photo credit: meee for once
It's been a while since my last trip, and I realized this when I discovered I had jotted my reflections down on my old phone's notes--about a year since I'd moved on to my current phone!
I can't share any names or places, but I want to share some of those thoughts, because rereading them reminded me all over again to live more thoughtfully, to live more purposefully, to be more aware of how my life works out God's glory. To love better. To live less selfishly (and the phrase "unmitigated selfishness" still pops into my mind now, years later...)
The same underlying spiritual needs, despite all the differences.
When we visited the village, all the way in the mountains, everything seemed so utterly different, so foreign, even unrelatable. The dirt roads. The spluttering tractor which had to be cranked by hand. The fields of vegetables and the brilliant sun stabbing at your eyes even under cap brims and hoods. The small pastel-coloured church with its wooden pews and dusty, candy-coloured walls. The old accordion and piano that came wheezing to life, filling the place with clouds of breathlessly beautiful echoes, thrilling against the walls in golden shivers. When the young people in the choir sang for us I felt a spasm of that tingling, yearning sensation that beauty has on me, as if their white choir robes really were angel's raiment; and simultaneously, an uncomfortable awareness of how ridiculously urban and cold we must have seemed, videoing them with smart phones, jarring the spell of the music. Like Bach being videoed for Youtube. It seemed to tie in to my unconscious sense of the discrepancy between us, the unspoken binary of rural vs urban, and all the associations that thousands of years have handed down to us, the Romantic poets' pet peeve...
And then unexpectedly we were asked to share our testimonies with them, as a form of encouragement. As we clumsily went up the small stage, looking and feeling like sausages in our quilted jackets, thermal wear, and layers of sunblock--to my surprise, we faced a sea of smart phones, all busily recording us!
Naive, wasn't I, to think we were really that different...
And that just reinforced what I later heard about the struggles this particular village church had, which were startlingly parallel to our own testimonies that we had shared. Ironically so. So much for the binary. Those young people singing so angelically, were, like us, kids who had grown up in Christian families, thanks to the missionaries who had first brought the gospel. Like us, they had grown up "christianized", with Christianity as an unquestioned part of their culture, their family, their society. Just like how their abundant musical talent found an outlet in the acapella, choral singing, and music which Christianity had given rise to, making it an integral part of their culture. They went to church, they sang in the choir (and beautifully at that,) they were our counterparts of GCBs and GCGs (Good Christian Boys and Good Christian Girls, acronymns I recently learnt whose existence reflects something about mainstream Christianity's presence in Singapore culture) the only thing being--as with us--that christianized would be more accurate.
So many of us "second-gen" Christians came from a similar background, with its specific challenges and pitfalls. Don't get me wrong! Of course, there are so many advantages and privileges too, but we do need to be aware of the possible problems as well.
So many of us--even well-taught conservative Reformed Baptist kids who can define election and justification in their sleep, and every letter in TULIP--end up relating to Christianity as a lifestyle, broken down into a long list of directions on how to live your life. So many of us, even though we know clearly--thanks to conscientious Sunday School teachers and parents--that we're not saved, find the lines blurring as we live within a "born-again" lifestyle yet without the actual motivation or reason to, other than pleasing our parents or doing what we feel is right. So many of us end up getting disillusioned, feeling oppressed by legalism, and failing to see the true point of it all. And eventually when new passions and desires come crowding into our lives we let it all go, like a burden, feeling like we want to move on to find true fulfilment, true meaning.
The same spiritual challenges and needs, whether on top of the mountain surrounded by random cows and walnut trees, or a 20 storey apartment over a mall in Singapore, with a subway track outside your window and a traffic junction down below.
All God's servants in different countries, ministering in different churches, in different ways, to people who seem so different--yet, really, isn't it the same work? The same needs. The same struggles.
And the same love that started it all, that carries you through, that perseveres...
continued in part 2
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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