A very good friend in Toronto once wrote me, “I think that your #1 best quality is that you constantly tell yourself that you can be better and putting in effort to improve. I think that in our struggles to change, we polish ourselves like little pebbles rubbing against the vast riverbed and all the other little pebbles. And that’s you: constantly availing yourself to life, whether it’s happiness, anger, sadness, hope or disappointment…”
To live with such intensity and passion has always been my trait. It is not something I consciously choose. Nor is it something I have fully accepted about myself. Why? Because there is a high price to pay to avail myself so openly to life’s experiences. Because I always live with such immersion, and because I tend to love with abandon, I get chiselled with a lot of intensity! Being an extrovert and someone who almost always believes the best in people and situations, I tend to jump in without that much introspection and careful examination. I go into the world with a naiveté that is charming or foolish depending on your perspective. And because of my darned stubbornness and pride, I often force myself to soldier on even when I’m bruised and bloody inside. That is, until I have a breakdown (oh and I do, even though very few people realise it). I used to hate these vicious cycles that seem to punctuate my life as they caused me so much pain. I was (and still often am) afraid to be who God created me to be.
Things are quite different now. The last 5 plus years of my life has been the most edifying 5 years of my relatively short life this far. (Nothing like being in full-time ministry to let all your flaws float up to the surface like grease on water!) There had been dizzying highs but even more painful lows. There had been many nights spent in tears alone with God feeling utterly helpless at situations I could not handle better. I beat myself up for being so easily wounded, and for not being more patient, more wise, more forgiving, more loving, more detached, more capable… for not being perfect… and for not being ok with not being perfect!
In spite of all that, the most liberating moment I’ve had in these past 5 years was at the lowest point. There came a time when I felt I was doing so badly in so many areas that I felt that spiritually and emotionally I was sprawled on the ground and could not go any lower. There was so much evidence at that point in time showing me that I’m not as good and strong as I thought I was that I finally acknowledged to God and to myself, “Man, I REALLY SUCK.” At that moment, I felt as if God answered with a delighted twinkle in his eye, “Yes, you do. Now will you finally stop doing it your way and let me lead you?”
I’ve learned to stop asking God questions (well, not entirely, but the questions I ask now are very different). Much like the Chris Tomlin song, I’m learning to live what I’ve said to God many times before –
“Where you go, I’ll go
Where you stay, I’ll stay
When you move, I’ll move
I will follow…”
It was God who had led me into full-time ministry in my parish 5 years ago, and I had always prayed that I will stay for as long as He wanted me to stay, no matter how difficult things got; and that I will leave when He asks me to leave, no matter how much I may wish to stay. By God’s grace, I was able to hear the summons clearly when it came out of the blue earlier this year. And I had gained at least enough interior freedom by that point to be able to say, “Yes, Lord” without delay. (This is something I cannot fully explain to the many people who have asked me about my decision. It really is as simple as “God has called and I have answered”.)
It is to my delight that God was inviting me to a season of sabbatical. Already, the past few months have been immensely restorative for me. I find that I am rediscovering my creative side which had been pushed to the background for the past few years due to lack of time and energy. The desire to play, take photographs, write, and even to cook has been slowly reawakening in my soul.
I do not know how short or long this season will be, but I try to be faithful to the present moment. Every now and then, God gives me a little reminder that there will be another summons coming for me to respond to. But it is just as clear to me that he desires me to fully enjoy this season of sabbath and to let him restore me for the long journey ahead.
So this is me committing to take the plunge into the eternal present where God holds me. What I have done, I have done. What I have failed to do, I have failed to do. I can do what I can do and I will not pretend that I can do more than that. I am me, no more and no less. I can only be who God created me to be, and I have decided that I will choose to ENJOY every aspect of being that person. I will choose to be ME whether I’m applauded or booed, welcomed or rejected. I will not take responsibility which is not mine to bear. At the same time I accept in humility that I will continue to commit many mistakes (many glaring ones too) and that it will hurt me and others. But I will let God take care of us.
I’m diving in and moving on… so help me God!