Of Being Loved

The Sun and the Wind were having a discussion one day over who was stronger. Then they spied a man walking along the road who was wearing a jacket. “Let’s decide the issue this way,” said the Wind. “Whichever one of us makes the man remove his jacket is the more powerful.” The Sun agreed.

Winning the coin toss, the Wind began to blow at the man. At first he blew just steady breezes, but to no avail. Increasing the force, he began moving stronger gusts around the man. The walker simply wrapped his jacket more tightly around himself and kept going. In frustration, the Wind hurled hurricane-force gales at the man, almost sweeping him off his feet. Still clutching his jacket, although bent over backward, the man held on.

“I believe it’s my turn,” interrupted the Sun. Pointing towards the disheveled figure, he began gradually and gently to warm the air surrounding the man, a degree at a time. Within a few minutes the man had straightened up, continued walking, and began to perspire. After a few more minutes, he took off the jacket and slung it over his shoulder, continuing on his way.

Many times I’ve walked away, my heart paralysed with fear as I held tightly onto my defences for the familiarity they provide. Sometimes, all we need is the warmth of love and safety, with honest truthfulness, to help us outgrow our concealments.

#4 – A Letter to my Sister

Dear Sarah,

I wish we could spend more time together as we used to. I see you in your room but have not the courage to enter your space. You always seem to be busy with something, and I, always afraid if it is too much to ask just to sit with you. The truth is, these days are longer than I am able to keep up with. I have barely little want than to be given to the quiet solace of my room. I have been thinking about regret lately. Words that should have been spoken; people that I wish I could someday meet again as strangers. I fear I should have any regret with you. Fear that I only remember to pause and look and be a part of your life after I’ve long lost the opportunity to do so. And so I write to remind myself. To remind myself that life is meant to be wondered at, not understood.

Just the other day you stuck your head out of your door and called out to me from down the hall. I was busy with whatever I was busy with but there was such endearment in your voice, I thought you were in grave trouble. And so I came to you, composing myself for the worst. You were dressed for prom. You had your heels on, and you suddenly slid out from behind the doorframe and showed me how tall you stood as you sauntered about, a waltz in your walk, speaking over me. You pretended you couldn’t find me. Then you did and rested your arm casually on my shoulder the way I had taunted you for years, and asked me ruefully why in the good heavens would a loving God make me so short, and I pretended that I didn’t know they made giraffes wear skirts, and you laughed and laughed and wobbled in your heels as I got up on my toes to defend whatever little dignity I had left. You said you wanted to put every boy at school to shame, but the way you looked that night, dearest sis, I’m sure the moon herself would bow and give way.

Moments like these remind me how much I miss spending time with you, dearly. Life has a way of stealing ourselves from each other. Now thinking back on the fond memories I have of you, there is one I wish to remind you of. It remains one of my proudest contributions to your childhood.

You were very young as I can remember, and you had on those blow-up floats that you pretended were your biceps as you sat across the wading pool facing me. I looked at you squarely and asked you how old you were, and when you replied I told you I was now finally about to teach you something really important, and that you had better watch closely. You stared back at me wide-eyed with the gravity of the moment. I let my mouth hang loose and narrowed my eyes. Then I flared my nostrils. And I flared it once more and tilted my head back for you to get a better look as you gasped and nodded slowly in admiration as though you had just been let in on a wonderful secret. You would have made a teacher proud. “Now you try,” I pointed at you and said, and told you that you were not leaving the pool till you mastered our family secret. I laughed till my tears fell watching you contort your face trying to move every single muscle you could discover. You raised your eyebrows, you pursed your lips, you sneezed, and would you believe it, you actually finally managed to flare your nostrils back at me. I said now everyone would believe that we are related. You didn’t bother with a reply, but flared your nostrils so widely you snorted and laughed into my eyes. I felt in that moment I could love you to the moon and back.

There is no photograph of that moment, of course, but I still see it well in my mind’s eye. And when you do preserve our family legacy in teaching your own children the art of flaring their nostrils, don’t forget that you first learnt it from your eldest brother.

With love from your eldest brother.

Not of the World

You might have heard of Jonathan Edwards. His thought and life is among the most documented of all Americans of the eighteen-century. There exist over 1100 sermons in their original manuscript, autobiographical material, a portion of his diary and about two hundred of his letters that survived till date. Eyewitnesses and other contemporaries have given their testimonies of his life, and more than half a dozen biographies have been published about Edwards since his death.

Yet, the world is seldom more divided over a man. Only as a ‘philosopher’, they say, could he retain some respectability. Perry Miller, the best-known twentieth-century writer on Edwards, puts it bluntly: ‘the life of Edwards is a tragedy… Because of his faith Edwards wrought incalculable harm.’ ‘The greatest tragic hero,’ says Peter Gay, intent upon ‘rescuing the essence of the Puritan faith, on clarifying it, defending it, and preaching it to an age that did not wish to listen.’ And still, Edwards is credited as ‘the originator, the director, the champion’ of the Great Awakening.

‘He was proud and overbearing and rash’, says Miller of Edwards’s character, whereas Samuel Finley in 1758 writes, ‘He had a natural steadiness of temper… the humility, modesty, and serenity of his behaviour much endeared him to his acquaintance.’ Edwards himself tells us, four years before his death, ‘I was often charged with acting only from sinister views, with stiffness of spirit, and from pride, and an arbitrary and tyrannical spirit.’

I revolt should anyone speak of me like that.

But this is the nature of Christianity. The world will always disagree over Christian experience and the Christian truth. Of those who received the faith of the gospel, Christ says to God the Father, ‘I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world’ (John 17:14). A ‘peculiar people’ is what the apostle Peter empathises of Christ-followers (1 Peter 2:9).

How then can I content when people walk away unmoved facing Christ in me? How do others speak of the way I follow Christ? Far too easily I am satisfied though my faith bears little impression on others. There is no place for well-mannered politeness in our pursuit of God. ‘Father, make of me a crisis man.’ Jim Elliot prayed, ‘Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.’

I fear I lack the courage in confronting men like that. My heart is too tethered to the opinions of men. Did I manage to impress? Did I tickle their ears? Father, forgive me for the times I thought of myself anything more than a life redeemed by Your love. My reputation should not matter in bringing You glory. Teach me that a life that follows You is one that is accustomed to criticism and ridicule. But may only others meet the Christ in me, that depending on where they stand in relation to You, shall they decide in interpreting my life that is, first of all, a follower of Jesus Christ.

A Country of My Own – Progress Update

Dear friends,

After 6 tiresome months… the editing process has officially ended. Typesetting has just begun, followed by a final proof-read by me before everything goes to print. I am pleased to announce that the books are projected to be ready by mid-Dec, before Christmas!

I was reflecting on this entire journey the other day, and I am struck by how God has guided me through each step of writing and publishing this book when the entire process seemed so nebulous. From placing people in my path to guide me through the publishing process, to starting a crowdfunding page, or staring at annotated word documents night after night… God only knows how often I had wanted to give up. But yet, He reminded me that obedience is as simple as faithfulness, and He remained my faithful Friend through each step of the way.

It is my hope in writing this book that it would be a blessing to the local church, and an encouragement to the aspiring missionaries out there. I pray it also allows you to know my God a little better, or if not, at least a glimpse of my personal relationship with Him. For that, I wouldn’t trade any one of those tiresome nights working on this book.

The journey of obedience that started 2 years ago by a whisper and a nudge upon my heart, will soon come to an end in less than 2 months. My heart is filled with deep humility, that God would choose to use a nobody like me to tell His story.

Thank you, friends, for all the support and prayers. I truly appreciate it.

Faithfully,
Shawn

P.S.: You can pre-order your copy of “A Country of My Own” at http://goo.gl/forms/6g263d0SrC.

Yet Will I Praise Thee

Dearest Father,

I’ve never felt so completely humbled in the dust before Your feet, than when I was there wetting my knees with tears, depleted and alone amidst an entire hall of people lifting praises to Your name. To whom do I lay open my spiritual sorrows? With whom might I find sweet counsel to my heavy heart? I have no comfort of any kind but what I have in You. I’ve been utterly humbled; spent to the last dry bone; given all I could find left in me to give. Use it, I said, for my times are in Your hands. Where I keep silent, my bones waste away. Your hand is heavy upon me; my heart is sapped of its strength as in the heat of summer.

But around me I hear it, Your name remains exalted to the utmost. Your banner it soars and sails above me. There is no higher name than Yours, no other exaltation lifted that would keep me upon my knees in recognition of how small, inadequate, and helpless I am. And so I praise Your name with the force of my being. I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You know the anguish of my soul; and You remain close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit. How great is Your goodness, how great are You Lord! You know my thoughts; and You know that they are futile. So teach me to never realize I can live a day without You.

In humility,

Your child.

No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

No Man Is An Island, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623), Meditation XVII, John Donne.