It only takes a moment

And so that song1 goes. It only takes a moment to be loved a whole life long. One sincere gesture, one solemn vow, one true word can seal the deal. On the ugly flipside, it also takes but a moment to be scarred for what could seem a lifetime. One careless gesture, one damning curse, one hurtful word can set off a series of unfortunate events.

Most of you may have heard (and that’s an understatement) about the recent2 brouhaha around Manny Pacquiao speaking out against same-sex relationships and marriage, casting aspersions on the LGBT lifestyle and offending many in the community on an international stage.

I was struck by many things on different levels—the personal, moral, social aspects of it. What happens when in sharing a personal revelation, or something we hold as truth—regardless of our motivations— we then put in question the truths that others believe, and even thrust into a negative light on the lives that others lead?

I was disturbed with how quickly people can pass harsh judgment or let words loose, in any given situation, whether you are the first to make a statement, or in violent reaction to something. In the heat of it all, I had a few choices on what I could or not do:

  1. Keep silent. What use another voice in the chaotic fray? If I would not add anything of value, then to what end?
  2. Take a stand, and defend it with all righteous indignation. With no regard for what I say or do, not caring whom I hurt along the way.
  3. Take an apologetic stance. Not all Christians present Bible truths in such contexts and with judging undertones.
  4. Truly examine the condition of my heart and reflect on how I myself have judged others. And in any situation for that matter, be it to the tiniest degree, even in the recesses of my heart, I could think of the times in that same day alone when I held myself in higher regard than I should have. Number 4 was the clear winner.

We live in a pervasive culture of snap judgments, of callous words, of an ease with which we throw around opinions or truths. People have become numb, desensitized with all the insults, vulgarity and crassness thrown around in a world that places a premium on speaking freely. And regardless of what you believe in, we are in a depraved state when negativity and personal attacks have become the norm.

***

Now Christianity is not a comfort zone or feel-good balm that soothes our problems away. And it is certainly not a pedestal that gives anyone license to feel more upright than others. That is why I cannot sit here and judge at a distance people whose struggles and reality I have never experienced. God Himself spared us from the judgment we rightly deserve, and Jesus came into this world to carry the weight of that judgment.

If I think about the instances when harshness and brute force have succeeded in “winning over” people—that would in essence be slavery. As someone who has not been shackled by my beliefs, but has instead been freed by this faith, I would only hope to speak the same Truth in a spirit of love. God has never and will never force Himself on us, but instead waits patiently as the work He does in us bears fruit and turns our hearts toward Him.

In professing this, I want to make known that the reason I have come to believe is not because human will shoved me into it, but because the LOVE of God has truly transformed my life. This love has not made me in any way perfect or immune to the temptations that abound, and yet it has opened my heart and whole being to the glory, beauty and truth of who God is. Only then could I find the humility, strength and grace to fight battles with sloth, lust, pride (the list goes on and on), and submit every detail of my life to Him. Love first above all.

DSC00151
The true antidote to hypocrisy and judgment is love (Sculpture by Jean-Baptiste Debay)

Until such time, it is more often than not a losing battle for Christians to hammer down ideas that have no meaning or value to the hearer. The only true antidote to hypocrisy and judgment is LOVE. It may be the longer, less convenient route, the more deliberate way. But it is the way of Christ

 

 

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your FAITH with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with LOVE”

2 Peter 1: 5-7

The call to spread the Truth of the Good News and to stand up for our faith is not simply in the words we say, but in the lives we lead. And even as I “only” write this, my prayer remains that I not only stop at reciting verses, but truly become a doer of the Word. May my deeds be greater than my words, and my snap judgments always cast aside by love.

In all that we do, God is most concerned about the condition of our hearts. Only God’s final judgment will stand, and through faith in Jesus’ saving work on the cross, we are free to live in truth and love. Indeed, it only took that one moment to be loved our whole lives long.

In any given moment, we can choose to speak life or death, we can shine His light or keep people in the dark, and we can offer love, hatred or indifference.

It is love that penetrates, not harsh words. And it only takes a moment.

 

 

1“It Only Takes a Moment” (Jerry Herman). You may recognize the song from ‘Hello Dolly’ or ‘Wall-E’ (borrowing from Hello Dolly)

2In Internet time or any time, this may come as a delayed reaction, but true to that title, I wanted to consider the weight of that moment and not make a snap judgment 😉

Life and Choices in Slow Motion

“If you have not chosen the kingdom of God, it will make in the end no difference what you have chosen instead… The tempter tells me, ‘Take care, think how much this good resolve, the acceptance of this grace is going to cost.’ But Our Lord equally tells us to count the cost.”                

 (C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”)

***

At dusk, the last orange hues faintly lined the cloudy horizon and the calm over the water expanded all over the Upper Pierce, for as far my eyes could take in the view. On my bike, with only the GPS as my guide, I ventured out that Saturday evening, cruising unknown roads and going the opposite direction from planned. All I wanted was a place of quiet, a body of water to gaze out on. I remember being ensconced in the forest—greenery to no end—the smell of the earth and leaves heavy in the air. I railed against the uphill pedal, then swiftly let loose downhill. The rush of the wind and the evening cool signalled what felt like higher altitudes, but may have well just been a fantastic perception shift.

 

This passage would have gone a different direction, if I were not nursing a minor knee injury for two weeks now after that weekend of relentless action.

Earlier that Saturday morning, I read the tale of Jonah and the whale. It was a quaint choice harking back to Bible stories of childhood. In younger days, all that stood out was God’s care of Jonah—rescuing him from the storm, placing him in the belly of that sea creature, and delivering him to the shore of Nineveh, as planned. But there is always more to a story when revisited many decades after.

I was provoked with a question—how do I react when plans fail? What do I do when what I envision doesn’t go my way? At the beginning of the year, I was pondering big plans, possible mission trips, new travel destinations, and grand hiking adventures, down to simpler resolutions like cycling or running every weekend.

IMG_20160215_225257
Choices we make, steps we take

Little did I know, it would be that “simple” yet crucial ability to walk and run with abandon that would be temporarily slowed down, and right around the corner of the Lunar New Year holiday. All because I overdid my fitness and recreation routine. Apparently, the quest for health can become a dazzlingly blinding idol.

More than being an alarming call about my physical limits or even a demand for sounder warm-up routines, it became a reflection of the choices I make and the steps I take. Am I too cavalier with the freedom and time I have in my singlehood? Do I over-indulge in pleasures and adventures with wanton disregard for the consequences? Do I find myself in little moments of “falling in love” with the world and dismiss them as harmless flights of fancy?

“Do not love the world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with its desires. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”                                                                          

(1 John 2: 15-17)

 

How frail and fleeting this world is. As the pain on my left knee sharpened, it was sobering to be reminded that literally every step I take is anchored on You, Lord, on the strength that you deem to give me. That the choices I make will ultimately bring me nearer or farther from You—one sure step at a time. And how all my plans are never completely my own.

Sometimes it is beautiful to go off-plan. I could have sulked about the missed nature walks on the marshes of Kranji, or the forfeited trails of MacRitchie. Instead, I had time to walk slowly through the halls of the National Gallery and appreciate the art more intently. I found domestic pleasures and soothing catharsis in weekend spring cleaning. I had time to lovingly arrange flowers for display at home. And I had time to write all this down.

In those moments I pushed myself running the Marina and cycling Old Upper Thomson, I felt exhilaration and a sense of miraculous accomplishment. Yet sometimes it is wiser to exercise prudence, to slow down, take stock, and count the cost. I’ve a way to go in learning the art of living life on the deliberate, intentional lane, not too fast as to crash, but not too slow short of inaction.

When God has a plan and we commit to it, He will surely see it through. Neither external obstacles, nor internal objections will block His work. Inasmuch as He uses us, it is never left completely to us. Jonah may have gone in the other direction, but nothing could prevent God’s divine redemptive plan for Nineveh. With God taking the reins, there is always progress, whether we are racing or at the pit stops.

 

Twilight had darkened the sky. It was time to head back. I laughed by myself, anticipating the steep, uphill climb I would have to face. Crazy girl, what have you gotten yourself into again? All for the sake of a little quiet, and of course, a photograph. Pushing on less than a kilometer, there it was, my very own “Jonah’s whale”, a miracle of a van. A kind man and his family slowed down inviting me onboard the rescue vehicle, preventing far more serious injury that I had no idea was going to present itself a day later. And with that, I was set straight on the safe path back home to Ang Mo Kio.

***

Lead me where you will, Lord. You are my choice. And with You, I am going to make every step count.