Dec 14, 2014

God's Transformation, feat. Nick & Ivan

(I'm not supposed to post the (beautiful) photos we took at the wedding yet, so here's a picture from yesterday at World of Coca-Cola featuring an unsuspecting Nick and cheeky Ivan, who had tricked him into trying the Zimbabwean drink that, according to Nick a few seconds after this photo was taken, tasted like medicine.)


So I'm with the cousins in Atlanta to attend my aunt's wedding (congrats!), and today I learnt that Nick now leads a youth cell group, and he's been receiving training from his youth pastor. At the wedding today (in a cabin in the woods; it was incredible) Nick and Ivan were talking about Ravi Zacharias and Tim Keller and understanding apologetics and all the things we all still didn't know, yet knowing that it was important to "always be prepared to give an answer...for the hope that you have" (1 Pet 3:15).

They're both eighteen now, and the whole time I was amazed at how different they are from the Nick and Ivan I once knew. Like, you have well-behaved children, and then you have really bad ones. Once upon a time Ivan and Nick were just...people you would never come close to associating with the "good Christian kid".

I remember the year I noticed Ivan's stark transformation from a terror of a child into a gentle, loving, quiet preteen. 2009: I was 16, he was 13. I mean, he was quiet. I was like, woah, dude, I don't even know you anymore. And he told me that at church camp the previous year, he and his older brother Ian had encountered God in a very tangible way for the first time. I guess the transformation was more dramatic in Ivan because Ian had always been the better-behaved kid, but that marked the start of their lives in Christ. Whenever Ian messages me to clarify or challenge something I said on Facebook regarding Christianity, I am reminded again of the work that God is doing in him, and that only God brings us to desire to know Him. While Ian's the more word-focused, "is this biblically founded or not" type of Christian (reminds me of Kenneth the Yale-NUS DF heh), God's work in Ivan is more evident in his relationship with Him and the grace and love that he shows to others, I think.

And I guess I only realised the change in Nick on this trip. I see Nick very rarely, and I had a pretty bad impression of his fourteen-year-old character, to say the least. I noticed it this time: courteous, helpful and obedient to his parents, not distasteful in his jokes (but still hilarious), genuine, not a single swear word. He was talking about his challenges as a youth leader, and the kids whom he really cares for and whom he'd love to see grow up; his difficulties in answering their questions or helping them with their problems, that motivate him to read up more, question more, understand his faith better.

"It's 24/7", he said, and that pretty much sums up my experience leading CF, too. It's a 24/7 job. As a church or ministry leader people somehow seem to expect you to be flawless like God, and you often trip up with a slip of the tongue, or a graceless act, or just about anything when people scrutinise and judge you that way.

It's tiring, and it often feels unfair. "Hey, you don't judge that Christian when he does this, why judge me." Once I poured it out to Yixuan and Baoyun in frustration. Frustration that I had to set higher standards for myself, when it might not even be a sinful act but could be judged to be so. Frustration that I always felt judged, like I lugged about an iron chain of watchful eyes 24/7. And then Yixuan said "but isn't it a wonderful thing to be able to represent God?" That sentence changed the way I saw everything.

Looking at my cousins, I'm also reminded of Theo, and how much he has changed since really coming to Christ around this time last year. Just in one year, he has become such a different person, so selfless and so thoughtful for other people, so helpful, so gracious in speech and thought, so anxious to live out a close relationship with God. It's incredible to witness. And I wonder if people see the change in me. I see the inward change in myself, in my thoughts and decisions and motivations, but I wonder if people who've known me through the years can also see God's work in me this tangibly. I don't think so. I mean, I wasn't a very good fourteen-year-old either, but I think I was a somewhat decent kid. And I still say 'shit' and 'damn' very frequently, and I very often forget to be graceful or reflect Christlikeness in my speech. And I'm a pretty awful child to my parents. I'm sorry, Mum and Dad, that you guys think I cannot stand you guys and would always rather be somewhere else and won't listen and will always do things my way. I was eating Sun Chips on my bed and Mum said "You know, I don't know if I should make you eat better food or just let you learn for yourself, because it's so bad for you and you'll come to see the effects one day", and I didn't say anything because I didn't know what to say, and I continued eating my Sun Chips because well the packet had to be finished anyway and I knew that once the school semester started again I'd go right back to eating junk, so why pretend? And then I thought "I'm probably a terrible child." But then, also, "will I ever please my parents?", and then, "does any child ever fully meet their parents' expectations?"

Anyway, now I'm rambling.

(I never actually try to end a post properly eh, must be a subconscious rebellion against all the pretty concluding paragraphs I try to squeeze out when I write essays)

No comments: