i braved a subject today i probably wouldn’t have if not for a nudging in my spirit.
it was all laughs and smiles, sitting at the patio, grandma, aunts and uncles, cousins, recollecting past memories. good memories.
but i knew all that. all the good. we were living it right now.
but what i wanted to know was one not very good memory.
it probably wasn’t timely by the books of conversation rules. but i asked it any way.
"Tell us about Oldest Uncle…since we have never seen him before…"
Few nods and perhaps concealed stunned faces at my question. it wasn’t awkward. i must say they did a good job concealing it if they were.
you see, we have never met 1st uncle before because he died in a plane crash in the year of 1977. he was only 29.
4th uncle quipped quite immediately, as always ready in every situation to give a timely comment, “He was someone who was very determined” he said. He told us how 1st uncle was a brilliant student. He was an outstanding in both the English and Malay Language. My dad told us about how he used to copy his essays! But unfortunately one mishap of an important exam caused a straight As student to end up with Cs because of an out of topic composition. But he never stopped trying. He went for night classes and slogged it through till he made it to the University. that was his goal that he was bent on achieving and he did.
but that still wasn’t what i wanted to know. “So how did it happen?” i asked. “He wasn’t even suppose to be on that flight.” said 2nd Uncle. he wasn’t even a confirmed passenger on that flight and his name was not even on the flight list.
He had got on the plane from Penang, bound for KL when it happened. the plane got hijacked because there was a minister on the plane. gun shots were fired and the plane instead of landing in KL, touched down in KL but was forced to take off again. it finally made its descent into a pile of ashes and remnants in Johor.
Youngest aunt was the one who took the call. 2nd uncle was the one who went down to witness the crash site. 4th uncle was all the way in UK studying when it happened. they kept it from him. for how long i don’t know. but he found out while reading a letter from a friend sending his condolences about his brother. at that point of reading the letter, he didn’t even know which one.
i watched as the 3 brothers recollected the story. My heart was brimming with their emotions of sorrow, regret, disappointment and helplessness. I was fighting back the ball in my throat that i was afraid would come out in tears.
I watched 4th uncle. His eyes were glistening and slightly red. i wasn’t sure if it was from the wine or… And then i saw him discreetly wipe his eyes with his right sleeve…
i didn’t regret asking that question. in fact those were precious moments, a glimpse of the inner corridors of their hearts.
we went on talking about other things. happier things. stories about the people we never knew, but whose lives are the reason for our today.
i’ve always been thankful for this close knit family. my uncles and aunt are always giving towards each other. it makes me not take for granted what we have today. the unity we have was fought for. the love that we share is a love that has gone through fire, pain and has come out purified. the cherishing and respecting of one another we see in the siblings and grandma goes beyond just filial piety. it is the bond of loss and shared grief, but more than that, the bond of commitment to overcoming and to one another.
i challenge you to look beyond the surface this CNY, take a walk down the corridors of their hearts and you will find so much more to be thankful for.
Be still, my soul, The Lord is on your side. Bear patiently, the cross of grief or pain. Leave to your God, to order and provide. In every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul, Your best your heavenly friend, Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul, Your God will undertake To guide the future as he has the past. Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake. All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul, The waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while he lived below.
You get this feeling at the end of the year…where you are forced to look back at the last 12 months and ask yourself if you have made any progress or grown.
If we had a good year we will undoubtedly make that assessment and even pat ourselves on the back a few times and let those best moments of the year replay in your mind and slowly relish it. mmm…it has been a good year.
but what if your year hasn’t been a good one. what if thinking back on it only makes you sad. what if all you can see of the past year is disappointment and failure. i wouldn’t want to think about those moments or live through them in my mind again. i would wallow in resignation and cross my fingers that the new year will be better somehow. maybe. who knows. it doesn’t matter.
but what really is progress? what really is growth?
i used to gauge my assessment on knowledge and ministerial experience. do i know more about God than i did before? or have i ministered in new areas or ways i have never done before?
but what is God’s measure of true growth?
2 Corinthians 4:7-15
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.
What if growth on His terms means death? What if growing means dying…
For me, this year littered with much more bad memories than good ones. and reluctantly thinking back on the year, the Holy Ghost asked me in a soft and gentle voice…”How much have you died this year?” And i realized then, that my measurement of growth was wrong. the tears rolled down as i recalled every painful moment and felt it all over again, realizing for the first time the dying that was taking place…
How much have you died this year?
All those circumstances, disappointment and failure, the real question is…have they worked death in you?
Have your unanswered prayers made you die to your idea and concept of faithfulness?
What if the measurement of true relationship was forgiveness and not harmony. Have we died to that idea?
Have our sitting on the sidelines while others take center stage make us die to ambition and fame?
Has death work its way in us?
And then revelation hit me. The problem was i was still dead…but i shouldn’t be. Death is suppose to work life in us. That is its purpose.
Here’s the bottom line. Death is necessary only for one reason - Resurrection.
We die so that He can be resurrected in us. We die to our dreams so we can live His dream for us.
Look back at your past year of disappointment and failures and tell yourself, feel the pain and let death work its way in you…but don’t stay there…be resurrected in His life and power!
this is what the Holy Ghost will say to you: it is time for a resurrection.
Sometimes Your calling, comes in dream Sometimes in comes in the Spirit’s breeze You reach for the deepest hope in me And call out for the things of eternity But I’m a man, of dust and stains, You move in me, so I can say ChorusHere I am, Lord send me All of my life, I make an offering, Here I am, Lord send me Somehow my story is a part of Your plan, Here I am When setbacks and failures, and upset plans Test my faith and leave me with empty hands Are You not the closest when it’s hardest to stand I know that You will finish what You began And these broken parts You will redeem Become the song that I can sing ChorusOverwhelmed by the thought of my weakness And the fear that I’ll fail You in the end In this mess, I’m just one of the pieces, I can’t put this together but You can ChorusHere I Am, all my life an offering to You, to You Somehow my story is a part of Your plan Here I am
it was an unusual feeling…the scar was undeniable but the pain was non-existent.
i found myself in the same situation. same people. same words. same unspoken message. same disappointments. same history. same facts.
but it was different.
the same place that hurt and ached and wrenched…it wasn’t a wound anymore…
it was a scar.
it was a confused moment of awe, shock, relieve and gratefulness. while trying to grab my mind round the impossibility of what i was actually experiencing, i remembered the story of some nail scarred hands and a pierced side…
thomas reached his fingers into holes of peeling scab and a brownish stained opening of a punctured cavity.
they were ugly.
Jesus did not wince in pain or hurl back in anger and disappointment at their betrayal and unbelief. But He allowed them to reach into the scars that they caused and yet not hate and revile them.
that’s what scars allow us to do. they allow us to reach for the very same things that caused them.
a scar from a burn while cooking allows you to hold that pan and fry a morning french toast again.
a scar from falling off a bike allows you to mount the cool leather seat and feel the thrill of whizzing downhill again.
a scar allows you to reach back for the very same thing that caused it.
Jesus reached for us with His nail scarred hands. us - who drove the nails through His wrists and pierced His side… His scars of forgiveness allowed Thomas to touched Him without feeling any pain or anger.
His scars allowed Him to touch the very same thing that caused them…us.