Hope… and Shaped Perspectives

 

For a long time I’ve known about personality tests. A colleague at work even recommended that I try one out. I just didn’t realize that there’s a whole system behind it – an institute, lessons, studies and even comprehensive logic behind each of the 9 personality types. The Enneagram of Personality. I was reading through an article by one of my favorite writers when I came across this and decided to finally look more into it, and a lot that she says resonates with me, now more than ever. Suffice to say, I did see parts of myself in The Peacemaker (P.S: Relating to this personality  type does not mean I ascribe  to the Enneagram vibe) and I have to agree that this showed me areas where God will always be at aggressive work in my life.

I tend to have a different way of working through the seasons of the year than some of my friends do. And just as it is for some, it is always October and not January, Fridays and not Mondays that feel like the start of something good. Not necessarily because great gains and grand plans discourage me. I just approach them with the extra care that is, in a way, meant to preserve things as they are and work with what I can already see. So I tend to do a lot of my yearly reflection, recalibration, scheduling, goal-setting and forward planning at the oddest season of the year 😀  Works differently for everyone, I guess.

Recently, a lot of my ‘structure’ has had to change. One such area is in my abilities, talents and skills. I have had to set new expectations for myself and keep up with a new kind of pace that cuts across my work, spirituality and relationships. I don’t believe I have to have all the answers to everyone’s problems, or that I can meet everyone’s expectations. What I believe though, is that I can do my best for each day that I’m alive. I have been taught to live one day at a time this month.

“The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived – not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.” ~Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me be a Woman

I am learning to pace myself, and not respond to everything immediately. To learn through things – everyday mistakes, people’s experiences, details that pop up at the most unexpected times, new discoveries and responsibilities that I have. We live in a fast-paced competitive world. The race to ‘achieve’ greater and bigger things could easily blur one’s focus and lead us to seek validation in the vainest things. The rate at which work emails come in remind me often enough, that we’re all being inundated with messages daily and we have to learn to navigate them as humans and have checks and balances in place. This month, I have been taught to approach communication purposefully, intentionally, and with awareness.

“The faithful performance of today’s humble task will enable me to accept tomorrow’s assignment.” A close friend recently said to me that life is good, and God requires today only the work of the day. And I agreed with her; the goodness of life is usually about our perspective and less about our circumstances. The willing mind, the earnest purpose, will go forward. He has promised grace according to our need, and that gives me hope. I had such a hard time facing the task ahead of me when I recently took up a new role. The shoes to fit in were big (still are) and I was second-guessing my ability to deliver, match up and soar. While having a chat with a workmate, she told me: “Ask yourself each morning who you’re doing this for, and why?” The answer to that compels me towards faithfulness, even in the performance of little duties. Clarity. This month, I have learned to take up the shoes of responsibility and wear them faithfully.

I have found more of friendship in the old ones than in the new ones. Being such a transient world, it’s much harder to hold onto friendships as I grow older. But I’ve grown to see that there’s purpose in that too. The older I grow the more I cling to the fewer friends I have, and I’m now allowing myself to patiently grow into new ones. To stop being a fickle, selfish lover. To be present and caring ESPECIALLY when it feels uncomfortable and inconveniencing. Granted, some will hit it off right off the bat. Others will not. And that’s okay. There’s beauty in that too. In October I learned to love differently.

I have found more of God in the quiet seasons than in the loud, ‘flowery’ seasons of my faith. More of faith in its absence than in its presence. I hope to say yes to a lot more than I have this month, to listen more and act more. To be more deliberate and faithful in the mundane as in the big tasks.  To keep growing out of my comfort zones. And to truly love. I learnt to affirm my ‘yes’ in October.

“Find a way to say ‘yes’ to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids.” ~Eric Schmidt.

 

 

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A Friend for All Seasons – Part Two

It’s the first day of October and I’m trying to concentrate on my clothes-folding and week planning but I can’t help the wandering my mind is doing. What’s on my mind is how different I am from who I was last year. Transitions are beautiful. Just yesterday, I learnt how to ride a bike…or almost 🙂 . My career directions have changed – I’m on a different path from what I started out on. My reading interests have changed – who knew that I’d one day prefer a history book over a novel? My overall style, is now sui generis, I’m happy to report 😀 and that has nothing much to do with the way I wear my skirts or hair, but everything to do with how I plan out myself and care for what God has entrusted to and gifted me. Like singleness. Like friendship. I love what Elisabeth Elliot says of such God-given gifts:

“…but even a stage is a gift. God may replace it with another gift, but the receiver accepts His gifts with thanksgiving. This gift for this day. The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived—not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.”

Navigating the corridors of friendship can sometimes be daunting. It’s been exactly a year after joining my church community and one of the things that I am learning to be patient about is the relationships that I’ve formed with the people I met for the first time a year ago. And when I say patience I’m not talking about remembering names or checking up on them every so often. You know, that kind of friendship where it’s the night before your first day at a new job and you text him/her:

“Hey G, I’m so nervous about tomorrow! Please pray with me.”

And somehow, the conversation that ensues helps to lift that weight of anxiety off your system. Suffice to say, such friendships are not made overnight and in a snap.

Here, I share with you lessons I have learnt this year about this sweet fellowship that constitutes God-led relationships:

For God’s glory

Good friendships honor the Lord. A good friend serves not himself/herself and his interests, but others. God created us for community, and the purpose of community is to point us to Him: the Communal Three-in-One Trinity. (Ps. 73:25–26) This means that even friendships have to be ‘as unto the Lord’. Laying our lives down and serving others, whilst remembering God’s original intended purpose for friendship and community. Friendships should help us to fully enjoy God.

Expectations vs reality

We all know it – yet ever so often deny it. Our desire for attention and love lead us to set some very unrealistic expectations on others, wanting them to be only what God can be, for us. Our restless hearts yearn for friends who can show up without failure. The subtlest forms of idolatry happen when we put good things above God.  I am likely to forget your birthday, I’m limited in my knowledge of whether you are sad or in pain, I will probably not be able to make it for every special event in your life…but that should not make me less of a friend. We have to learn to find our contentment in God for all that life pertains. Friendship being a gift is to be accepted with thanksgiving, as God has given it.

Go the extra mile

Oh I would not even want to know the total number of times I have suggested to meet and reconnect with a friend I haven’t seen in a long while and the meeting is yet to happen, months later…sometimes because I am waiting for the other person to ‘show interest’ and follow it up. The shame! See, one of the things I have learnt to embrace this year is that enjoyment of learning…the beauty of finally gaining knowledge about something that was once foreign and alien to you. I am a learner, proudly so. In the same way, I have to be interested in knowing what other people are all about. What are their interests? How do they handle certain issues? Our unique differences should make us so interesting to listen to. Go the extra mile, ask questions and listen. You’d be surprised just how lovely the other person is – and how similar you probably are (or aren’t).

Through joy and sorrow

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  ~ Proverbs 17:17

I once heard a friend refer to his friends as ‘blood-bought brothers and sisters’ and it struck and stuck. I have loved that phrase first for its meaning, then the context within which it was used. The best friends are blood-bought brothers and sisters born for adversity. They mourn with you, they celebrate with you. They have a ‘sticktoitiveness’ that traverses joy and sorrow. They would be willing to enter another’s pain just as much as they would delight in their wins.

Even when it hurts

One of my favorite lessons this year is that friendship is not a one-time coffee date experience. One thing we discussed after that bike-riding afternoon is the vulnerability that true friendship is made of. Consistent vulnerability.  There is a risk in sharing another’s story, but there’s a beauty about it too. Constantly touching base with our friends is what glues us together and deepens our relationships. It’s how you learn to address issues with them, seek forgiveness, share a nagging problem. Friendships involve breaking conversational barriers without losing it altogether. Friends are an uncomfortable grace, and I’m not sorry to say that 😀 you don’t enjoy being called out for sinning but thank God if you have a friend who does so!

Moving forward, I am reminded of one thing: Of all the things we have to enjoy, God is the greatest! We were created to enjoy Him and center our lives around Him! And we enjoy God most fully with other people. In my transitions, I pray to meet friends who point me to Truth, encourage me to do what is right and fully enjoy He who delights in us.

Friendships for the glory of God. 🙂

“Let us consider how to stimulate one another toward love and good deeds” ~ Heb. 10:24