“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.
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.