I am not myself anymore

All is for your glory

Two years, was what it took for God to fix my eyes on Him. I guess I’m an extremely slow learner. For the past two years since graduation, I’ve only worked for 6 months in a full time job. The other one and a half years was spent freelancing, and basically doing nothing. Yes, I sound like a failure honestly, I get by day to day, I have no savings, I don’t know what to do with my life, I spend most of my mornings and afternoons at home while others work. And hola, I’m 22 years old.

Yet ever since I could remember, my life was packed with achieving things. From studying, to dancing, to church, to family; all areas of my life was me trying to prove to the world that I am ‘good enough’, that I am ‘talented’, ‘look at me I can balance all these areas of my life and excel and look like it’s a breeze while doing it’. Well, this is the culture we grew up in, and if we fall behind just for a step, we don’t get noticed, and that is the most horrible feeling ever.

Just this weekend, my cousin (who’s 13) showed me a picture of her friend and asked me if she looked pretty. And here’s how the conversation went:

Cous: Is she pretty? (passes me her phone with her friend’s picture in it)

Me: She looks normal. So-so lor.

Cous: Then why does she have 17k followers on Instagram? (turns away to continue scrolling through her insta)

Cous’ Mum (who was there through this whole conversation) : She is always so concerned about her Instagram, and she will always complain about having “only 5 likes for the past 5mins”, compare herself with her friends…

Well this is not a rant of how materialistic teenagers are getting now, or that they do not see how big the world is aside from ‘likes’ from social media. Honestly, my heart broke for her, because this is the world she was born into. Where worth is based on how you look, dress and perform on social media platforms. To us who are older and have lived without days of wifi and internet, their worries are childish and small. But to them, this might just affect how they view themselves in this critical age of growing up and finding themselves.

Which led me to think “what about the world I was born into”? I’m sure degrees and diplomas didn’t even matter at a time. I’m sure earning much and saving for a roof over our heads wasn’t the reason why people lived in a time in history. I’m sure getting a good looking talented other half doesn’t give you ‘street cred’ a thousand years ago. And if all these doesn’t matter, all these things I am chasing for, better qualifications and better way of life and looking good, THEN WHAT THE HECK AM I LIVING FOR.

It took God two years, to bring me to a place where I could do nothing for myself. Of literally nothing. I woke up for almost a month every morning with nothing on my schedule (that hasn’t happened in years). I was forced to confront this emptiness within me that I have unknowingly pushed back with many meaningful, churchy, good things. They are not wrong, but too many times we are thrown with wave after waves of activities, of people to “disciple”, things to lead, that we forget what it feels like to really be seeking the will of Jesus. When God forced all these away from me, I woke every morning just sitting at His feet and asking Him for the exact things to do. Should I go out? Where should I go? Who should I text? Should I look for a job? What is on Your mind? Should I intercede for this person? Should I eat? Every detail of my life was dictated by Him. If He says stay at home and do nothing, I stay. If He says don’t eat because I don’t need it, I don’t. There was no questioning. I’ve learnt how to flow with His spirit, to enjoy just His presence and want nothing more.

In His presence I found the me that I hold on to slowly melting away under His love. In His love I literally lose myself. I once wanted people to see me as capable, independent, witty, humorous, talented.. the list goes on. My identity gets affirmed every time someone affirms me in those areas, or tells me those characteristics were what they thought of me. Problem is, those were not what God made me to be. He was calling me to Himself, to see how He created me to be, to see the dreams He has knitted into me before I was in my mother’s womb.

It can only make sense when we experience the overwhelming love of God. I am safe to be gentle to the people around me because He is my protector. No longer do I have to build up walls or speak with ‘spikes’ to protect myself. I am safe to dispose so much joy and love and belief in others without the fear of receiving none back because He is the source of my love and joy and hope. I am not XinRu/Beatrix anymore, yet I am so much more like XinRu/Beatrix now, because He allowed me to lose and find myself in Him.

Oh may I never lose the wonder

 

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Jesus I cannot feel you

This is hard to put to words. Jesus come and take over, because you are still Lord and you are still good.

Before I start I would like to say that I am not saying that it is okay to not experience Jesus.

For months, I was living in the inner courts of God’s presence, I wake up and I looked forward to my time with Him. Oh I could just sit by the window for hours on end just conversing with Him, reading His word and worshipping Him. He would tell me what to do for that day, He will instruct me on some decisions, He spoke to me like I would speak to a friend. But for the past two weeks the spot I once sat sipping on heavenly wine has became a battlefield. Of telling myself to “seek Jesus more” and “stop striving”. It was like a spiritual tug of war happening in my mind.

Jesus am I wanting you enough for you to come and visit me to make me feel your tangible presence? Am I not hungry enough for you?

I was beating myself up for not being able to experience Jesus.  Then it dawned upon me, I was asking for the wrong thing. I was seeking the feeling of the presence of Jesus. It was becoming dangerous. It is always dangerous when we seek something outside of God himself. An experience with the holy spirit. A feeling of peace. When we stop checking what we are yearning to feel, the devil takes a hold of it and manipulates it to lead us away from God himself. The devil does anything to slow us down, to cast our focus somewhere else, anywhere else where he has upper ground. Anywhere where we don’t allow Jesus full reign, the devil has the upper hand. I am not to strive to be close to Jesus because He already did everything to draw near to us! He died just so He could send the spirit to live within me. How dare I beg for Him to draw closer when He is living inside me?

There are days God chooses to draw near to us to experience His spirit and His heart. These are for His glory. There are days where He chooses to pull back. These are for His glory too. It is not us in our own understanding to decide on His days and times. We are called to live by faith.

1 Peter 1 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I feel like the book of Job is slowly coming to life. It was never about Job’s sickness or loss of wealth or that his whole family died. It was discerning heavenly times, the wisdom of God and faith to hold onto God’s promises even when it hurts and He chooses to be distant.

I shall not want, no I shall not want, when I taste your goodness I shall not want. When I taste your goodness I shall not want. – Audrey Assad , I Shall Not Want

It’s ok

(Jesus I commit whatever I type into Your hands. Let not my pride get in the way.)

We have grew up in an environment teaching us that being unemotional is being strong. I remember being praised for being able to hold my emotions in as I led a group of students, and I took so much pride in that. In being able to not show anyone an inch of what I feel inside. It was not like I had something to hide, but slowly I don’t know how to feel about things anymore. Everything was just “o.k.”. Nothing could faze me, I just took on whatever was thrown to me and that was all. Other than feeling stressed from school, tired from work, happy because there is no work, bored because there is nothing to do; nothing happened in the deep recesses of my heart. It was empty.

I remember a worship session in church where I saw a friend of mine on his knees and weeping out to God. I remember asking God what is he experiencing with you right now? Why have I never weeped like this? Why is it Your love can bring him to his knees and not me to mine? For the first time, something bothered me, I can’t put off this feeling that I am missing out on something bigger, something real and beautiful. Who is this God that can bring people to their knees? I want to know this God.

Thus started my crazy journey with Jesus, with this three word prayer “我也要”. I’ve been a christian for 10 years, I’ve ‘served’, I’ve been leading, been ‘doing well’, haha but God threw that all out the window. I didn’t know Him at all. When I prayed “我也要” (in a singaporean slang it’s “I also want”. In proper english it’s “I want it too”). It was the first time I hungered for Jesus, and Jesus alone. Not to help me in my problems, not to ‘show up’ at worship sessions I’m leading, not to tell me what is the next step in life.

I knew how to run the church, but I didn’t know His heart. I knew how to be a christian, I didn’t know how to be His child. His spirit came crashing down into my living room on an extremely normal night. I found myself on my knees sobbing and asking God what He wants to do in my life, and to take it wherever He wants to. I found myself dancing in joy at 2am in my living room. God whetted my appetite for heaven. One taste of heaven on earth is not enough. I haven’t cried for years. I haven’t felt anything that real for years. It was as if my heart has woken up from its slumber.

God takes our emotions very seriously. He cares about our emotions even more than we do! We don’t have to put our emotions aside to serve Jesus. He loves it when we give Him our heart, because He knows the best way to heal it. He lavishes love, He hates evil, He is jealous when we put others before Him, He dances over us, He sends flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder, but speaks in a gentle whisper. He is dramatic, He is emotional, and He is so alive! We have been set free to feel about things, stop “getting shit together” before we come before our Father who knows us inside out, yet showers us again and again with unfailing love.

We’ve been called to be alive. To feel the agony of Job when God allows Satan to test us beyond what we can ever imagine. To feel the desperation of the woman who bled for years and crawled on the ground just to touch the robe of Jesus. We are called to experience. Without experience God is just a textbook God, but when we’ve experienced Him, He becomes Lord. He will take your breath away, He will command all your attention, and the world dulls in comparison to His glory.

Dancing by the River

For the longest time I’ve been struggling with dance, and this whole term of “dancing for Jesus”. To me dancing for Jesus means training myself to be a very very good dancer, and then telling people that it’s because of Jesus that I am there. (I tried it, but most of the time I just get derailed and forget I’m doing it for Jesus) To some others dancing for Jesus means just being faithful to the gift by attending practices week in week out, and serving in the church. 

Problem is, both are not how God has wired us to be. Both ways lead us into deadness in the spirit. Why? You may ask. Well because in both ways, we fail to see the power of the gift that He has put within us. It might be singing, dancing, drawing, playing instruments, all these God has created it for us to declare victory, tear down strongholds, change atmospheres. But sadly it has become more of “I serve God by playing guitar on the stage for services weekly”, or “I serve God in church, practicing for a special service item now”. How small have we made our God given talents to be! Have we dared to ask ourselves how God wants us to use it? 

My first time experiencing freedom and power while dancing was in my school dance team. I have never felt so much love, so much power, explode from a dance before. At the end of the item, we were all in tears. The atmosphere shifted in the auditorium, the atmosphere that was just moments before so deflated because everyone was stretched past their limits for months. There was a power that came from us loving dance, and wanting to fight for one another because we just believed. 

That experience threw me off. There was a question that was always bubbling beneath the surface and I could no longer ignore or give a half hearted answer to. I started asking Jesus how would He want dance to look like, and how I should dance. I am just at baby steps to learning, and seeing how God envisions His gift to be. 

I’ve decided to make my up-coming performance an experiment — to literally put God first before whatever we do and give him all control in the process. Every training, we spent time to pray deeper, no matter if people came late, we will never cut the time taken to pray to fit our agenda of the day in. Two trainings before the real thing, we spent more than half the practice singing and worshipping Jesus. That took a lot of faith because it’s always crunch time when the performance is nearing. But whatever, Jesus we are trusting this to you anyway. Many a times I set days aside to choreograph but God withholds until the training itself where I am supposed to teach, to give me steps and ideas and moves as I go! It was an amazing feeling. And no, it had nothing to do with improvising or laziness, Jesus just wanted to show how awesome He could be. Every training that we invited the Holy Spirt in, His presence was obvious; and days that we took it into our own hands, the dull atmosphere and inefficiency showed the many things that are beyond our control.

One day before the performance, God made clearer what I thought was already clear within me.

2 Corinthians 4

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Treasure in Jars of Clay

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

 

For the longest time I thought that the “treasures” in jars of clay meant the gifts/talents that God has given us, but not at all! It is the KNOWLEDGE OF THE GLORY OF GOD. We have this knowledge because we as children of God have seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. That is what we are to show when we are singing, dancing, playing our instruments, serving, doing our work. We have this glory waiting to burst forth through us, “for what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord“.

I have never had so many people tell me that they were excited to praise God after watching a dance performance. Not just the audience, but us who were dancing too! Oh, what great freedom was in the place! There was no difference what we term it, “spontaneous dancing”, or a dance performance, all are to usher in the presence of God. It was like we have just stepped an inch into the joy and delight that God made dancing to be. God, I pray that my love for you is greater than my love for dance, and your power burst through these little talents you have given us, to change atmospheres, to teardown strongholds, to declare victory and freedom! We are just flowing where your river of presence is flowing. Let us all go down to the river.

He Won’t Let Me

It frustrates me that I could never seem to express my thoughts succinctly. They usually come out in long, broken and confusing sentences and explains extremely inadequately how I truly feel and think. Days like these, even more. Oh Holy Spirit, how I need you.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)  —  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

I find myself at a loss of words when someone asks me how I am doing with Jesus. It has been a week of wrestling with the Spirit, He has been revealing to me my way of life, way of words, my way of looking at myself. I have never been one to feel “sinful”, maybe because I’ve always just judged myself by what I do on the outside. You get what I mean. I don’t do what you call bad stuff, I volunteer, I lead, people praise you for what you can do and for your good heart. It carried on into my life with Jesus too. How scary it is to come in front of the Mighty and Perfect One and not get knocked onto my knees in worship. But the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, He is the one who partners with us, opens our eyes to the glory of heaven.

One night while heading home after a long day, the Holy Spirit highlighted to me every little detail and motive behind what I did through the day; why I said what I said, how I responded with envy instead of humility, bitterness instead of joy. A guilt like never before struck me powerfully, and I went home and bowed on my knees, just crying out because of the guilt that I carried in my heart. It was as heavy weight to carry, and I’ve been carrying it for weeks. Jesus knew that. God led me to pray the prayer of David in Psalms.

 

Psalm 51 (NLT) For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins,[c] and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
    and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
    then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
    that my mouth may praise you.

16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

 

 

Just as I asked for His forgiveness like David did, Jesus spoke ever so surely and gently, “I love you, nothing you do will change my love for you. Nothing at all.” He was smiling, He wanted me to praise Him and to love Him back. Nothing has changed, He’s still dancing over me! He won’t let me stay in guilt. Guilt is not for us to hold, it’s for us to surrender and to allow Him to wash over us in His love and His joy. Thank you Jesus!

Conditioning

I had a sudden thought of publishing a blog post when I started on my forty day fast, to help me journal how I felt and how I grew through those forty days. But my extremely procrastinating self has dragged me on till now, the fortieth day. I’m staring at the clock and it is two more hours until midnight, where I could finally break my fast and eat all the foods I have been craving for. Yet here I am typing on my keyboard, not actually excited to eat, and not really hungry.

I have not eaten for the past forty days; well not technically cause I was too hungry some days and gobbled down slices of bread (and ate while visiting relatives in the chinese new year season). But other than that, just liquids. The past days have been the longest days of my life. Without food it seems as if time passes really slowly, there was nothing to look forward to at all. Wait. That was when I realised how much my highlight of my day was food. When I get angry, I look forward to eating. When I had a bad day, I crave for my favourite food. When I am sad, I eat. When I feel empty, I eat. And when I stopped, I see that my life was so closely tied to food that it seems I couldn’t live without it.

The reason of my fasting was because Jesus has dropped within my heart to start on a forty day water fast. I couldn’t reject, because I know God has been preparing my heart for it, and I could feel a hunger welling up within. Hunger not for the things of this world, but for the things of heaven. I could feel the pain in my heart as I cried out MORE LORD, because the world just dulls in comparison to heaven. Just based on this heart cry, my friend Xaria and I started on this forty day journey. More of you Holy Spirit. More of you God. More than my endless obsession for food. Man does not live on bread alone but every word that comes from the Father’s mouth.

Day 1 : I have a gastric problem, and that has always been my reason of not fasting full meals when leaders challenge for it. Here I am on day 1, waking up feeling hungry ALREADY. Breakfast is my favourite meal, so say goodbye to pancakes and toast and bee hoon and the list goes on. Finished the day well by taking time to soak in His presence and worshipping. Not so hungry when I force my mind off food.

Day 3 : Woke up and while walking to the toilet I blacked out for awhile because there was only water in my system. I felt horrible and weak. Took a nap in the afternoon because I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Basically slept through my day so I’m nearer to the end. Not a good day at all.

Day 7 : Feeling hungry feels normal now. I guess my stomach got used to it. I’ve lost 3kg in a week, but my body feels better. Started planning to meet people more, and also going for meetings. But guess what all these entails? Food. We always have food during our meetings, before our meetings, after our meetings. We are Singaporeans, right? Lord I need so so so much of your strength to pull me through.

Day 8-19 : Ate pieces of bread between these days. Got distracted with videos. Watched A LOT of Jamie Oliver and Gordan Ramsay, precisely because I could not eat. Have an arsenal of healthy recipes in my computer now and planning to cook every single one of them for myself once this ends. God then rebuked me on focusing on what I could not have instead of what He has so abundantly in store for me. I wanted to share this because people I meet asked me if I felt hungry through the fast, maybe because they thought I was so “holy” I couldn’t feel the hunger. But nopes. It was a struggle even now. During this period even more so because the body has grown so used to hunger, the mind has less discipline to run to God to get by the day. Lord your words are like honey to Daniel’s mouth, I want to taste your words like Daniel did too. Help me not forget the reason why I started.

Day 20 : Had an overnight prayer meet with Xaria. Watched Holy Ghost Reborn and was torn by the power of the Holy Spirit exploding through the movie. God was here, and God was delighted that we chose to dwell at His feet.

Day 25-27: Chinese New Year came along and it’s hard to say no to food when the point of reunion, other than the reunion, was food. I ate a lot, but at the end of the day, I felt so empty. I could literally feel that my soul was empty even as I filled my stomach with steamboat and grilled meats.

Day 35-37 : Batam Missions Trip was extremely draining because I couldn’t sense the holy spirit, and the days are packed to the brim. However I could see how all things and people fell into place as we went, and God’s presence showed up at 2am on the last night when we ended with a short worship and discussed how to improve on future visits.

Day 40 : Went grocery shopping cause I was so excited to break fast. God has taught me so much. It eclipses my need for food.

At the end of this fast, I’ve learnt a few things.

Our culture revolves so closely around food that we try to downplay fasting as much a possible because we actually cannot imagine ourselves without food. Prayer and Fasting comes together in almost every verse you can find in the Bible yet we constantly effectively forget that. If our fasting cannot rise up and challenge the fasting of other religions, how could the devil lose the foothold he has in them?

We unknowingly put our hope in food. It becomes our comfort, the one we look forward to more than Jesus alone. How is it like to live out ” Christ is Enough for me” is to stand by this stubborn believe that He will come to save you. Not eating lets you face many issues you have within you. I am not angry cause I do not get to eat, I am angry cause I really struggle with an anger issue and I need Jesus’ grace to give me a gentle and humble spirit. I am not having a bad day because many small bad / unlucky things happened and I need food to make my day better, I am having a bad day because I struggle in pride and was comparing myself with other people silently throughout the day. I need Jesus. Not food.

Food lust. When I stopped eating, I saw how much food we ate and wasted in a day, and how our eyes are blinded because of how physically filled we are. Lust means taking pleasure or delight in something, and well, as weird as it sounds, we really do lust for food. When we step away from our lust, be it pornography, food, video games, shopping, you see the world God has created and take a step closer to what He sees.

The end of the fast is here but just as you conditioned my physical body, you conditioned my spirit along with it. More Lord, more.