Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Blessing in Disguise

We are constantly bombarded with unpleasant and tragic news. Now and then, we hear about the news of a friend's parent who was diagnosed with a terminal illness, a friend's grandmother who slipped in the bathroom and suffered concussion, a friend who met with a fatal accident etc. The list seems endless. These news are so frequent that we have become immune towards them. We may feel sad at the moment we receive the news, we may sympathize and try to comfort the person at that moment; but after a day or two, our life goes back to normal and we totally forget about the incident.

Yet, it is a different story altogether when we or our loved ones play the leading roles in the unpleasant drama. On 9th August, I was robbed by two Chinese and I lost RM 200, my handphone and my watch. My immediate response towards the loss of material possessions revealed the depth of my attachment towards and love for temporal wealth. Through the incident, I was challenged to reexamine my love for God versus my love for wealth. Eventually, my heart was at peace and I was able to tell God, "These things are of no value to me, as long as I have your love, nothing else matters."

Other than that, I was emotionally shaken for a couple of days. Yet, as I travel through the emotional valleys, I began to understand how others feel when they endure through unpleasant experiences. This experience of mine is precious to me because it enables me to empathize (not just sympathize) with others, understanding how others feel when they go through those difficult moments.

Thanks to the incident, I was able to reexamine my love towards God and towards wealth. Furthermore, the experience enables me in the future to empathize with others when they go through similar experiences. I know that I have a story to tell that can bring comfort and healing to others.

Blessing in disguise, isn't it? Thank you, Abba Father.


Art of Listening

We are always in a rush. It seems that we always have too little time to complete all the tasks in our daily lives. Therefore, we attempt to accomplish each task in the shortest time possible so that we can utilize our time in the best way that we can.

As a result of our hurried lifestyle, we always hear but seldom listen. We just cannot afford to waste our time to listen to what others have to say unless the information provided is useful to us. Therefore, if we come across someone who desires to share his or her life story and struggles, we would tend to shun away from that person or try to find ways to stop that person from telling his or her story. We would rather spend those precious moments attending to our own needs and struggles.

Yet, perhaps what lie beneath these stories and struggles are hidden treasures that may prove valuable to us. Without the stories of others, we are only confined to our own limited experiences. Yet, by listening to the stories and struggles of others, we are confronted by experiences of others that we may never have an opportunity to experience them personally. As a result, our understanding of humanity (ourselves and others) can be greatly enriched and deepened.

Furthermore, the art of listening also challenges our love and patience towards others. How does it feel when someone intrudes into our busy life, disrupting our daily schedule by demanding our time and attention to listen to his or her life story? It is at this very moment of inconvenience that our love and patience towards others is being challenged and refined. It is at this moment that we come to realize that the act of listening is an act of love.

Whoever said that when we sacrifice our time to listen to the stories and struggles of others, we are doing them a favour? It seems to me that it benefits the listener more than the storyteller.

Let us rediscover the dying art of listening, shall we?


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thinking about Him (5)


During his three years of ministry on earth, Jesus was always followed by a large crowd of people. Some were attracted to him because of his forceful teachings that enlightened their minds and touched their hearts. Some were amazed at the miracles that he performed and were curious of the identity of this person. Many others were waiting for him to lead them in driving out the Romans from their homeland. Everyone carried with him/her different expectation and understanding of Jesus.

When Jesus started to reveal his identity, his mission and his demands on his followers, more and more people left him because they realized that he did not match their expectation of who he should be. They found out that there was a price to pay in following him, and it was a price they found it too high to pay. Therefore, they turned their backs and left Jesus. Although Jesus knew that by revealing his identity and the cost that his followers had to pay, many would abandon him; he chose to tell the truth anyway.

In the churches today, it seems that a different Jesus is being preached. In order to attract more people into their churches, preachers preach of a Jesus that lived a comfortable and luxurious life while he was on earth. Seldom do the listeners hear about the suffering that Jesus had to endure, neither do they hear about the price of following Jesus. Unsurprisingly, in churches where this Jesus is being preached, people flocked into these churches not knowing the full cost of being his followers.

Perhaps we need to look again to the Jesus of Nazareth and listen once again to his demands and expectations that he has towards his followers. Perhaps we need to once again count the cost of following him. Then, perhaps, we will be able to make a genuine decision to choose to follow him or to leave him.