On church, commitment, and hardship.

In the past two years, I found it really hard for me to attend church because I couldn’t eat anything and I guess I just felt like I didn’t belong to that place. This includes school as well, because food is a social activity. And hence I have the habit of just disappearing after class, I just felt so estranged from everyone else. I know it might seem strange to some that I’m attending church related things twice a week now, but hey this is my 2nd month being able to eat whatever I want! Got to grab my opportunities while I am still able to socialize. I guess being physically sick has taught me to be patient and to work at things for a long time, understanding that good results are possible by watching other people who have been successful with their own attempts. Church is a commitment that I choose to make, it is like running a marathon, you will have to check in at all the checkpoints and only realise the value at the end. I am still open to the possibility that there is nothing after death, nothing at all. And I’m okay with that. Because there are plenty of good people in church, it teaches me to be less self-absorbed.

I don’t know whether or not I truly believe (the sort where you see people proclaiming their love for Christ and are willing to die by the sword), but I am going to learn as much as possible within the next four years and then evaluate if I really do believe. Until then, whatever information I have is probably too little to go on with. You can’t make an informed decision about something as important as religion based on a few books or with whoever you are attracted to at the moment. I believe it is something to be experienced, through hardship, and in a group of people who are able to guide me.

Some learning points from the sermon today by Dr Clay Jones. He is a speaker from the Reasonable Faith conference, an associate professor teaching Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Before he started he reminded us once again to constantly meditate on the word of God, that if we trust and be faithful in the small things, we will also prove faithful in the big things. I must say I started drawing question marks on my paper at that point in time because I find it very hard to relax and trust, it is like asking me to date an African porcupine.

http://www.clayjones.net/

Apologetics doesn’t come from the word ‘apologize’, or to be sorry for. It actually means using reasoned arguments to justify something- basically, in defence of Christianity. The title of his sermon was ‘Adoption, Suffering and Glory’.

There are 7 (hastily written down and somewhat rephrased) points when you are adopted into Christ’s family. Adopted because none of us are naturally born a Christian, it is a choice we make. Hope means that we desire something and we expect it to happen. Being committing to the 7 pointers, it is hoped that we will make some sort of progress and be a more mature Christian.

  1. Don’t bring shame on the family name. By acting in a sinful way- adultery, murder etc. And other smaller deeds like being arrogant or untrustworthy.
  2. Don’t disown the family even if it results in persecution. We share in his sufferings so that we may also share in his glory. We are co-heirs to the kingdom of God. (Personally, I doubt I can do this. I am, in Chinese, a 胆小鬼.)
  3. If you are really born of God, you will acquire his character and not go on sinning. Knowing that you are struggling is a good thing, you expect yourself to struggle.
  4. Become one with Him. Reading the Old Testament would reveal that it was previously very difficult to be near God, and only priests could access the holy places. In the New Testament things were made easier for us, but are we still seeking him and talking to him openly? He also mentioned that it is harder if we are conscious of sin (friends with benefits etc), we know that we are rebellious and we are less likely to open our hearts to anyone religious.
  5. We receive His discipline. So that we are made into children he can be proud of. In secondary school there were a lot of kids who identified with being a ‘child of God’ on their blogs, including me lol. But it honestly meant nothing at that time.
  6. And if you do all things in His name, you will one day handle His things. “for these words are trustworthy and true”, he who “overcomes adversity will inherit all things”. Which is very similar to point 7, which is
  7. If everything belongs to you, you will reign over it. To be frank I don’t like point 6 and 7. He got into how verses in the bible said that men will rule over all things, and we will reign over his kingdom etc. Frankly I don’t want to reign over anything. It is too much responsibility. Maybe I am interpreting this wrongly, but I genuinely just want to be alone with some sheep and lots of grass and water.

Which is what I meant by hastily written down. He speaks rather fast, and I think some of the points overlap? But anyway. It is food for thought, especially the part about opening your hearts and praying.

(I wrote this on the uber ride to church. It seems fitting to be under ‘suffering’.)

It is the spaces in between periods of poor mental health that is both a joy and a fear. I feel joy because I am finally free of all the irrational thoughts and painful feelings. I feel fear because the space in between reminds me of what I went through and what I lost. ‘I am safe now’, and then my brain does a sort of tally of what I stand to lose. Everything might be reset according to some arbitrary law that I cannot see.

There is a huge difference in knowing rationally that there is sunshine, and feeling connected to the sunshine. That the sun is shining on me, and I am part of the cycle of life. Feeling my skin respond to the warmth of the light. It took a while to breathe, to really breathe, not just mechanically draw in air and stare out of the bus window. And to feel my brain cells working instead of just being in a daze, like I’m underwater or befuddled with smoke. Slowly, slowly, I come to terms with having to learn to be human again. Learning my feelings, learning my mannerisms. Learning to not run into the nearest small and empty space when the crowds get too much. Learning everything as if I am a child once more.

Psychiatrists know this well- some survive, some don’t, and most who receive good health care of the standard that I have (private patient under a specialist in Singapore etc), they manage to find a sort of life of their own. I might not prosper, none of my initial hopes or bucket list ideas might come true. But until the day I die, I have the responsibility to survive until I, once again, can feel the dawn.

morning/evening questions

I was sent these questions by a friend. My right arm is hurting from TCM (acupuncture and electric currents and chicken essence bottles to draw out the blood again) so I shall rest a bit and answer the questions, before starting on work.

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
― Epicurus

(the morning reflection)

  • What am I happy about in my life now?

Having just survived another round of TCM. Being able to drink kopi siu dai out of a plastic bag from the hawker centre. Drinking that a year ago would have induced instant diarrhea. Oh and I had biscuits with tuna mayo this morning!!! That is freaking amazing to me.

  • What am I excited about in my life now?

The possibility that the bulk of deadlines for my modules/final job interviews will end this week. If I suck at all of them, I will have April to try again. And May. And June.

  • What am I proud about in my life now?

My patience. I might be fatter but I am kinder to myself. I am regulating my emotions, my time, and not being very productive but as Frankl states, we are not aiming for a tensionless state, but rather, a balancing of tension. Between where I am right now and where I want to be. (I do moan a bit about my feelings to my friends, for whom I’m very grateful for. Hehe.)

  • What am I grateful about in my life now?

That I don’t have anxiety today. I might be ugly but I am not hiding under the bedcovers.

  • What am I enjoying most in my life now?

Learning more about myself? Going for service and learning new things every week? It’s like knowledge without having to pay money for it, if you discount the tithing.

  • What am I committed to in my life now?

Good question. This is a very good question. I don’t know. I feel that I am working but my productivity is decreasing (maybe cause it’s my period next week) and I don’t have any strong commitments that I made time for, unlike a month ago. I think I need to reconsider my efforts, but I am rather tired this month.

  • Who do I love?  Who loves me?

Again, this is a good question. I know my dad loves me because he bought me chicken feet to boil into a potato/onion soup at night (while he goes out for dinner with his friends). I know I love my old foster brothers but I am not allowed to see them. I was dreaming of a fattish and fair-skinned toddler while under acupuncture this morning, it really helps to take away my focus on the pain if I imagine a toddler with fluffy hair bringing me plates of imaginary char siew rice. I always teach them to ‘cook’ with toys haha.

(the night reflection, doing it for last night)

  • What have I given today?

My time writing blog posts and my time reading harry potter and the deathly hallows for the sixth time in my life. Also, I put in effort to participate in an online meeting, but that didn’t go very well lol.

  • What did I learn today?

That even during online meetings, I can’t touch my dog pillow or play with my phone because there’s a video camera function and everyone can see how distracted I am. Even if I contribute. Because being a facilitator requires attention, and it is not enough to just be an individual contributor. Also, to watch my tone and words used.

  • How has today added to the quality of my life or how can I use today as an investment in my future?

I enjoyed the writing bit! It’s a first draft done in one sitting, I could have edited it more. Actually, I am thinking about only allowing myself to write once every two weeks so that I can produce better content, instead of just uploading whatever comes to my mind because it then becomes very quantity > quality. I rarely find ‘flow’ when I am writing for ten minutes a day.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson