Jun 29, 2015


I'm here to recount a conversation I had a while ago that is very relevant today. Posted with permission.

She told me about her new boyfriend; they'd been together for a few weeks. I noticed the happiness in her voice. I was little taken aback, since the last time we talked about relationships she told me about how she had many other more important things to focus on right now, etc., but it didn't matter. She seemed happy, so I was glad for her. I was grateful that she had told me something personal, and I wanted to offer something in reciprocation. I felt prompted to talk about my first relationship somehow, but it was a dangerous thing to say. You can't just talk about something like that to anyone. She might be weirded out, she might see me differently, she might become guarded. I struggled with the dilemma for a few minutes.

"My first relationship was with a girl, but that ended and I'm straight, so whatever." Shrugged, like it was something to shrug about.

"Huh? Really?" She seemed taken aback, but more out of fascination than in a negative way.


"Can I tell you something? My boyfriend is...a girl also. I just call her a he so that people won't say like 'eee, you're lesbian'. I'm afraid of what people will think."

Something tugged at my heart. I knew that this moment right here was God-planned. He was the one who had drawn up this friendship; it was so clear now.

She had never been in a relationship with a girl before, but although this was different, it was no less real. Her 'boyfriend' gave her the strength to face the problems in her family and brought her happiness.  She had liked her for quite a while now. I understood exactly how she felt. People can say all they want about 'unnatural' love, but it feels as real as any other. Emotions don't always discriminate, and love is love.

She told me that she was also beginning to feel really guilty towards God, like she was no longer worthy of being His child. For two weeks now, she would go to church on Sunday morning, and sit outside the chapel until the service was over. She didn't feel worthy of being let in. At this point I felt like God had orchestrated our entire friendship for this moment, like I was, right now, acting as God's messenger to her.

My first relationship lasted slightly under a year and nine months. God came into my life halfway through it. He didn't refuse to let me into His house; with open arms, He filled me with His overwhelming love, until I wanted nothing more than to pursue Him. As I was moved to tears at every church session, as I fasted and read the Bible and prayed and questioned and received, all other things in my life simply dimmed themselves out of existence.

"God has already forgiven you, and nothing can come between God's love for you," I said with urgency, with firmness. "See, I do things that make my dad angry sometimes, but he would never want me to stop talking to him altogether. Isn't it the same for our Father? He already knew everything about your life before you were born, and still loved you enough to create you, to die so that you could freely come to Him. And now you think you are unworthy of His love?"

None of us are worth God's love. The fact that we are unworthy is the reason He had to die to pay the price of our sins. God died to make us worthy, to bail us out. And since all - ALL - our sins have been paid for, nothing can separate us from God anymore.

"Please, don't stop talking to God. It breaks His heart more that you're not talking to Him. He knows, and it's okay, nothing you do will make Him love you more or less." There were tears in her eyes. She nodded, silent. I prayed so hard for her that night, that God would continue to show her that nothing, nothing, could stop her from being His daughter. And slowly, as God's love grew in her life to become the Greatest Love, all other loves would submit to it, and stand or fall in its presence.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Rom 8:38-39

Jun 21, 2015

Freedom always comes at a cost

I have a habit of learning things and being done with them before becoming proficient. I learnt how to play the guitar about two and a half years ago, so that I could play in CF if it was needed. I learnt how to play in the keys of G and D, but couldn't do bar chords so I could never play Bm right, and always avoided the key of C. I tried my hand at fingerstyle for a while - tried Blackbird and Tears in Heaven, but never finished learning either song. I still make mistakes when I play: CF would know all too well. It's been so wonderful and useful being able to play the guitar, and it really helps me in worship. But I never went beyond the basics. I learnt just enough to get by, and gave up.

My brother, on the other hand, came back one day when he was 14 and started playing a refrain on the guitar over and over again. I was like, "wow, you can play now?" and he said "nope". But every day, for a few hours at a go, he would lie on his bed and practice. Every day. Soon he was able to play anything. Like, he was able to play Sungha Jung arrangements. He could figure out how to play something in fingerstyle just by listening to it. He started being able to play things that Theo was playing. Coming home every night to the tune of Rylynn - one of my favourite moments at home.

And that is guitar freedom.

Guitar freedom is being able to play whatever you want. But that comes with discipline and practice. I don't have guitar freedom. I can't play whatever I want. Same for financial freedom. If you don't have the discipline to save and carefully steward your money (I'm guilty of this too), you won't be financially free. You'll continue to be bound by money. This is also often true of me. I don't work as much as I should, and I highly prioritise meeting people, and meeting people often happens over food, and soon I'm bound by my lack of money again.

I love to teach English because it's so important for a person to be able to express exactly what they want or how they're feeling. Being able to express yourself makes you feel free. But learning a language comes with practice. I don't know how to tell my students that. The skill of expression that I have is not a miracle. Read, write, read, write, train yourself, unlock that treasure trove within you, and your world of expression will also be set free. You know, I love creative writing because it's the avenue that sets my inner world free. All these ideas in my head, these emotions I can't express, this beauty that comes out in garbles in speech - they become elegant on paper. Yet I haven't been training. I decided I didn't like creative writing classes because it felt too stifling, too controlled and sterile. I haven't written a good creative piece in a long, long, long time. The last good piece I wrote was before Yale-NUS started, I think. And I see that I'm beginning to lose it, and I'm beginning to panic, because it's my one avenue, my refuge, my old friend, and it's slipping through my fingers because I failed to practice and keep and train my skill. And if I'm no longer able to effectively express ideas creatively in words, then I am no longer fully free to express myself. The colourful mess in my head will always only remain a colourful mess; the piece I produce will never ease the ache; I will lose my ability to write, and hence, my freedom.

Freedom comes at a cost. For things like music and money and sports, that cost is discipline. The freedom to walk around safely at night is something many Singaporeans experience; that comes with the cost of tight law enforcement. If evil weapon-wielders practised their freedom to hurt people on the streets, we wouldn't have the freedom to walk around safely at night. The freedom of peace comes at the cost of self-restraint on everyone's part. People say that love brings freedom. When you and your significant other are in love, you free up each other's souls. You are free to be yourselves, and in each other you find your own true self. Yet a relationship comes with commitment, and commitment means sticking to a decision you've made even when you don't feel like it. True love doesn't mean it's always easy; it just means it's the most rewarding. Love requires sacrifice, but that sacrifice is worth it.

Our desires, our wants, are endless. But in order to have freedom in a community, we need to decide what happens when our desires touch on another's territory. If I were the only person around for miles and miles, I could want all that land and have it; I'd also be very lonely and sad. Thankfully, there are many other people within that land area where I come from. However, in order for my community to have freedom, I can't have all the land. We all have to give and take.

Why should the freedom for speech be brandished about like it's the only one that doesn't come with a cost?