We were sitting with our bowls of steamed rice and stir-fried veggies on our laps, looking at the beautiful orange sky as the sun was setting over Chiangmai city. Moving has become something we are used to by now. Two days ago we were surrounded by the sounds of roosters’ crow and dogs’ relentless bark. Now all we can hear is the loud humming of air-condition in our condo room and the cars’ engine when we step outside.
As I watched my husband shoved down the food I prepare, I was filled with gratitude for God who gave me more than I could ask for. Here we are – husband and wife, braving the world together. When we said our vows – in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth – we were not sure how life was going to be like. But almost 11 months later, we have been tested and tried in many fronts. Visa. Rejection. Prolonged wait. Death of a parent. Numeral moves cross-country and within the country. And sudden financial debt that caught us off guard. Of course, one has to wonder out loud what God is up to.
If I were to be transparent, I have been ridden with anger, anxiety, frustration, sadness, envy and depression. I felt so small in this big city where everyone else seemed to have it altogether. When I watch people’s “reel of happiness” on Facebook (not the best place to seek for comfort), I sometimes feel resentful about what the other people get to have and enjoy. My self-pity only shows me what I pathetically want to see – we are poor and homeless.
But then as I looked into my husband’s eyes at dinner, I realised that this is not too bad. This is what we signed up for when we said our vows, exchanged rings and kissed. In all circumstances of life, through the high and the low, we do not desert each other but draw strength from each other and pick the other one up when she is too weak-willed to get up. I realised that this is the richness I can never get from anyone or anywhere else. Though it is mostly painstaking and hard, God is redefining my understanding of love, life and discipleship.
You see, our marriage is based on love for each other but, deeper than that, it is the love and commitment we have for God that draws us together like a magnet. When we were single, we followed Him separately. Now when we are bound by our vows and physical intimacy, it is no longer my plan, my desire, and my future. Everything is ours. We follow God as a couple now.
As in the days of Jesus, the act of following does not ever guarantee comfort and conveniences. That is what we have been experiencing – discomfort and inconveniences. But are we exchanging this for something far more glorious? Absolutely. If there is one thing I learn while trying to get back up every time I get knocked down is this – the attitude I choose to have needs to be one that reflects the characters of the Master whom I follow. We may ask what is the purpose of going through all these troubles and maybe wonder if He has a grand plan for us here…But perhaps the one purpose He wants us to look for is to learn to trust Him in all circumstances and to display the attitude of Christ even when someone just knocked the wind out of my body.
I am thinking of the Apostle Paul – the scholar, the respected religious leader, the true nobleman of his days. His life was drastically changed as he began to follow Jesus. He was beaten, flogged, deserted, shipwrecked, imprisoned, but his attitude was humble and joyful. He wrote,
“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:11-13 ESV
Paul’s secret is knowing Christ, who is his ultimate joy and life goal. It did not matter how life sucked for him, Paul seized every opportunity to tell everyone of Jesus.
I don’t think we have had anything near Paul’s experiences, let alone Jesus’. So it would be too lame of an excuse for us to say, “Give us a break. We have had it rough.” Instead, my prayer is for us to faithfully, closely, and obediently tread after the footsteps of our Lord and forefathers who were not afraid to live a life of inconvenience for the sake of the Gospel.