It feels strange to come back to my own blog again. It is like revisiting your old bedroom. It is familiar and yet, so foreign because you have been gone for a long time. I have not updated this site for almost a year. Even before that, I was not even good at updating. But I miss this space where I get to share my thoughts and feelings. So I will make an effort to write more frequently.
Having lived in New Zealand for almost two years, I thought I had the Kiwi culture figured out. But I discovered recently that there is still so much to learn. Just this week, I came across a cultural aspect that shocks and upsets me. Although I am from Thailand, an oriental country where punctuality is not essential, I have learned over times that time management affects other people. Therefore, I do my best to be on time whenever I have any appointment or specific activities going on. Also, as an introvert, I respect individual’s privacy. So if I want to visit someone in their homes, I usually ask them for permission in advance, as in several hours before, if not a day, whether I can come see them. To me, punctuality and respect for privacy are the signs of respect. And I highly value them.
This past week, I have had a few circumstances where these values were overlooked. Joel and I have had people randomly knocking on our door just to visit; or someone asking for a place to stay but not being specific about when they would come and go and not letting us know that they were not going to come anymore. At one point, we were invited out with 20-minutes notice. Of course, we could say no to all of them but these were good things any Christians should do. So most of the times, we said yes. But our “yes” is different. My husband’s “yes” is a willingness-to-serve kind whereas mine is a more reluctant and dragged-into-the-circumstance kind.
This has been my struggle. My husband, if you know him, is an open book and loves everyone without any prejudices. He welcomes people from all background; and is passionate about sharing Jesus to everyone through serving them, especially those who are marginalized. Because he had gone through some extremely rough and violent environment before, he can relate to those who are going through similar things. He never hesitates when someone asks him for help even though it might cost him sleep or money. I admire him deeply because of his conviction and passion. And I feel like, as a wife and a Christian, it is my job to support and encourage him. But I had two meltdowns today because I just had enough of people randomly calling and demanding help from my husband.
This guilt has been eating me up inside because I know that Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. But what does it mean? How does it translate to a life of an introverted woman who has been married for only six months to a man whose life has always been in service to God? (Now don’t get me wrong because I love serving God, just in a very different way from my husband.) Does this suggest that one of us is wrong? I do not think so. So how do we balance this tendency to say “yes” to everything and the inclination to shut oneself inside a room and not see anyone for a whole day?
First, we need to accept that our ways of serving God are different. God has given us different talents and gifts so that we can use them to make him known and to create unity among his people. Joel may be good at helping people hands-on and reaching out to those others might want to avoid. But I can maintain long-term relationship and provide food and bedding for those who are in need. Often, I beat myself up, feeling that I am not supportive of my husband enough. But I was reminded that we have unique personalities and gifts. At the end of the day, it is a matter of the heart. Am I doing things for the right reason? Am I serving God, my husband, or myself?
The second point is still something I need to work on – to communicate my needs in a healthy way. My usual defense mechanism, whenever I get angry or frustrate, is to start a cold war. You know, the classic stuff – cold shoulders, silent treatment, blaming myself, and the ultimate heart-breaker – teary meltdown (Yes, I have done all that). But this is not going to get us any further in our understanding of each other; nor will it influence our ministry positively. So I am training myself to verbally communicate how I feel and what I need in an edifying way. Our goal is to reach a point where Joel understands what my limit is and where I am comfortable enough to let people become more involved in our lives as a couple.
Last, and the most difficult of all – we need to rest. We live in a busy world. In a success-oriented culture, we tend to bite off more than one can chew. It is so difficult to say no. And our calendar is packed. Currently, in addition to my full-time study, I wait tables part-time at a Thai restaurant, work on my visa applications to Australia (and if you have done this before, you know what a pain it can be), participate in two weekly bible studies, teach a children’s class on Sunday, translate documents to earn some bucks in Thailand, etc. This excludes random occurrence during the week that require our involvement. As you can see, I have a lot on my plate. And I know that many people do too. My question is though – how can we take a rest from all of these events in our lives?
This morning, I came across a blog post that talks about the real rest. Apparently, it has nothing to do with sleeping in until noon or lying around facebooking all day. Real rest should shift our focus back to God. It needs to restore, re-energize and rejuvenate. In my Hebrews class, we recently talked about people being burnt out because they throw themselves into the ministry but not allow enough time to pause and to refocus. Resting, therefore, is important. But we need to rest wisely. Be specific about how we want to spend our time and choose the activities that match with your spiritual needs at the moment. The goal is to meet with God. It can be lying in bed reading, watering plants, walking along the beach, going out for coffee with a friend, or listening to music. Whatever we do, let us be intentional about listening to God and resting in His presence. There is so much noise surrounding us already. It may be good to unplug all the devices and spends time in quietness for a few hours, if not a day.
Serving God is not easy because it involves people. And we are imperfect. Often, we have to deal with other people’s mistakes. Yes, it is unfair, especially for those who try so hard to do the right things. But remember, though, that there was nothing fair about Jesus, the son of God, being on the cross for the sins he never committed. We are called to love and to serve one another because that is what Jesus did for us and because this is how God’s kingdom looks like. And as difficult as it is right now for me, I want to be a part in bringing heaven into this world.