About 4 years ago, I posted two articles on my thoughts of dating relationships (part 1 and part 2). They were written 2 years before I actually started dating, and were a reflection of my thoughts and attitudes towards dating at the time. Now that I’m standing at about 2 years into a dating relationship, I wanted to look back and see if my thoughts back then were any different to today. I had forgotten that I had written up more generic thoughts and ideas about the topics, rather than specific ideas I was thinking through at the time. Nevertheless, there are 5 things I’ve learned whilst dating which I feel augment my understanding of dating and marriage from back then. Disclaimer: I am not married, so listen to my experience as you may; as always, discern all things through God’s Word.
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.
“And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:21
When I reflect on the struggles and difficult times in my life, I often come back to the story of Job, and in particular the statement he makes that God is one who gives and takes away. I often see the story of Job and one who at the beginning lost everything except his life, spends many chapters wrestling with his friends about how to make sense of what has happened, and at the end after conversing with God he receives much more from God than what he had originally. And I realised that though I turn to this book in the Bible to find comfort when God has taken away things in my life, I should also be considering the things that God has given me too; we subtly miss the fact that God gives Job many things at the start before he took them away (well, I subtly missed that point).
Recently a number of friends have been telling me about how they found it unhelpful to be pressured into becoming a leader for certain ministries in their respective churches or other Christian organizations and circles. It was hearing about these attitudes being passed around by Christians which made me reflect on the nature of Christian leadership in our culture, and how at times it seems to be steadily deviating from the picture of the leadership that the Bible paints. Note that I am in particular talking about my experiences in my home city; and they may not necessarily reflect the Christian culture in other parts of the world.
The “silver bullet” is a term we assign to a “one-size-fits-all” strategy for the things we do in our lives. Typically, we lump similar tasks and actions together and we train ourselves to treat them all like the same thing – to do them with the same approach, method, or mentality and hope to reap the same rewards from each of those tasks. The main benefit we see from living our lives with a “silver bullet” mentality is that it allows us to get more things done in life. We can be more efficient in saving time, energy and money (all valuable resources) by recycling our methods and strategies for multiple things. As a simple example, parents can feed their two children two different dishes for lunch, or they could adopt a “silver bullet” mentality and cook the same thing for both their children. We hear our parents complain about this all the time, that it’s much less time consuming to cook one thing (but make twice the amount) than to cook two different things; not to mention that it may be cheaper to cook in bulk rather than in small quantities. But what does the Bible have to say about this sort of mentality, and how are Christians meant to use or not use this “one size fits all” strategy?
One of my focuses this year has been Christian discipleship. It was something I became a bit more familiar with towards the final years of university; and it’s funny thinking back to when I was in first and second year, where the idea of sitting down with one person and having deep conversations about life, God and the Bible seemed very uncomfortable. In third and fourth year, I started to see the value and importance of building those sorts of “intimate” relationships with Christians and non-Christians and the way it impacts our growth as Christians, and those investigating Christianity. This year I have tried to embrace it as much as I could, as part of the way I would undergo ministry in the long run; there were still so many things to experiment with in making one to one discipleship more effective. And then of course there was also a need to see how I might be able to fit one to one discipleship into my full time work routine (I’d like to order the words the other way, and have work revolve around ministry, but time-wise it still seems apparent that I spend more time doing full-time work than ministry).
Let me continue on from my previous post and reflect on the other areas of my life for this year. Previously, I addressed full time work as succinctly as I could, seeing as it took up the majority of my time in a week. There would still be much more to say about work and all, but I suppose for now it is not the most urgent thing on my mind; ironically, it feels like work should be the most important thing for me now, giving the amount of time I invest into it daily. But in trying to keep a healthy perspective of (my) life, I’ve invested more energy and thought into ministry instead.
Our actions are influenced by a variety of things around us. If we try to trace back where our actions come from, we would first say that our “decisions” influence our actions – we choose to actively perform that particular action, and we also decide our action is “right” or “wrong”. But where do the decisions for our actions come from? I would like the investigate just two sources which loosely covers where all our decisions and actions come from – our minds and our hearts. When we think of our minds and our hearts together, some of us might instantly think of the notion that what we think and what we feel are opposed to one another; a battle of logic against emotions that rages within us. As Christians, though we already have been saved through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, we still need to pay careful attention to the way we live. And if indeed we go by the classic idea that our convictions and our feelings are opposed to each other, then we need to figure out how we’re going choose the right thing to do.
A lot of us as Christians understand the need to “grow” as a Christian. From when we first repent and turn to the Lord Jesus, up to and beyond the times we go into ministry and start serving and bringing others to Christ, we always need to strive to become more Christ-like. Some of the things we do in the process of “growing” as a Christian includes: reading and understanding the Bible, practising godliness, and earning skills needed to serve and train others. Undoubtedly, there will come a time when we feel we cannot grow anymore, or that it feels like we are growing much slower than we used to when we were younger in our faith. What happened?
Today I was reminded a bit more about the importance of pondering over the things we learn and do. A lot of the time we try to be productive and efficient and feel that the best way to understand something is to spend as much time actually “doing” something. Be it studying (for academic marks), reading the Bible (to increase our theological understanding), or talking to someone (to build relationships), we feel that the more we do these things, the faster we strive towards our goal. But in thinking back about the concept of a “Sabbath”, we know God has deemed “rest” to be good, and is in fact useful for us to grow as Christians. If we use our resting time to ponder/reflect/think deeply about what we’ve done/heard/read, it’ll ultimately help us to make sense of our past experiences and plan well for the future.
Commonly when we do things for other people, in whatever ways it might be in, we typically want something back. In light of seeing God’s grace (a free gift that we do not deserve) for us through Jesus Christ, Christians have learnt what loving grace is: it is caring for someone else without expecting anything in return. Whether it be saying something encouraging, giving someone a present, giving someone a lift or spending time for someone, we know that it is real genuine love if we do these things without wanting anything in return. Love is selfless and with the idea of grace permeating the whole of a Christian’s life, the balanced “equation” of receiving what you give out no longer holds. To some degree, the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is talking about doing things you “hope” others will do back for you, but they may not necessarily return that favour. The golden rule is about giving than receiving.