Audience of One

It’s been a great deal of time since I last blogged, and on one hand it’s felt easy to just drop the habit completely; but on the other hand I still feel compelled to share some encouragement with the people around me who might read this. Much has happened in the year and a bit since I last blogged or posted an article. I have done much reflection and I think perhaps it is time to share what I’ve experienced over the last period of time I’ve been silent.

To give an account for my silence (not that I really need to give an answer), it’s been difficult finding time to blog amidst my routine – it’s not that the full time work routine has tired me out but rather it has been a struggle to maintain a discipline of sharing someone online on a regular basis. There were enough things going on my life such that I didn’t want to add to myself the burden of drafting something tasteful to post on the Internet. I haven’t decided in my mind whether I want to come back to blogging but I suppose if something important dwells on my heart, I will probably make time to share it.

The last year and a bit has been much more of a struggle than before, although I would say throughout the last couple of years I have been struggling through a number of issues. I was and still am quite anxious about the way I present myself to the people around me, particular certain groups of Christians. It was something which became more apparent of an issue within the last couple of years but I am certain the source of it was much earlier than that.

What this anxiety has led me to is fear; fear in being confident in my faith and living it out as boldly and as loud as I used to. I reflect on my university days (recorded here on this blog) and I am truly amazed at how much God had blessed me with in those years – the many experiences He built me up in, the wonderful friends He gave to me, and the mysteries of His knowledge which He revealed to me as I studied His Word more and more. These are days I somewhat long for now, more because I felt a lot more comfortable and at peace during those days.

In recent years, a fair bit has changed in my life and God has decided to challenge my circumstances and make things much more of a struggle. I’ve been broken down many times by the hardness of the Christian life and though I’ve contemplated on things that I can do about it; I haven’t really made much progress in getting out of my difficult times. But as I kept reflecting on the way I served the people around me and trying to please them (even Christians), I started becoming more familiar with this concept of an “audience of one” – namely in our lives as Christians, there’s only one person we should focus our attention on; and that is God/Jesus, pleasing other people comes secondary to this.

After much struggling against frustrations with the circumstances around me, I gave up on trying to please certain important people in my life. This was hard for me to do, because it essentially felt like giving up, admitting loss and shame; as well as walking away without reaching a solution. I held onto a lot of guilt within myself as I contemplated on the fact that no solution to my present circumstances could be found. In that moment, I couldn’t comprehend the gravity of the truth that we need only live for God’s glory, and no-one else’s. It relieved a lot of my burden and anxiety.

But remembering that one truth didn’t magically set me at peace. Today I still struggle to figure out how to le that truth shape the way I live. And practically, I mean learning to deal with my present circumstances in a way that conforms with living only for God. When other people’s problems pop up in your face, you cannot simply ignore them or brush them aside, you have to face and deal with them in some way. The relief and comfort I do have now, though, is knowing that even if I fail to deal with each circumstance in the best way – as long as I have remained faithful to God then nothing else matters by comparison.

At the same time this is all happening, I am extremely thankful to God that He has carried my dating relationship for over a year (as any anxious and unconfident boy might feel). My relationship with my girlfriend echoes the idea of learning to live for and please a single person – of course this is not to say that I just neglect all my other friends; balancing relationships is a separate matter to all of this which I hope to reflect on at a later point in time. As corny as it would sound I am really grateful God has given me a close companion (amongst my other close friends) to be able to share my struggles with; I am so thankful for the company, wisdom and advice that she brings.

Stepping back to the present matter I was discussing, I am now aware of the fact that I have developed a tremendous fear to lead and serve in Christian ministry. Today is unfortunately not quite the day to publicly share the circumstance of why I have developed anxiety towards this particular area in my life; perhaps one day it may be. I am sure it is a surprise to many who have known me in my years of service in the past. But I do not think it is a such a strange situation – there are many different bad things which can happen to those who serve God in an upfront and public way. I have definitely learnt a lot from hearing the stories of much older and mature Christians who faced trials in their ministry career, how it affected them and how they got over it in subsequent years.

My heart sinks, knowing that my own trial may last several years more, and perhaps even longer. It sinks at the thought that God has shown me the wonderful blessings that He did years ago, only to take them away in more recent years. But it hasn’t caused my faith to waver, not once. Though I live a more reserved and less “public” life, my fervour to finish the race set out for me has not dwindled in the slightest – it has just been a difficult time figuring out how to respond to my present struggles.

One of the things I decided to do last year to deal with my present situation was to throw myself into the deep end – I took up the commitment of a summer mission with a crowd of people whom I’ve never met or worked with before; with an audience I’ve never had the experience of presenting the gospel to; in a place which I’m not familiar with. It’s not meant to be an “end all” to my anxiety, but a start to working through my anxiety. I hope to be able to share about that experience soon.

So I guess this sums up what has been going on in my life over the last year and a bit. To my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are going through a difficult of whatever nature, my encouragement is to remember that ultimately our lives are lived to an audience of one and we should find contentment in living to solely please God, rather than be gripped by fear and guilt in not living up to other people’s standards. Struggles are never won over the course of a day, a week, a month, or even a year; but living with Jesus at the centre of your life will definitely keep you strong to keep living in this world surrounded by sin from Christians and non-Christians alike.

To those who know me on a more personal level, your prayers would be much appreciated. But then, in all situations, prayer is always the right response!

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