“But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you”– Jer 26:14
In the past 8 weeks, I pretty much entrusted my life to the school, the staff and above all, God, to do what was good and right for me. It has been an adventure but of course, whatever you willingly give to God, he multiplies.
When I entered the school, I was not in the best state. Staying in Rome for 3 months really took more out of my spirit than I had thought. Externally, I was uninspired by the heart of the church, lost in a large sea of possibilities and confused by the pace of life in both Singapore and Rome. Internally, I was holding so many things in tension I was breaking down with decision paralysis.
Very much like Spiderman, I was one human dealing with a ton of overbearing and unrealistic weight. When I first saw that scene in the movie, I remember thinking to myself “you have got to be kidding me, it kinda makes sense yet, it doesn’t either…” I wasn’t sure whether to think he was being heroic or dumb.
My decision paralysis was at it’s peak when Shaun and I were deciding between whether to A) go for an ordination mass and celebrate with the diocese, or B) to go out on a date to spend quality time together since we were going to spend 3 months apart. My heart was torn and an avalanche of considerations flooded my mind to the point where I just curled up in bed wishing the noise would just melt away. Shaun, trying to take things slow then asked me how about we just decide lunch plans first, but that pretty much broke the dam as another wave of considerations regarding money came to mind.
After dusting myself off and sending the husband away, I started SOW with the same hope Anastasia had, her song ‘journey to the past’ pretty much sums up how I feel entirely.
As how I wrote midway about my considerations going into SOW, my biggest takeaways continue to follow the same themes of simplicity, community and mission.
Similar to how my decisions left me paralysed, going through the sessions in SOW were equally chaotic. I would expect myself to react a certain way based on the numerous sessions I’ve been through for 15 years, but also attempt to be open to new ways God is working. When I don’t end up experiencing much I would grow even more confused because I didn’t know if I was doing too much or too little. As I heard myself complain, I knew I was short circuiting and going crazy from all the stress. In a moment of grace one night, my sharing partner told me I just needed to takeaway one thing. I took up that challenge and instead of “calm down jes” or “do not worry”, Surprisingly, I ended up with these three words “I acknowledge you”. The directness stuck with me, it was firmness with love, a mentorship I needed especially in this season of life.
During another time of prayer, I had the image of myself in the supermarket. Separated from my family, my fear turned into panic as I felt presented with 2 options: do I dash down the middle aisle frantically scanning left and right to find them? Or so I simply stay still and let myself be found? My mind would flip rapidly and I eventually breakdown from not knowing what is the best thing to do. But of course, God is there. He revealed that he is the store owner, the eyes behind the CCTV, the voice on the intercom that says “Jes, I see you. Paging for Jes’ family, aisle three”. God even sent His son, His best employee to come sit with me and count cans of tomato sauce while waiting for my family to come get me. He will never close the shop and leave me stranded.
With these two moments, God reminds me to just relax and listen, to trust him and trust his spirit within me, to follow him on an adventure I do not know – Simple.
“For the Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”Ps 27:1
“For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God”Eph 2:8
But being simple isn’t easy.
Being simple isn’t about minimalism, less complications, or erasing all the distractions and choices in life. Simplicity is about being clear on what the priority is and sticking to the principles that bring you life.
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”Matt 6:33
One of the greatest joys from the school was the opportunities to pray with people. Be it weekly check-ins with fellow school mates, praying through our struggles or intercessory prayer for outreach. There was a great power in deep christian unity as we draw strength from God – our hearts would unite in pursuit of Jesus. If God was a light, it would be so blinding that the boundaries of each person would be indistinguishable, it reminds me of the the concept of perichoresis which is essentially the deep and profound intimacy that exists between the trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (You can read more about perichoresis here, or here)
One blessing was to receive the gift of tongues which I am usually a bit fearful of on a normal day. Not so much that it is scary and intimidating but mostly because I simply don’t comprehend how it works and how it is received. I did also grow comfortable being a person that is in church but doesn’t need a tangible gift to ‘validate’ her faith. One session, perhaps tired from questioning God, I was able to just be in a moment of full focus on Jesus and let myself go. What a joy to experience cooperating with the Holy Spirit and to bask in that receptivity.
Another profound experience was to be able to look at someone else with love. The first time the ‘feeling’ (it’s not actually an emotion but a certain resolve) struck my heart and compelled me to an action was when I was trying to help a fellow SOWer get up from the floor after she rested in the spirit (her legs were too weak at that point). I wasn’t so familiar with her but stuck my hand out towards her during final praise just in case she needed a hand. After a couple attempts she managed to get up and leaned on me for a bit of support. It’s not just sympathy or empathy, it was a channeling of God’s love. There were also many other moments of being able to be God’s instrument, and it blows my mind how it works the same with strangers, friends and even ‘enemies’.
“Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless some one interprets, so that the church may be edified. So with yourselves; since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.”1 Cor 14:1-5, 12
And finally we have mission. There are mainly three paths for me to head towards (God would be great at powerpoints, he always maintains three main points on a slide). In this season He calls me to look at spirituality/ mentorship, christian entrepreneurship and communication as a means of evangelisation. Journeying alongside 46 others, of which the majority are quite a lot younger than myself, was insightful in discerning for the next five years. Not only do I get to listen to their needs and desires in growing more Christ-like, but I also get to recognize points of growth in my own journey.
I’ve also come to see that in life it isn’t always a fork in the road and choosing a specific path. During the school, a number of the participants got back their A’level results. Besides standing secure that one’s identity is not based on one’s achievements and usefulness in society, there is also the battling of the notion of having to choose one path. If the path is different or not the right one, then you’ll be considered ‘further behind than the rest’. Having been through that phase somewhat, I have come to recognize that life is not quite so linear. It is that straightforward if your sole desire is to make money or have kids or worse still, both, but praise the Lord, with God He calls us to go to the ends of the earth and that path of goodness varies quite a bit.
Often I have served from a place of frustration, lamentation and obligation, a consequence of my own limited experience and perspective. Living in Rome was tough because I was even further away from vineyard, and in some way, helpless and useless. Ultimately, God calls me to serve with love. He also gives me great hope of a balanced Christian life that isn’t marked with burn-outs, overwork and frustration is indeed a possibility. He will resolve what he has unearthed. His thoughts higher than my thoughts.
And added bonus! Having Shaun come back for the commissioning was perhaps a lot more than I could ask for. I can’t think of a more perfect way to end my season in school than to embrace my mission with Shaun. I often described my weeks as being pseudo-single and incomplete because I could not share it fully with him. Having friends that didn’t know him also felt like they didn’t know a very big part of me. To have him there on my last day made my journey fuller than it already was.
New Hope, New Life
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”John 11: 25-27
God continues to remind me that I am significant to Him and sustains me. I need only respond with courage, joy and gratitude. You say I am loved, when I can’t feel a thing, You say I am strong when I am feeling weak, You say I am held when I am falling short, when I don’t belong, You say I am yours. I believe, Oh, I believe.
What do you believe?