Synchronicity

I’ve been feeling like I’ve put a cap on my faith, a roof to what’s possible and reasonable to expect in my life. I’m drawn to this particular issue because I’ve been seeing this Faith theme pop up everywhere, from an article I’ve stumbled across, a random sermon online, to a book I’ve been reading called Synchronicity: The Promise of Coincidence.

I’m determined to flip this thing around. The more outrageous my prayers and hopes, the greater the power of God I can see revealed. Because He is capable of more than our wildest expectations, if we only ask. However, as I’m writing this, I feel it is careful to ask with the right sort of attitude. With honesty, trust, and humility. A profound understanding that we need His guidance and a deep gratitude for His care and love. He answers not because we deserve it- not because we go to church, not because we clean our trays at McDonald’s so that no one else has to- but because He is good.

‘Truly I tell you that if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and has no doubt in his heart but believes that it will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’.
– Mark 11:24

Our God is a God of miracles, an unseen supernatural being with whom we can communicate and witness the work of in the material world. I remember believing as a child that the world was full of magic; I flipped through my books on mermaid and fairy sightings, immersing myself in a world where they could be found in countryside cottages, in the hollows of trees or by secluded rock pools. It was my favourite thing to do, fostering a sense of excitement for these enchanting creatures. I loved the Harry Potter books, where there is no limit to the wonders of life, an epic reality where dreaming is synonymous with creation. I wish to redirect that childish, misguided faith and bring openness and expectation to God.

Synchronicity speaks of God’s many thoughts about us, His plans and provisions. It is the idea of perfect coincidences which are in fact, not coincidences at all. I learnt a neat little fact: there is no word or concept of ‘coincidence’ in Hebrew. Only the word ‘mikreh’, which means ‘a happening of God’. Every moment is significant. When good things happen, give thanks, for they come straight from His hands. Sometimes, little ‘signs’ appear just to remind me that He is present and watching. And it has proven helpful in deterring me from sinning a couple of times. Sometimes a web page doesn’t load, the phone rings or a door is knocked on, so I get a chance to rethink what I’m doing. Every time, it is for my good.
When bad things happen, they prepare us for more of Him. They are opportunities! Last week, I strained my right leg doing exercise. Pulled a muscle. And I remembered what this yoga instructor said to me earlier that week: “if you ever tear a muscle or hurt your leg, once you recover, you’ll be more flexible than you were before”. This experience serves as an analogy for what my friend said the other day when I confided in him about my struggle with lust. It was so special: think how He must love you to let you have these desires, this challenge, so that you may experience Him and know Him better. So that I will learn to rely on the One who brings victory. I will trust in His unfailing love.

Here’s a snippet from an awesome article I read today:

The true disciple is an expectant person, always taking it for granted that there is something about to break through from the master, something about to burst through the ordinary and uncover a new light on the landscape.

And I think that living in expectancy—living in awareness, your eyes sufficiently open and your mind sufficiently both slack and attentive to see that when it happens— has a great deal to do with discipleship, indeed with discipleship as the gospels present it to us. Interesting (isn’t it?) that in the gospels the disciples don’t just listen, they’re expected to look as well. They’re people who are picking up clues all the way through.

Rowan Williams

I have started to pray: give me a big faith, God. A hope against all hope. I want to be excited for each new day, because I get to experience more of You.

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For the love of God

Should I finish the book, the Final Cut Pro tutorial, edit a video or read the bible? I snapped a couple of people on snapchat and scrolled under ‘Following’ on Instagram, admiring beautiful doe-eye models. Why am I staring at this picture of a really big, toned butt? I forced myself to look away and opened a tab featuring an article on suicide bombings in Lebanon. That should make up for how vapid I feel.

I gravitated towards the bible. If there’s anything I must do today, this is it. I lifted it off the piano and found a spot on the living room floor. St. Teresa stressed that by keeping in our minds Jesus’ sufferings, we fare all the better in knowing and loving our God in this life. I thus chose a passage from Mark to focus on Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane.

Before I began reading, I looked through my Worship playlist- just to set the mood, prepare my heart and all that. But I found no comfort in the song I chose; I could not shake an unsettling feeling. I was afraid to close my eyes. I was afraid of the dark, of being alone in the living room, of the dreams I’ve been having recently. Nightmares. Devils. Why am I so afraid, Lord? Why am I more afraid of Satan than I am of You? And I chose this special song: Loud Harp- The Fire and The Flood. This time when you come, don’t hide Your face. This time when you come, don’t keep silent. Oh bring the fire, burn what isn’t You. Open the flood, overwhelm us… And as I began to pray these words in my heart, singing silently to the Lord in desperation, the tears started falling. The floodgates had opened. Take everything that does not belong to You, take everything that is wrong, every sin, every fear away from me. And as I cried with my head strained towards the heaven that was my ceiling, I noticed a single tear trail down my cheek, my neck, my throat. I was made aware of how much my throat ached. I could not fully enjoy God because of it- because I had too much to drink the night before. I knew then that You did not approve- that it pained You too. Thank You for this resolution I would never have willingly come to myself: if alcohol makes it difficult to live worshipfully, goodbye alcohol.

As the next song came on, I reached for my earphones but found myself unable to pull them away. So unwilling. I was being lulled into enjoyment. Into Your arms, the singer cooed. I am giving away the joy of drunkenness and replacing it with the greatest joy- the joy of Your love and friendship. Of being close to You. And suddenly I heard the door open as my mother shuffled to the other room. I ducked my head, wiped my cheeks. She could not see me like this. I waited for her to pass: more listening, less crying. You found me and you pulled me out. You found me and you brought me home… You are a good Father, this is a good home. How is it that You are allowing me such heights of happiness although I have sinned? And I felt such humility, Lord, that only You can evoke. Is this how You punish Your people? By lavishing us with your love? By giving us gifts? And I understood that this is what St. Teresa meant by:

Indeed, at the very times when I most offended You, You quickly prepared me by a very great repentance, to taste Your gifts and graces. Truly, my King, You used the most refined and painful punishment that I could possibly have borne, since You well knew what would give me the greatest pain. You chastised my sins with great favours… But to find myself receiving fresh graces when I had shown so little gratitude for those already received, is a kind of torture that is terrible to me, and to everyone, I believe, who has any knowledge or love of God. (p.58)

Such exquisite remorse, such heartbreak for having sinned against so good and loving a God. And yet how joyous I felt to experience this pain, for it is a marker of my love for You- and I know that You are pleased! With my head bowed to the ground I felt with my entire being my lowliness, my unworthiness, my overwhelming gratitude. Such a sweet place to be. Thank you, thank you.

Then, I was ready to encounter Your word. As soon as I read the words of Jesus: “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow- to the point of death” (Mk 14:34), I bawled. I couldn’t breathe. My face felt like it was going to burst, my intestines about to fly, about to shatter like glass in a microwave a second too long. I felt the depth of Your suffering, Jesus, so moved by Your love for us. You died for those who hated you, accused You and lauded it over You when truly You were and are king of the universe, blameless like no other. Although You despised their sin, You loved them at the greatest harm to Yourself: abandoned by Your friends and at the moment of death- Your own father. I could do nothing but weep.

Jesus repeatedly commanded his disciples to “stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mk 14:38). I thought about wakefulness, vigilance, sober-mindedness. The act of prayer and the state of wakefulness– the two together, are safeguards against sin and succumbing to the weakness of the flesh. The disciples, being humans fundamentally weak, could not stay awake. They fell asleep when they were supposed to guard their beloved Jesus. You had just one job, guys! Alas, humans fall short, and in consequence, Jesus was “betrayed into the hands of sinners” ( Mk 14:41). Not only by Judas but by those who claimed to love Him. Thus we must always be alert, not trusting ourselves, lest we squander our spirits and betray our God.

It is comforting to know that even Jesus, whose spirit was willing, could not escape the dread of what was to come. He understands our sufferings, the struggles of being human. He prayed and begged on his knees for deliverance: “All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me” (Mk 14:36). Yet, he consented to the ultimate will: “Nevertheless, not that I will but what You will” (MK 14:36). And it is this same spirit that is willing, that wants to please God in me. Every good intention, thought, and deed comes from God. I could not find an inkling of love inside me if it weren’t for You granting me this tenderness. I thank You. These tears are not my own. So, in order to nourish and sustain my spirit, I need to keep praying. If I love Jesus, I must remember Him and how He suffered for me. My spirit never wants to forget but my humanity will. I must not abandon the Lord and fall asleep. I must feed my spirit constantly- more necessary than food, more of a staple than brushing my teeth, to keep my conscience clean.

Like newborn infants, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good. Peter 2:2-3

I know now it is no loss, Lord, to give up any of the pleasures of this world for You. I can never give more than what You have given, have promised to give, and are giving me every day. I know now that learning to pray and learning about You this summer is more valuable than any number of skills and talents. May I never tire of prayer or believe it done in vain. If I seek You, I will most assuredly find You.

Christmas

I did say that Christmas dies a little every year. It fizzles out like the golden spittle at the end of a sparkler. You really don’t want the brilliance to end but it does -and you’re left with a smoldering grey stick.

I remember the sheer enthusiasm I had for decorating the Christmas tree with some hand-me-down tinsel and baubles, hiding presents and cards in the branches and leaves of plastic. I remember the glittery star I had picked from some antique store, and how my mouth watered at the sight of new boxes of chocolates stacked on top of each other. I snaked the coloured Christmas lights around the tree and turned the lights off in the house just to admire the different light-flashing settings. I remember seeing my dad sneak into my room with a present in hand and waking up early in the morning, still overjoyed at the fact that my stockings were filled. The mornings resonated with Christmas songs from an old tape:
…three french hens two turtle doves… hosanna in excelsis… GloooOooOooria… and shivers accompanied each step out of the house. I used to bake mince pies with my Grandmother and standby looking expectantly into the oven as the pastry turned golden. I would force my parents to try them and they’d always say they tasted better than they did. My dad taught me how to make chocolate fondue (by melting chocolate in a bowl placed in hot water) and dipped strawberries in it, realizing too late that the chocolate hardened much too quickly. My grandmother and I shaped coloured icing into snowmen and mistletoe and decorated a rich fruitcake. My family crowded around the table to exchange gifts and we pulled crackers and popped party poppers, releasing streams of confetti down and into our shoes by the door. We lit candles and my brother and I played with the flames, watching them lick the edges of paper and eat at toothpicks. And of course, there were the sparklers. They were always a treat.

I just don’t enjoy Christmas the way I used to. My siblings and I go on our separate laptops and the dinner table is quiet for the most part. Everything is rose tinted when you’re a child. But I guess that’s besides the point. It’s great that Christmas is a time for families to come together and enjoy good food but it’s Jesus’ birthday and not any random holiday for me and my family. It’s strange to think how Christmas has been commercialized into a holiday that people no longer associate with Christ, and even weirder to think how an old guy with a beard became such an integral part of Christmas. Beats me.

If anything, I am thankful for the reminder that He is my saviour, no matter the circumstance. He is my family, no matter the distance I feel to my own sometimes. And that hope is something that cannot be easily extinguished.