Friday, May 09, 2008

Anxiety and Hope

I wonder if I puzzle Jean sometimes. The way I tell her I'm from the future; the way I always tell her that simplicity is the key to understanding; the way I keep stressing the Biology is not about memory but understanding and connecting just a handful of basic key ideas.

I suppose, after over four years with me, she's gotten used to it.

On Wednesday--and it is a Wednesday I'll probably remember because my sore throat got worse after three hours of nearly non-stop talking--I think at some point I was trying to show her that humour works.

So I said, "Facts come and go, but jokes last forever."

I don't know how true that statement is, but I suppose I'll keep it in my quote bank somewhere!

* * * * *

Visited the Christian Union (CU) at my alma mater, the Victoria Institution, with Kenneth today. With so many Victorians going abroad, Kenneth and I can probably be considered to be in a minority of sorts: those in local public universities.

It was encouraging to see how Jeremiah and Edwin have grown into leaders in their own right; to see seniors like Bryan and Sean, and juniors like Alvin, Joel and Calvin. The CU is alive and well, and I thank God for His faithfulness over these many years.

Kenneth taught me something a long time ago: when the time comes, let go. Even if it seems as if the transition won't be smooth, let go. That is what he did. I don't suppose I was discouraged that he rarely came for CU meetings when I was a committee member myself, because I understood his position. But there are times I regret not doing the same when it came my time.

It was fun supporting Jon Mah, Weng Ken and the rest in my Lower Six year, and I think in our time the CU recorded its highest ever population of sixth formers. But as a result also, there was a decline in the number of juniors. I suppose, only now in retrospect do I realise that leaving the CU was, in fact, the more difficult path.

It was the path Kenneth chose. (As a matter of fact, he has time and again chosen the less-trodden path, even now, choosing the Young Disciples of Jesus over the PKV.)

Recently we talked about it, in the days leading to Entangled the Musical. He told me not to dwell upon it, that what is done is done. And he was right. I think, as much as I regret some of my actions, I need to remind myself that the CU is over and above all things God's CU, not mine nor Wai Hung's nor Wilson's nor Chien Yih's nor Jon's nor Kenneth's nor Marcus's nor Alvin's.

And then like Brother Lawrence, I ought to give myself no more trouble over the matter.

Today Jeremiah shared from Luke 1:37; "For nothing is impossible with God."

It is what the angel Gabriel told Mary when she asked how it was possible for her to conceive, since she was a virgin.

Prior to that, he demonstrated a little rope trick (which will be performed during the Scouts' Night Games):

The symbolism was a little too familiar, given the circumstances that brought Kenneth and me together recently. (PKVians, you know what I mean!)

* * * * *

Over a late lunch of mushroom seaweed-flavoured Super cup noodles with an egg and a piece of sardine, I read Frederick Buechner's essay, 'Love'.

In it he expounds on the Israelite Shema, the Great Commandment which was given to the Israelites while they wandered in the desert wilderness;

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

--Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (RSV)

It is from this essay that the words Philip Yancey quoted in Disappointment with God come;

To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness--especially in the wilderness--you shall love him.

But it was near the end of the essay that I came across something which totally changes the way I see the Shema.

The final secret, I think, is this: that the words "You shall love the Lord your God" become in the end less a command than a promise.

In the sense of 'We shall return someday' or 'I shall be going tomorrow'.

Buechner was writing about how the command is a difficult one, but that it is also all-possible because there is a promise in it: the promise that we shall one day be able to do the impossible act of loving our God even as we shall be able to do the impossible act of loving our enemies. For it is easy to love those like us, and none are quite so far removed from us than our enemies and God.

In a day that began with anxiety (my first thoughts this morning were the word 'anxiety' and the words of Philippians 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:7), this note of hope is truly a blessing.

What I was anxious about, I wrote on a piece of paper which now sits on my desk. I have prayed for the peace that passeth all understanding, and God has been gracious.

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