Square 1

Previously on Underground voices, we saw that, once again, I was freaking out about making a decision. Do I leave home (sort of) and live at university, risking my very life and relationship with my family? Dun Dun Dun

Well, turns out that the decision wasn’t really mine after all. I didn’t push too hard. I told tell her that I didn’t want to do it if she wasn’t going to give me her blessing. And this was probably a good approach. I mean, what if something did go wrong? I would never hear the end of it.

“Apparently, now’s not the right time.”

“$10,000 for room and board!”

“This might make you happy- it can’t be right.”

“It’s true that you can’t love your family more than God- but if you can’t even help the other members of your household, what makes you think you’ll have any luck in the world at large?”

So here we are, back at square one. The show is over and the status quo is restored.

Why am I not thrilled about this? I was perfectly happy before I got the call. Everything is the same, but why do I feel so disappointed?

I know that I’ve got to stop martyring myself, but I don’t want to. You see, I don’t think I really want to accept and embrace the situation. I don’t even think I want things to get better this year. I just want them to see me bravely suffering, and I want them to feel kind of bad about it. Isn’t that messed up? Oh, sure, I won’t cry all the time, but why not sigh every once in a while? Why not let them see the subtle sadness in my eyes?

I know this is stupid, especially when they think they are doing what’s best for me. They really believe they are. And maybe this is what’s best for me. You can’t really argue with God’s decisions. Or, I guess you can, but why even bother in this case? Why can’t I just be flexible and patient? Just a sliver of good attitude would go a long way.

I know that my “dream” couldn’t have been that great in real life. It’s doubtful that I would have found everything that I was looking for there. At the other end of that tunnel is probably just loneliness and confusion, albeit in a different setting.

I really shouldn’t complain. I mean, what would I really complaining about? “Oh, noooo, I have a nice home and my family loves me, and by the way, I am getting a college education and I have a few friends, and the Lord of all creation sent HIs son to die for me so that I could become His daughter and have eternal life, despite all the pathetic failures and horrible, unspeakable  sins tallied against me that will all be wiped away as if they never existed.”

Yeah, doesn’t get that much worse than that.

Hehe

Update

The phone seems to bring more bad news than good news. As my mom dialed the doctor’s office to hear their “message” for me, I was prepared for the worst, but I tried to focus on how green the trees were. “Just be serene like Jesus was.”

I know that sounds really silly.

Finally, the suspense was over. “Her tests all came out fine,” the lady said, “we just wanted you to know that.”

I smiled, how could I not? I”m not diabetic! At least I think so- you’d think they would have told me, right?

Whatever, if fancy medical tests can’t find anything wrong with me, then I suppose it’s not my place to find out what’s wrong with me either.

What’s there left for me to do? How will I spend my time now that I no longer have much cause to worry about my health? I suppose there’s nothing left to do but praise God and pray for those who really are sick. You know, like I should have been doing all along. Life really is short- if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all this, it’s that I must enjoy the moment- however imperfect, however dull, however fleeting- because I know that one day, I’ll remember fondly the flavor of this time in my life. You know, God willing.

I guess there’s not much time for me to worry about if I’ll be here tomorrow, or twenty years from now, or sixty years from now. Who can know for sure anyway? I’m here now- I guess that’s all that counts.

Having Nothing

People open their mouths to jeer at me; they strike my cheek in scorn and unite together against me. God has turned me over to the ungodly and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked. All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target; his archers surround me. Without pity, he pierces my kidneys and spills my gall on the ground. Again and again he bursts upon me; he rushes at me like a warrior. (Job 16:10-14 NIV)

Usually, it seems that there is a kind.of justice in the world. People get certain gifts, certain blessings, certain things, even if those things are not part of their ideal vision for a “better life.” Some people may think of this as the “Invisible hand” in literal, capitalistic terms. Others may think of it as fate, or perhaps liken it to a game of cards (eg. We all get dealt a hand, good or bad or both). But Christians generally think of it as God’s will or God’s plan. Something that is not entirely dependent on actions, merit, luck, or coincidence, but something that has great meaning.

So it seems like most of us get something. We may be severely lacking in one department, but maybe we also have consolations, pleasures, and joys in our everyday lives. Maybe we have certain things that other people don’t have, while lacking things that other people do possess so effortlessly. So it’s kind of a tradeoff.

And then, it seems like some people have absolutely nothing. Look at Job- his family died, his health is in shambles, he has no possessions, everyone hates him… The only thing he has left is God, but he wonders if even God has abandoned him. There are probably a lot more people like this than we may think… people living on the margins of society, who seem to have neither material possessions, a reliable food source, family, reputation, friends, or purpose.

It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t make much sense. Let’s all say a prayer for those people out there, and maybe we can do something about it too.

 

When God Decides to Help Out

Something I’ve always wondered about, and will never know, I suppose, is how much God directly intervenes in our lives. I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who has contemplated this. Is our success a blessing? Failure a wakeup call?

How much are we really in control? Is there a such thing as fate? If God works good through bad circumstances as part of His will, is he condoning any of the sinful actions that came before the event?

But these questions are enough to drive a person crazy. Perhaps my posts in general are a little too inquisistive.

And then, of course, the answer to every question is to trust God. But what does that really mean? Does it mean that we slack up on our efforts, hoping that God will pay the difference? Does it mean that we merely acknowledge the possibility of success or failure based on all our endeavors according to God’s perfect will? Should we leave some things up to God? My gut says yes… But these judgment calls aren’t all that easy when it comes down to it.

We are supposed to let God live through us. But again, that is a vague statement. There’s no roadmap, besides to Bible, which people have yet to find complete agreement on after centuries of interpretation. And the Bible doesn’t give step-by-step, moment by moment instructions for our particular lives.

I’m here to tell you that it’s not easy. It’s easier in the sense that we no longer have to please the world. Which is pretty hard. Climbing up socioeconomic ladders is exhausting. HIS yoke is light in comparsion. But when you’re not carrying a yoke, you’re carrying a cross. Solid wood, friends. Persecution, trials, sacrifice, it’s quite a load. At least we don’t have to go through it alone.

What should we do about all this? Why am I practicing this religion if it’s hard? Here’s what we should do:

1. Not worry about stuff. Like money, food, our job, our health, etc. Have you ever heard other people freaking out about trivial things? Is it attractive?
2. Respect and love those around us. Including ourselves.
3. Be humble.

Not an exhaustive list, but hopefully a reminder. I’ll close with that.

Doubting Again

It is a fact that every Christian doubts from time to time. It is a fact that every Christian falls into sin from time to time. But exactly how far they can fall until it becomes the point of no return- that is very debatable. Of course, it seems like that point doesn’t exist. Doesn’t God’s mercy have no bounds?

IMG_0869

And then, there’s always this verse that scares us. I probably almost wet my pants when I read it:

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NIV)

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted of the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subject Him to public disgrace.”

Of course, there are more than one interpretations of this verse. If you are interested, you should check out this article. Basically, it talks about how this verse is taken out of context, and that it refers more to the impossibility of saving ourselves when we have fallen away rather than the impossibility of being saved. Because all things are possible with God, right?

But now I will abandon this discourse and talk about my own doubt, assuming that I have not been cast under eternal damnation already. Even though things have been going well lately, I have been doubting a lot, thanks to Satan. I am reading 1 Kings at the moment (KJV), and I find myself getting annoyed at times. Like, why did God express it that way? Why did God bother with Israel for so long under such interesting circumstances and evil kings? Why wasn’t He more literary in his narratives? Why does He repeat Himself?

Of course there are answers to these questions, but what God really wants me to know is: HELLO, WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH? I mean really, who am I to be critical? Who am I to be blasphemous? I can feel God telling me off right now like he did to Job, except that I consider myself guiltier than Job. God has been blessing me more than usual, and this is what I have to give Him in return?

I don’t want to be phony, I don’t want to misrepresent myself. I have questioned the merits of following God, I have questioned His word. I have blasphemed, stumbled, been irreverent, ungrateful, disobedient, indulgent to whims and wild emotions, and have probably committed idolatry. Some people say that it is okay to question God, but I think that so easily that gets out of hand. Questioning is normal and natural, to be sure. We see it all over Psalms. But so easily, I think, can it become criticism and bitterness. So we must be careful so that does not happen. We should definitely think about the things that we believe in. We are not mindless robots, because God didn’t make us that way. We should “know how to answer every man.” But don’t get too carried away, too pedantic, too intellectual, too scarf-wearing. At the end of the day, we are all children of God. There are some things we will never understand while we are on earth, and probably some things that we will never fully understand. But we must trust God, I must trust God, because I know that He created the universe and I know that He created me.

PSALM 131

A song of ascents. Of David.

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

 

One of the Good Days

Last night, in one of those blissful in-between states between being awake and sleeping, the times that I feel most close to God (and now my atheist friends will use this as evidence that belief in God is irrational because I feel closer to Him in a half-conscious state), but I felt that I made a very important connection, or rather God showed me an important connection, and I thought it was so important that I absolutely had to blog about it. It was a spiritual click, something that seemed quite brilliant. And now, I can’t remember it. Well, I hope I remember it if it was important, but if not I’ll leave it at this and talk a bit about my experiences today instead.

So, if you read my blog, you’d probably get the impression that I’m someone who is naturally kind of down, but doesn’t want to be. You would be right. It is part of my nature, but I try to fight against it, even though very often it seems like a loosing battle. But I know that God can defeat my absurd emotions, and I look forward to the victory.

But today was one of the good days, truly. I feel generally happy and fulfilled, like I have a good life and I am grateful for it.

Today just got off to a good start. I woke up early by my biological clock, even though I forgot to set my alarm. I thank God for that now. I had time to make myself look presentable, which is unusual. By the way, I need to go into a thing someday about whether or not makeup and fancy dress is a sin. But I’ll leave that to another day.

The morning commute was manageable, and I made it out alive, so I considered that a success. So I go to my classes, and I am able to focus a little better because I came more prepared. And they seemed like generally productive classes. But here is where the real game changer came in. And I think God put this in my life on purpose.

In my playwriting class, we were asked to write scenarios for possible one-scene plays and share them in class. A scenario is basically an outline of a play. Anyway, one of my classmates scenarios involved a Christian boy and a diva-ish, preppy popular girl who was very ungrateful. She would complain about not having a car and little things like that. Meanwhile, a friend of hers had real problems, like a father who got a heart attack among other tragic incidences. Anyway, after the scenario was read, we talked about it. People in the class expressed how they knew people like the first girl, and how they hated those kinds of people. And that’s when it hit me, that I can be like that sometimes. Not the popular and preppy part, but the ungrateful part. I realized, as I was sitting there “I don’t want to be like that at all.” It’s so counterproductive, not conducive at all to the things that I want to do in life. And how does that reflect on God if I can’t be grateful?

So, things went well after that. I mentioned the campus EV I was going to in my last post. Well, I showed up at the designated area on campus, and there was no one there. So it seemed, but then I saw a boy sitting on a bench. I sensed that he might have been there for the same purpose as me, so I started talking to him and turns out he was leading the EV. He didn’t actually think it would be good to evangelize with me, but he talked to me to get a feel for what I’m about, which is understandable. And then I met someone else from the group. They seemed very nice, maybe a little judgmental about me not going to church, and maybe they emphasize the formal church experience just a little too much, but I understand them, and I think they’re sincere. No one can be perfect, after all, you just pray that we’ll all get a little closer.

So then after that, I had dinner with an old friend and went to see her dorm, which was fun. We went to this thai restaurant on campus. I got curry noodles and thai iced tea, which really helped me power through my last class of the day! It’s also funny how caffeine helps me so much with my self expression skills. It just makes me feel like my brain and my mouth have a much better connection, as opposed to a lot of the time when they don’t seem to communicate that much. I hope one day the Holy Spirit Himself will give me that kind of energy!

Well, I’m very sorry if this seems a lot like a journal, and that I didn’t get to do any actual evangelizing today. Hopefully surrounding people who walked by picked up some snippets. It’s just that I’m happy! No, things are not completely resolved, and no, my life is not perfect, but hey, it’s close enough for me. I can work with this! Yes, God has blessed me and I can more than work with it, I  feel like I can live, like I can go on, and keep on going and thrive forever. I feel self-confidence, can you believe it! I not only know, but at the moment I feel that God created me for a reason. I’m not a worthless, awkward alien, but I’m a human being, a child of God, and so are you.

Some Mutuality Required

How do you feel, in a friendship or romantic relationship, when you are doing all the work, spending all the money, devoting all the time and effort? The answer is, pretty lousy. These relationships do not last. That is because relationships are about give and take. And this even applies to our relationship with God. I’m not saying that we can ever truly be on mutual terms with God. This is as impossible as becoming God. But a concept of mutuality is, I believe, required. The way I see it is this:

God
“I’ll pick up the bill, just leave it to me.”

Man
“THANK YOU! Whew, I owe you man. But look, I do have a penny in my pocket, how about I put it towards the tip?”

Or conversely

Man
(Offended) Well, it’s the least you could do, but I’m not even sure you exist. Are you there, God? Look, I’m gonna go wash dishes, I don’t need you. 

One thing people always say is, God bless, or God damn or goddamn (which sometimes almost implies damn God). And then, we ask God for things for ourselves in prayer. God, please give me this, God. Of course this isn’t always wrong, we have permission to supplicate, but what if that’s the extent of our relationship? Praying when we’re sad, or strapped for cash, or we think we’re about to die. It’s like the kid who only calls their parent to ask for money. It’s less than flattering.

In 1 Kings 8, I came across a “blessed be the Lord.” Of course, we usually allow God to do the blessing or damning, if we like to go that way, but what about blessing God? I seems unnatural, impossible, and in a literal sense, it may be. But if God is truly our friend, then shouldn’t we want well-being for Him also? Not that we have the immense power to single-handedly provide it, but can’t there be just some basic good-will there? Some worship?

I could be wrong about a lot of things. I don’t know how God is. But I don’t think I could go wrong by saying, “Blessed be the  name of the Lord,” like in that song. So I’ll leave it at that.