At the end of this all-too-eventful week, I have come to the conclusion that the lesson I am to learn is not to jump to conclusions.
The main event was a sudden death in the family. My dad’s cousin had an undetected blood clot which led to a stroke that filled his brain with blood, leading to brain death. Lots of issues have surfaced because of it, not least of which are the fear of death and the innate sense of injustice (or entitlement?) when death occurs before the age of 70 and before both parents are gone.
But forgive me if I turn inward now and spew out some thoughts about me me me. You see, ’round midweek, my self-absorption turned sour. I was busy feeling illogically low when I felt the question Jesus had put to Peter was being put to me as well: “Do you love me?” I’m afraid my immediate answer was “More than XYZ, Lord?” Then I came to myself and sputtered out, “I don’t know what love is!” I had the strangest dream that night, set in a town or compound by a river and populated with faces and voices familiar and unfamiliar.
The very next morning, at chapel hour in school, I was saved from myself. The song of the hour was “Here I am, Lord”, and the chorus reminded me of exactly what I was doing in Bible college:
Here I am, Lord
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go, Lord
If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart
One of the two students sharing their testimonies during chapel recounted how his great-grandparents and grandparents were miraculously preserved through war and persecution, which reminded me of how my own family on both my mum’s and dad’s sides survived years of turbulence. And I realised once again that the fact I exist in spite of any number of things that could have made this not so (including my dad having girlfriends before my mum) tells me that God wants me around. I am precious to Him. A treasure worth dying for. Ah.
So that night, at my dad’s cousin’s wake, when I was unexpectedly set upon with questions and familial concern about what on earth I was doing with my life, I could agree with all my heart that yes, one must not make major decisions without making sure they’re right, and yes, one must count the cost of studying full-time at this age. (And, come on, whether or not I am in school has no bearing on whether or not the marriage-and-childbearing road is taken.) My aim is true — I cannot imagine a better way to spend the rest of my life than in full-time ministry, and I know I must get as thorough training as I can before doing so. (Though of course some form of ministry work has already been taking place these past few years.)
But here’s the best gift I’ve received this week — the thanks that I give to my Lord Jesus (my gratias tibi ago, Domine) finally went from my head to my heart. Witnessing the layers suffocating the ones I love has brought home to me how astounding it is that I get to be a believer. Me, who grew up not daring to go into water during the month of hungry ghosts, who steered clear of every no-no during Chinese New Year, who observed every rite required for ancestral worship, who basically grew up afraid. If not for my eldest two maternal aunts becoming believers when they married into Christian families, my cousins also becoming believers and sharing the good news of Christ with me, and me somehow being willing to receive and act on that news — I can’t bear to think of the what-if. Sure, I might have checked all the boxes that please my folks. But the fear would have remained, muted and suppressed, but steadily gnawing me to oblivion. Awed by what I have been saved from, even right this very moment, my heart sang with gratitude today. 感恩。
So how did I come to the conclusion that I should not jump to conclusions? Chatting with my pastor’s wife over lunch today, she cautioned against thinking too much — that is, there are many things for which we won’t see the conclusions, but we can trust that we will eventually get the answers we need from God. I see that one fruitless tendency I have is running headlong to the interpretation stage, something which manifests itself in all sorts of areas, from, yes, Bible study, to what is going on in a head not my own. Hermeneutical errors abound. If I really want to lay down my burdens and take up the light and easy yoke, I’d better stop second-guessing what’ll happen to my nearest and dearest, and start living fully in the hope, faith and love to which I have been called. Αμεν!