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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Uniquely Formed

I received a Whatsapp message that jolted me. The sender had sent it with every good intention, and out of love. However, the moment I read it, something in me said very firmly, "No, that is not right." The message was, "Christians enjoy God's approval and blessings when they do His work His way."

Underlying this message are 2 ideas that I reject:
(1) That I have to earn God's approval and blessings by my goodness in doing His work His way.
(2) That I can, by my own strength, do His work His way

Walking With God Is Not Stressful
This is the exact kind of message that discourages The Husband from embracing my religion. I married a good man. He carries himself with more goodness than some Christian men I have encountered, for it is said that church is not a hotel for saints but a hospital for sinners.

Try as I may, The Husband refuses to embrace Christianity. One day, I realised why. Life is stressful enough. Why would you put yourself under the stress of having to earn Another's approval and blessings? And if Christians in church are apt to attribute another person's "lack of blessings" because they "do not do His work His way," then there is the added stress of earning these people's approval too. At work, 6 days a week, one has to earn the approval of colleagues and bosses. Why put oneself through that on Sundays too?

My experience of God lately, has not been thus.

I experience God in the same way my kids experience me. They do not need to earn my approval. My approval is given to them from Day 1. From Day 1, I look at my babies and I already love them. From Day 1, I want to bless them. From Day 1, I see my likeness (or my husband's likeness in them). From Day 1, I am biased for them. From Day 1, I saw them as beautiful.

God Seeks To Form Us To His Image
Along the way, I give my children experiences to form them further to my values and my ways. Some of these experiences may be arduous. Perhaps I might remove a Chinese tutor so that Smelly Boy learns to be an independent learner. Perhaps I might arrange for them to touch a hot hard-boiled egg so that they learn the meaning of "hot" - to protect them in the kitchen. Perhaps I might insist that Smelly Boy make an effort to ring on the neighbours' doorbells to ask for donations. These are uncomfortable experiences but they grow character.

As long as my children yield to me, I can mould them further to my likeness... to believe in what I believe in... to value what I value. And when they believe and value as I do, they will do as I would without having to try... without falling short. The process of sanctification is like that. You cannot do it on your own. You cannot become like a God by yourself. You can yield and let God craft you. God has to craft you... mould you with experiences consistent with His purpose for you.

Similarly, I think God tries to mould me to His likeness. The painful things in my life do not indicate his lack of approval. Trials are not meant to punish me for my waywardness. Pain is not because God disapproves and refuses to bless.

God merely gives me experiences that form me to His likeness. Every single searing pain or debilitating illness is God's love, not his punishment... not his disapproval.

Imprisoned in Silence
In the past 5 years, I have pretty much lead a hermit's life. I avoid most social gatherings. Days go by where I talk to no one in the day. I had to learn to deal with silence and solitude, forced on me by circumstances of ill health. In the beginning, that silence was loud with the voice of my own unhappiness. When my unhappiness stopped talking, I could hear God in my silence.

I began to realise that though I work as no part of a church nor overt ministry, I did God's work with every composition/worksheet I marked and every child that I snatched away from Satan's claws. God is not at church. God is at home. With me. If you truly seek God's face, God will come to you even on an empty island, or a solitary confinement cell.

Uniquely Formed in the Womb and in My Experiences
I soon realised that my PhD was but a sorry excuse for competence, and that sometimes, I already intuitively knew (God breathed wisdom?) what was wrong with the parent-child dynamics... and then I backtracked to the research to be able to explain to layman and non-Christian mommies. I realised that parents could choose to go where I guided them and if they did not so choose, it was not my fault.

I learnt to step away with no regrets, when I knew I could not help.

God would work on them. My job was to speak and advise only. God gave these parents a choice too. If God respects their choices, so then must I. If God wanted to have a whole world full of zombie followers, He would have made the world like that. I learnt to tell God that I needed Him to do my daily work. I learnt to trust God more than I trusted my PhD or research papers. Alone at home, I was never lonely.

I finally began to make sense even of my own childhood. As a child, I was made to eat vomit as punishment for bad behaviour. I was beaten till blood appeared in crimson streaks on my lower calves. Really? That kind of childhood abuse was because God somehow disapproved of me and therefore refused to bless me because I did not do His work as He wanted?

In the past 5 years, I learnt to be truly, from the bottom of my heart, grateful for all that childhood abuse because it equipped me and only me uniquely for the work I do today. Find me someone else in Singapore (with a PhD in Human Motivation scoring in the 98th percentile of the GMAT Verbal Test) and ALSO attuned to children's pain... STILL in touch with the way a child thinks and feels. Even Smelly Boy (at 15 years) has forgotten how to think like a child. We used to have so much fun laughing at things that he no longer laughs at now.

30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.
- Exodus 35 -

So you see, God has a purpose for everyone and I am blessed in that His purpose for me is clear. You see, I craft children, and I think I am uniquely formed by searing pain and debilitating illness, to do this work.

5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;
- Jeremiah 1 -

Yes... yes... yes... to the non-Christian, I probably sound like a nutcase. To the Christian, I probably sound arrogant... like I am set apart and special. But then, dear Christian friend, YOU are uniquely formed too. Also, I am formed for a very small purpose. I am no leader nor evangelist. I am no politician nor CEO nor school principal. I am no mover, no shaker, no captain of industry.

All I do, is teach a few children... but still, uniquely formed I am.

In conclusion, I disagree with "Christians enjoy God's approval and blessings WHEN they do His work His way." What I believe is that if God has formed you for His work, you cannot help but do it His way. There is no need to put in effort nor seek his approval. The skills are given to you by grace of God, and He already approves. You simply yield to Him and miracles will happen even if all you do is breathe.

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