That’s what He said

I found it. I found what i was looking for. Or rather, He gave me this word today (by which I mean three days ago because procrastination. but I tried):

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Lk 10:17‭-‬20 NIV

Context: Jesus was sending out his disciples around the area to different towns. He gave them a bunch of instructions and basically gave them authority over illness and all things spiritually evil and demony. They came back rejoicing because v 17.

But the main point is v 20, which my devo paraphrases as “don’t rejoice in successful service, rejoice in the relationship you have with God,” which for me means to be able to lead this life which He has called me to, in obedience, and intentionally partake in His work.

I think that’s a great attitude, or a better one, at least. It gives back the glory and honor where it’s due, back to God, and it credits the source of my victories. Anything else, to rejoice in successful service, would just tempt that big ass self ego of mine, and that’s dangerous. Like, don’t miss the forest for the trees. The successful service is great but it’s not it. They’re just one of the markers of having a relationship with God, one of the outpourings of grace and favour. To be able to be used by Him and to serve Him at all is an honor. I think in a nutshell, it’s just about acknowledging Him and being grateful. When I win I praise You when I lose I praise You.

And since I procrastinated, I got a few more thoughts along the way the next couple of days.

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.

Luke 22:31-38 NIV

Ok I don’t confess to understand everything that’s in the passage here. Like I don’t know what’s going on with the last verse lel. But this is what I got from it anyways.

Jesus was pretty straight up with Simon Peter. He just tells him that “Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat”, or in another version (KJV) “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat”. (and here I’m just guessing that being sifted as wheat involves some kind of tests and trials and tribulations. I’m thinking in the Job context, since Satan pretty much asked to ‘test’ Job too.)

And even though that’s what Satan asked, what did Jesus pray? To stop Satan and get Peter out of it?

Nupe.

He prayed that Peter’s faith mighn’t fail and when he turns back, to strengthen the rest. So what’s that mean? Is that cruel of God, to know that Satan wants a go at Peter and still step back to let him do it?

Eh, number one, for me, is that God is pretty much the big guy who takes care of us. Like, Satan’s got to ask for God’s permission to even touch us. We aren’t beyond God’s care at all. So even if Satan’s trying to wreck havoc in our lives, it’s something that God, in His wisdom of knowing what’s good for us, allows to happen. Nothing that ever happens to us is beyond Him. If God is allowing something to happen, something like Satan to sift us, He probably has a good reason for it, some reason we might not be able to fathom.

Number two, also to do with God’s sovereignty, Jesus knows what we need and prays for that, even if we can’t see/don’t know that we need it. Like, that’s the thing; sometimes you just want to be a better person and you read loads of self-help books and try to improve and everything. But you’ll never be objective enough to know what to do or what you should aim for. And no one else can be that objective POV for you either cos no one knows you enough to know exactly what’s good for you, or be able to give it. They may get bits and pieces for you, where your blindspots are, but they don’t know you like you know you (not that you’ll know you enough to know either). They just wouldn’t be able to tell. But He knows and He’s got your back. He knows exactly what you need and how you need it and He’ll intervene to make us holy. He isn’t as concerned about just keeping us safe and comfortable and happy in little plastic bubbles than He is in wanting us to grow and be made perfect as He had created us to be. And that means trials and hard times and pain  because “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Rom 5:3-4). Plus all that strengthens faith, which Jesus prayed wouldn’t fail for Peter. 

Number three, Jesus knew Peter wouldn’t be able to keep up to his lofty claims of following him to prison and to death. He knew, even if Peter didn’t, even if Peter felt completely and utterly confident in himself. Jesus knew. But Jesus also knew Peter would turn back after denying and deserting him, and was already instructing him what to do when he did, to strengthen his brothers. Just a reminder that really, God knows everything and He’s got it all worked out.

Also pondered on v35-36. Wondered why Jesus didn’t continue to provide in His supernatural way as He did before, such that the disciples lacked nothing. It wasn’t as though He couldn’t (as He just recently proved). Just thinking that it was because they were entering a different season now. They already knew His power and providence. It was enough. Now, they had to prepare for something else, and that means they gotta pack their own bags for the road. Hwaha.

The point of this devo was about broken heartedness from the pain of self-revelation.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:17 NIV

I’m thinking of self-revelation as knowing how fallen we are and how much we need God. Peter didn’t think like that then. In v33, all he could see was his efforts, his confidence in his flesh. He was going to be the one who followed Jesus all the way even if no one else did. But he, like the others, fell away. And when the rooster crowed, he remembered what Jesus had said and he “broke down and wept.” I think that’s the point of self-revelation for Peter. He didn’t know he was as weak as that, as Jesus said he was. I felt like he honestly thought he would live up to his claims. That kind of revelation is really raw and painful and so so humbling. But it is so necessary for God to reveal Himself. After all, Jesus said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”(Mark 2:17) And if you don’t know you’re sick, you’ll never see the worth of the doctor and his cures. After Jesus rose again, he restored Peter and helped him forgive himself and Peter became such a force to be reckoned with afterwards as a leader of the early church.

I’m just reminded of all the times I felt like a crappy person, when I felt low and little and poor. So many times I’ve felt poor, with nothing in me to give and bless others. Always wondering why I couldn’t be as loving or gracious as somebody else, instead of being selfish and self-absorbed and proud etc.etc. And it really doesn’t feel nice to be a poor person. But I’m only poor because I’m broken and I’m a fallen human being, and God wants me to know that so that I can know Him. I think if this is what God means as the seasonal broken heartedness, the revelation that I’m really not all there yet and I need serious help to become a better reflection of God, then I think it’s ok to be poor and broken hearted. Because it doesn’t end there. Revealing my state of brokenness is the first step to mending that brokenness, which is what He wants to do, something only He can do.

It’s not that I’ll be living in self-loathing and feeling awful all the time. That would just be unhealthy. It would just mean that I will be able to see myself through His very objective eyes, from somebody who loves me enough to show me what’s wrong and help me right it, from someone who sees through all that crap and loves me as His child (not based on what I did). He would help me to love myself as He loves me, in the right measure, not too much to spill into overindulgence and condone sin, not too little to be crippled by guilt and stagnate. A healthy love, if you will.

Gahh I still have stuff to talk about but it’s 12. Hurr hopefully I can catch up on devo thoughts soon.

Also, I’ve taken to listening to DesiringGod’s podcast thingys whenever I lunch alone. I used to read physical books but it’s hard to handle a book over a steaming bowl of noodles with the chopsticks and the spoon so. Yea DesiringGod’s been just such a wealth of information for me. Much enlightened. Really excited to share some of the insights I’ve gotten from them. Hopefully hopefully I will be able to share them sooon yay.

 

Backlog

Backlog of seasons. Life recap.

First I was good and lovely and life was wonderful because I was good and lovely.

Then I got mean and horrible and empty and I wondered what happened and what it all meant and why I was so helpless. See previous post.

After that I got caught up in some theological thunderstorm which made me question everything I ever knew and wonder some more about life and God and sovereignty and free will.

Now, I have been eased out of my own head and delivered from a week of serving twice in various capacities for worship in the most understated but loving way possible.

I know God is trying to say something here and I’m not quite sure what it is exactly yet, but let me try anyways.

It was something about faith and trust.

Yes, there is human agency to a point. Yes, God can sustain this relationship without us because He is completely complete in and of Himself and He never needed us in that sense. But yes, He still wants us and have this relationship with us fallen, failed people who do have an agency to an extent.

It was easier to see this abstract concept in the workings of serving for worship.

God gave me songs really early last week for school and it was a pretty good set based on feedback. He saw me through the session and blessed all my relationships and moved people and rested His presence in that place. God’s sovereignty. I still had to pray over it and transpose and print chords to make sure they were singable and do techy music things and write devos and do briefings and actually be there and lead. My part of the partnership.

It’s a two-way thing.

God helped me to do homework and prep for service this week. He gave me sounds for the songs and more music techy help from friends and encouragement and affirmation from experienced older people. God’s work. I had to do the homework and write/memorize/practice and be there at prac. My work.

It’s a line I’m still figuring out. Worship is. Life is. It’s so difficult to remember and to keep the balance.

I never know how to take the “you did good” comments because I’m like yeaaa noo I dunnoo it was me but it wasn’t all me and like I dunno I shouldn’t/can’t take all the credit and it’s iffy. And I kinda don’t wanna fall into the “my music competency = my identity/self-worth” and be too overly proud/happy about it.

I still screwed up here and there and I want to reach a point where even though I didn’t play play perfect, I still know and feel legit as part of the worship team to share my feels in confidence.

This recent worship experience was something else. He didn’t let me panic even though my head kind of ‘wanted’ to (you know how you feel that you’re more in control when you worry, that kind of thing). Like it was telling me I should and I was worried that I wasn’t as worried as I thought I should be. It felt weird. Because I felt it so strongly that He had put His foot down and He absolutely did not allow me to worry. Even though I wanted to and felt like I had to.

I found a kind of understated joy in serving this week. In doing homework. In being musically aware while not emphasizing on the music. It wasn’t all about music techy stuff. I don’t know how to say. Like it wasn’t the high euphoric kind of thing. It was just in the doing. And I wasn’t exactly in the best place spiritually either. Was still easing out of my confusions so in retrospect, I was just going into it really relying on God. And He did something amazing this week.

I’m still trying to understand and wrap my head around it. Cos it was an experience. And I’m a word person. I’m a “God pls speak to me through the Bible in black and white so that I can like remember this is the way to go/live.” I want to understand stuff. I want to understand God.

But I think there are limits to understanding someone as big as God, not w this lil brain of mine. And what’s more important is knowing God, knowing Him as a person, that friend who’s got your back.

Still, even though now I’m basking in how amazing God, I’m still like “God can you please do a debrief in words so that I know I’ve got you right and can no how to live/move on from here pls.” Haha.

No words. Thanks God.

Impervious

When you wish to leave where you are

and nothing moves you

the one time you wish to be tossed by waves

and you find that nothing can touch you

When even the softest strains of a song eludes you

and all that you are is found in silence

nothing can reach you where you are

But at the end of the day

you realise that there are no words

for that which does not need to be said

Borrow from the mouths of others

Sing them like they belong to you

Meet them where they were

Follow them where they went

Everyone has so much in common 

Strangers stop being strangers

They are merely passing reflections

of who you were, who you are, who you could be

Let it come from the heart

Only what is inside can break through that which is 

impervious

Company

I like grocery shopping. Even though I’d subscribed to the online grocery service, I still pop into town once in a while to get the stuff I missed out ordering online. It’s funny. When you’re online and are able to conveniently buy things at a click, you can’t think of anything you really need and you just get one or two things for the sake of shopping. And then when the groceries come, you realize you needed a lot more than what you ordered.

I usually make a second trip to the mart and end up carting home loads which was really what the grocery service. Was. For. Such is life. In my defence, when you walk down aisles and aisles of stuff, you just suddenly realize that you need a lot of things. The delivery service did save me a lot of travelling hassle, though. Next to packing my own groceries, I don’t like to carry groceries home. When Mother does grocery shopping, we raid the supermarket and get away with it because we had the car. Here, though, I have to walk something like 20 minutes carrying stuff. It’s not that much, but the handles on one of my shopping bag are too small to sling over my shoulder and the other one keeps catching the ends of my hair when I sling it on and then it slips off and I’m just like argh, can you just not.

Anyway, I went down to town that day to get more stuff. Homey things. Food. Stuff. By the time I made my way round the mall, I was laden with two bagfuls of goodness. I was on the way back to the flat, struggling with the shopping, alternating hands and bags and shoulders when the thought hit me and I saw shoes.

His shoes. Smart, shiny, black leather boots, proud and handsome, standing neatly, gleaming a smug smile at me from the pavement.

I heard him before I saw him. I never really liked looking at him directly. It was too odd to look at the perfect face I had fashioned for him. I might forget myself. May have overdone it some.

“Need help?” he quipped with his knowing, eager grin. He liked to play innocent, the ever-compliant servant who knew that his mistress would never do without him and yet, feared that he would no longer be needed.

I didn’t bother to pretend I had it all together. I tossed him my shopping, glad to be rid of the troublesome bags and straps. I watched him adjust the shopping over his beautiful black coat, almost as long as a cape, with shiny zippers and a fine belt buckle. They matched his shoes perfectly, the whole ensemble oozing ridiculously of luxury. He had exquisite taste. He did so take after me.

The bright, green leafy-patterned tropical shopping bag clashed terribly against his entire, carefully put together image, as did the other purple one but he didn’t complain. If anything, he looked pleased that the garish bags clashed. It reflected his dedication to his service.

It also got him attention. He liked attention. He was already being paid a great deal, looking just a tad out of place in his fancy get up, strolling down these humble streets. Now he indulged in playing his role of the handsome young foreigner helping the struggling exchange student with her shopping. He pretended not to notice the curious, admiring glances thrown our way, everyone wondering who this fellow was and thinking me lucky to be acquainted with such a person.

He was so like me.

“What are you doing here?” I asked as we walked.

“Exploring.” he returned, in a quiet, half singsong voice. I could hear the ripple of excitement on the fringes of his voice.

“Exploring where?”

He gave me a smug, sidelong glance. “Everywhere, everywhere you’d like to go, but can’t.”

“Like where?”

He listed a list of everywhere I’d wanted to go but couldn’t.

“That’s not fair.” I sulk. “I have school.”

“I would go to school with you but you won’t let me.” He reminded me matter-of-factly.

I knew what he was thinking of and steered the conversation to a different direction.

“Have you found a place to practice?”

“I’ve been looking but I haven’t found a place I’m at home yet.” He replied airily.

I snort. “I’m sure they have large enough practice spaces in school. Rehearsal rooms and things like that. Use those.”

He turned away, pretending to lookout for the traffic. “I don’t like those.”

“They’re places to practice. What’s it matter?”

We cross the road and wait for the second set of lights to change.

“I want to practice in a nice place, the kind professionals train in.” He elaborated, his eyes shining at the thought.

“Professionals train in crummy places too, I’m sure. Only the stage is beautiful.” I say, knowing that both of us didn’t fully buy it. We minded. We liked lovely places, theatrically romantic places. We did so believe in the glammed up versions of everything. We did hope in such a reality.

He gave me a sly smile. “I’m going to find a space to practise in the grand theatre. Do you reckon they have practice rooms there?”

I stopped. “The grand theatre?” I repeated. “No way.”

He grinned, pleased at my reaction. “Yes way. I’m going. I have it all planned. I’m going to practise in the grand theatre.” Then, “You want to come?”

I resume walking. We’re going downhill now, my flat at the foot of the hill.

“You are a horrible, horrible person.” I intone. “You know I can’t.” He chuckles while I sulk. “It’s not fair how you can do everything and anything while I can’t.” I grumble.

A short silence elapses before he speaks.

“…That’s because you matter.” He says quietly, thoughtful now. His voice floats somewhere above my head, the laughter gone from it. “And I don’t.”

I don’t reply. I don’t reply because he’s right and I don’t want to do this now.

We stop, the last crossing before I reach my flat. It’s the first time he’s walked me, but we both know that we had to part here.

“I’ll take it from here.” I raised my arm awkwardly to relieve him of my shopping.

“Let me walk you to the gate!” He wrests the shopping away from me. “Just to the gate.” He pleads.

“No.” I say firmly. “I can’t risk you meeting the others. You know that.” He lets me take the shopping from him, deflated.

“I know. Because I don’t matter.” He says, defeated and defiant at the same time. “And if I meet them, I might begin to matter. And that might ruin everything.” He spells out mechanically.

He’s hurt, the way he says it. He means for me to see that this hurts him, but I brush past him emotionlessly. “Right. If they associate you with me, you might begin to matter.” I look straight at him. “You can’t matter to anyone.”

Something softens in him and he manages a faint smile. “Except you.” His smile tightens. “I do matter to you, don’t I?”

I lower my eyes. His gaze is difficult to bear. “Yes.” I say at last. “Yes, you matter to me. That’s why you can’t matter to anyone else.” I didn’t really want to leave him but I made to move.

He tries to follow me, his eyes a pleading question.

“I will call on you when I can.” I find myself promising. “When I go out to mail the letters, or shop. I’ll call you.”

“Can I watch you cook?” He asks hopefully. He knows that there mayn’t be anyone in the kitchen when I cook. Of course he knows.

“No. There are always people moving in and out of the kitchen.”

“If there’s no one in the kitchen, can I come to watch you?” He asks, as if he hadn’t heard me.

I make an exasperated sound. “No.”

“Call me if there’s no one when you go up.” He says as I retreat from him.

I know why he’s trying so hard. Of course I know. Because I did want him to come up with me, to accompany me. But I knew I couldn’t.

He might begin to matter.

I cannot look you in the eye

I dare not hazard a glance.

I’m too afraid of what I might or might not see

And what they would mean to me

Too afraid that you’d see right through me

See something I didn’t know

And see it all at once

See something I didn’t want to know

Spot the gaps between my changing masks

If we ever had a safe ‘before’,

I wish we could go back

Tourists on some holiday

Boarding an anchored ship

That would never leave the harbour

What is the point of a fleeting feeling

That cannot build walls?

To one who has never sailed

Feeling isn’t everything

Seeing is still believing

How can one surrender

to end this bittersweet game

where nobody wins?

Feeling Little

The child in me

is in need of a good story

Something warm and friendly, like the fire in the hearth

That wraps around me like a red and green checkered blanket

Or like the rosy plume of that velvety chocolate scent

rising from the mug in my hands

Studding the night with winter stars and frosted moon

The tinkle of a lullaby, or a smooth bit of jazz

A string of fairy lights

Tuck me in with your words,

spoken and sung at the same time

Burrow me in pillow forts

Leave me some room, just a cosy corner

To feel little