as it is not immoral or have dire consequences, I will support and go along. This way, the youth would be more motivated to suggest things and take actions. It occured to me that maybe I need to be nurturing to my husband as well. So I just dressed up and went along to wherever he planned. All the venues he chose were enjoyable and the food were delicious. So instead of anticipation towards a single day, before my expectations could build, my birthday celebration began. Without any expectations, every day was satisfying.
Besides birthday wishes, throughout the actual day (Monday), friends sent breakfast, lunch, and pre-lunch (for us to curb hunger because the delivery person delayed), cupcakes, cheese cakes and my parents bought me a cake (Every year Asher arranges a cake cutting session with my parents to continue a childhood tradition). The day ended with a Zoom chat with a group of buddies and a "surprise" card from Asher (I found it on the bedside when I was about to sleep). All in all, it was a lovely day!
However, birthday celebration did not end on Monday! My colleagues tried to send lunch on Monday but the store slipped up and it was changed to next day dinner. Hence, birthday celebration extended to Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, another friend specially travelled to my house to deliver her homemade peach gum. I had thought that she happened to be in the neighbourhood only to realise that she took a bus over just to give me a belated birthday treat. Later in the afternoon, someone sent a Starbucks drink and dessert as another belated birthday treat! So our fridge is filled with all the sweet treats that I can munch on all week. I feel surrounded by love all week.
It is ironic that when I crave for love, it feels so lacking. When I am enough inside, I am more loved and I feel more loved. Birthday celebration became all week long instead of one day. Every birthday wish that I read over text or social media feels more heartfelt than a number I was counting. Perhaps we shortchange ourselves when we dwell in our insecurities. When we accept ourselves more fully and embrace how God has made us, we love and receive love more freely. As I age, I began to realise that birthdays are more meaningful to a child's parents than the child. It is a celebration of a life they brought to earth and a celebration that they managed to feed and grow the child well. I thank God for all the love of friends and family sent to me this birthday. I thank God for creating me and the way I am. I hope in the days ahead, I can more fully embrace who He has created me to be and how He has ordained my days to be that I may be a blessing to Him and others.
Be intentional in celebrations.
It has been more than 2 weeks since our wedding anniversary but the memories of that day still lingers and give strength to survive the drudgery of every day living. Last week at work, we were having a school session (via Zoom) with some youth who are experiencing challenging home situations. One tool which we equipped them is to recall good memories they had with their family. Recall to reminisce. Reminisce to be thankful of a happy shared past. Being thankful helps one to alleviate current pains and lift one's spirits. (Try googling: effects of being grateful.)
Happy memories need effort to create. To celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary, we made the follow efforts.
Effort 1: Take leave and informed everyone at office that we will be unavailable.
Effort 2: Order tasty breakfast and set it up nicely in the balcony.
Effort 3: Dress up even though we are at home.
Effort 4: Set up the home to take photos to commemorate the day.
Effort 5: Write cards. (Write in the middle of the night and put beside glasses as surprise.)
Effort 6: Buy flowers. (And hide them in the toilet all night in order to flash them out at the right timing.)
Effort 7: Cook noodles for another when the person is hungry.
Effort 8: Go out for a walk.
Effort 9: Prepare reflection questions to review the marriage.
Effort 10: Review the marriage and plan forward adjustments.
Effort 11: Order our favourite type of food (seafood) and eat till food coma happens.
Effort 12: Make a 1 minute video to reminisce our history together.
Recently I saw an online video on a couple sharing about their divorce. Every divorce is painful because two joined lives are now tearing apart. For this particular couple, I especially felt that it was a pity. It seemed like they found each other really suitable and have such implicit trust in each other but have decided to part because there is no more spark. Frankly, you live with anyone over a long period of time, sparks will wear off. We see the ugliest side, the darkest side and sometimes the smelliest side --- all the undesirable aspects of the person. So to counter, we need to intentionally create beautiful shared memories together so that it balances us internally.
In addition, if we can adjust our mindset to see the privilege of journeying with someone to make one's ugly side less ugly, one's dark side less dark and one's smelly side less smelly, we would share a bond that is quite difficult for any third party to intrude. Well, let's face it, not many people will be willing to take my sh*t and true love sticks around even when things are sh*tty. So in my opinion, good marriages evolve beyond a romantic and sparkly phase, it moves into kinship, it moves into a phase of "I can't live without you".
That being said, the youth girl inside me still dreams of Prince Charming sweeping me off my feet. Hence, periodically, we still need to create sparks. Even silly things like dressing up and taking beautiful photos together in our own house, adds a little fun to all the mundanity of ordinary life. My dad says "情趣是把无聊当有趣!" (Fun or romance is amusing yourself with 'bo liao' [silly] stuff.) So, do many silly things together. Let's keep our brilliance at work and be silly with each other =)
Asher, my husband, always say, all the romantic movies and dramas have 2 elements which makes romance possible everyday. First, one party is rich, eliminating the need for work and responsibilities. Second, the movie or drama usually ends at the sparkly moment. No one screens a sequel of living together after a longer period of time, dealing with daily operations and mundanity which is probably our daily reality. Therefore, to learn from movies and dramas, we create the sparkly moments for ourselves and keep the sparks going. Let's accept the fact that we long for sparks. Let's also accept that sparks will wear off. Let's learn that sparks can be re-created again and again =) Jiayou everyone!
On Tuesday, 2 June 2020, my husband, Asher, and I celebrated our 8th Wedding Anniversary. Including dating days, we have journeyed 19 years together. It is a pain to walk through immature youth and young adults days but such a privilege and joy to witness each other's growth into who God has designed us to be, both individually and as a couple. We are really unfolding our wedding bible verse 'He has made all things beautiful in His time.' (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
In the last 2 years, we have quarrelled more frequently and more intensely yet journeyed deeper into each other. We celebrated internal victories more than we cheered for external successes of achievements. As trust grew, we begin navigating each other's darker sides and childhood hurts and venture into overcoming them. We started adjusting ourselves to Godly values which often "fought" with our habitual selves. Yet, as we free ourselves from ugly past and selves, we step into a realm of happiness beyond words could describe. A feeling of heaven. All these were possible because we knew we always have each other no matter how much we fight with each other. The quality of a marriage is not in how much sparks are flying or how passionate we feel for each other. The quality of a marriage is in how we fight and how we recover from fights.
Some boundaries we try to keep when we fight.
1. Do not attack personally. "You are so ...." "You always...." This becomes personal. Instead, phrase as "When you ...., I feel..."
2. Do not mention 'divorce' or 'breakup' unless you really mean it. (Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we may really feel so. So just keep quiet and don't say it. Only use these words in calmness to ensure that we really mean it.)
3. Allow time-out. (When one party needs to cool down, give the person time.)
4. Finish the fight. (Do not go on cold war, or sweep things under the carpet. Talk everything out, all the emotions, all the thoughts. Don't keep it in. They will roll forward and accumulate interest. Then when it is payback time, the debt could be huge. Finally, discuss adjustments needed to move forward positively.)
5. Do not burn the bridge. (We will still need to see each other every day, so do not use overly harsh words only to regret. Words spoken cannot be taken back because hurts are caused. If we take effort with outsiders in phrasing our words, why should we not take effort with people whom we really care about.)
Some attitudes we upkeep when we fight.
1. No fight will affect our relationship. (We always remind each other in the midst of the fight that this does not affect the relationship. Sometimes the anger is not at each other, it is an outburst from personal internal frustration from else where. Sometimes, it is at each other, but emotions do pass. Sometimes, it is irritation from different lifestyle habits but we can always make adjustments. Having in mind the permanence of the relationship gives security internally and prevents us from being overly harsh with each other.)
2. We can always try again tomorrow. (This is something I really appreciate about Asher. He always has an attitude of "Today I failed. Ok, then I try to be better tomorrow." His attitude has shaped my attitude. Sometimes, I become fixated on failures. Now, I learned the beauty of picking ourselves up and trying again. This not only moves but builds us forward. So trying again tomorrow, is not about doing the same thing but expecting a different result. It is learning from the quarrel and adjusting to improve our situation. This gives value to the quarrel. It builds than tears the relationship.)
3. It is often not about right or wrong but a matter of preference. (We realised that in most daily affairs, there is no right or wrong but a matter of personal preference. So instead of arguing who is right, we need to ask ourselves how much do I want to accommodate. To be honest, I am thankful for Asher because he is the more easy-going one; he accommodates to me more than I accommodate to him.)
4. We can always get help. (When things get bad and we feel helpless, seek help. At some point in our relationship, we have gone to professional counsellors for help and it assisted us in navigating the situation. Other times, we have requested trusted older folks to help us mediate. These helps have aided us to see things from different perspectives and given us useful tools to manage our situation.)
5. We always have God as our mediator. (Always pray and ask God for help and guidance. Something interesting all through 20 years. Whenever we reach stalemate on a decision, we would give it time and consult God. After some time of prayer, one of us will move and we would be inclined towards one decision than the other. It is amazing! In recent years, we seem to have lesser stalemate moments. We have been able to read each other's mind without even discussing! Perhaps we have become soul mates! We always believe that soulmates are developed not found; we grow to become soulmates.)
When we can resolve quarrels and find positive way forward, then even quarrels do not feel like hell. They just become stepping stones towards us arriving at "heaven".
Besides managing fights, creating positive emotional bank account in each other is important for us. Each time we do something nice for the other person, we deposit into the person's emotional bank account. Not every action carries the same value, so do what creates the highest value. How do we know what action will maximise joy in the other person? For dense person like me, I just ask directly. I once asked Asher, "If I only have 2 hours to do something for you, what would bring you the highest utility? Clean the house, cook for you, write a letter to you etc." So since, whenever I see Asher stressed, I try to cook for him. I don't want to waste energy doing a lot for him that does not really bring him much joy. Similarly, he knows that I enjoy services. So he buys food, chauffeurs me, washes the dishes etc. Actually, I love every type of love expressions (service, quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, touch), who doesn't? So we try to give a little of everything, but when we have limited energy, then choose what would bring greatest joy. With a healthy emotional bank account, it serves as a cushion during painful moments. In another words, there is "money" in the account for you to "withdraw".
When I was fifteen years old, a pastor shared with me that in marriage, feeling of love is not key but kindness and forgiveness. After 8 years, I testify that it is true. A little more kindness to build our emotional banks, a little more forgiveness to tide us through storms. There is no obstacle we cannot cross as long as we are willing and patient. There is no lost spark we cannot rebuild as long as we are willing and intentional. Everything is possible as long as we still have breath. So let's not wait till it's too late to extend a little kindness and a little forgiveness to each other. Asher and I are still stumbling forward. There are days we cannot and failed. It's ok, tomorrow we try again =)
Asher wrote in his card this year "God has used our marriage over the past 8 years to help other young couples and I believe this might be one of the ministry we as a couple are called to advance His kingdom." I am not too sure if we are advancing God's kingdom through our marriage. But I realised not only joy, even wounds can be gifts for our lives and others'. Our lives cannot be without wounds. While I am not excited about having them, I am exhilarated to see tears turn to joy and become balms for fellow strugglers. Recalling the pastor's message during our wedding: Managing a marriage is like cycling. No mater what has happened, you just keep stepping on the pedals and look ahead. If you keep turning your head to look back, you will lose your balance. Hence, the ending thought of this year's wedding anniversary is "Looking forward together always." Such joy, such comfort to be able to do so. My marriage has helped me appreciate more deeply the *redemptive love of God. How our mistakes can be forgiven and we can always have second chances as long as we are willing and we keep trying.
Oh my! I have written so much. Sorry that you have to read such a long blog. Thank you for celebrating with us by allowing us to share our anniversary reflections with you. May this encourages you to build a piece of heaven on earth =)
Because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, our sins do not bear a permanent mark. Our sins are redeemed. We have a chance to start again with God, with each other and ourselves. This is redemptive love.
It is interesting how we often imprison ourselves with subtle anger. One of such is criticism that we hold in our hearts. Recently, I found myself a little troubled by someone who is picking the speck in my eye, while harbouring a log in the person's eye. Due to this, I am more hung up by the person's attitude rather than the content of the criticism. The irony is rationally I know the fact that I am bothered is because I am holding a criticism (a judgement; a condemnation) against this person. In doing so, I imprisoned myself. Emotionally, I just cannot let go.
Asher (my husband) asked me, "What does it take for you to let go?" "A night of sleep." was my answer. He laughed and responded, "But you slept, and now is 2 days 1 night since." Still caging myself after 2 nights' sleep, I called a friend and she suggested we pray. In her prayer, I began letting go when she mentioned, "Our God, we thank you that you show us our sins as we notice another's." However, to be honest, it is not entirely over.
I am amazed how God does not allow me to imprison myself. This morning, while listening to a sermon on Matthew 7:1-6, the pastor's prayer shook me, "Father (in heaven), we are so grateful for Your goodness and Your mercy, that can take a person who is condemned and transform us to a child of God. Can take a critical spirit and transform it to a heart of compassion. Can change our criticisms into words of affirmation and encouragement. Help us to radically change ourselves to demonstrate the compassion of Christ. In Jesus' name we pray, amen."
I broke down and cried. I saw myself in a condemned cell, a person awaiting final punishment and how God transformed me into His child, enjoying all the abundance as a child of God. (Today, I could even have the privilege to lead worship, share His message and have His presence with me continually.) If God would save me while I was condemned, why can't I also extend mercy. I don't think I have completely let go, but with my focus on His compassion for me, I think I am more able to let go.
Are you imprisioned today by unforgiveness towards someone or your criticism against someone? Would you release yourself? If you find it difficult like I do, call out to God and He will help you. In the meantime, be patient Let us live in freedom as a child of God today and everyday.
P.S. (just to explain some terminologies of my reflection)
I am a sinner saved by grace. I was a condemned person because of my sins and no amount of good works is sufficient to save me from my eventual punishment. But God in His compassion sent Jesus, Son of God, to die on the cross for my sins and rose to life on the third day to demonstrate His power over death. As I believe and accept Jesus, God gave me the right to become His child. I have been enjoying the privilege of living as His child for 28 years now. Thankful.
I had intended to keep this blog to only life coaching thoughts.. but then again as I reassure my clients that nothing is too trivial to bring up because we are whole persons rather than compartmentalised beings, my spiritual thoughts are also a part of me... so this is me sharing some inner thoughts...
What looms in our hearts and mind?
When I journeyed into my heart, I wonder if I would find Jesus?
As I still my heart, I was fearful. I was afraid that I may realised Jesus is not there. I would be caught in shock. Hadn’t I invited Him into my heart decades ago? Hadn’t I devoted to serve Him all these years? What if, just what if, I did not find Him in my heart?
I realised I am relating to Jesus as if He were a mere human being. My heart is faltering and erring… but Jesus is not. When I invited Him into my heart, He has come to stay and uphold me. My emotions may erode, my focus may be distracted, my limbs may grow lazy or weary to serve Him, but He who is faithful will be faithful to the end. May I learn not to over-wonder and over-wander… (many ladies love to do this.. especially me... endless what ifs and if onlys...) Even on dark days, may I hold weakly and desperately to Him… And on sunny days, remember to dance before Him….
If you cannot find Jesus in your heart, don’t fret, He is still very near… maybe at your blind spot… turn around, turn back, you will find Him… right there, waiting for you.. always. His eyes are on you even when your eyes are not on Him.
Thank you Jesus for always being there, even when I don’t feel it or sense it.
So even when my heart is lost, my God is not lost... His eyes are on me. He will find me, call me and my heart will find its place when I hearken to His voice =)
The joy of coaching is really seeing clients move towards success. Most importantly, success defined by the client, not by the world nor anyone's standard. In fact, every breakthrough achieved, in my opinion, is a success. There is such overwhelming delight bursting inside of me when I witness clients devise their own strategy towards their goals and achieving them. All I do is discover what questions to ask to facilitate that process while clients discover the solutions to my queries. What a bliss to journey with someone towards their feats =)