Meeting the Boss

Met the boss last week after service. We started the conversation with me sharing about my past 6 months of serving in the worship ministry, as well as my defining moments.

The first thing I said was to remind him that I had once shared about my insecurities. I told him that they went into the journey with me, but that the belief that it was God who called me here brought me through each of those weeks that I struggled. Those struggles persisted for like 5 or 6 months.

I’m glad that I was honest to myself, to him and to those who care, about this part of me. It makes talking about those insecurities easier. And more importantly, this tells people how serious I am whenever I say that I stand here by grace. There is no way I would have gotten here by my own efforts. These insecurities are one of those barriers to why I wouldn’t be here, if not for grace that carried me here.

Shared about the defining moments I had as well. The grace shown to me in this ministry on that particular practice was one that opened my eyes to my fellow servants’ hearts in serving God. There was another as well, but I was too shy to tell the boss directly that I was inspired by how he practised till 5am and served on that day even though he was sick. That was a defining moment because it was then that I realised that even a player as seasoned as he is required that much practice. And to see the heart he has behind serving God – to the extent of staying up till 5am – was quite wow. So I told him indirectly that I was encouraged when I saw that seasoned musicians in the ministry also practised for hours, because that made me realise how it isn’t about how “new” or how “old” someone is in the ministry. It’s all about practising, and that was the point where I laid down my insecurities and simply focus on practising songs. That was a turning point, a breakthrough in my time here. Insecurities no longer had a hold on me since then.

Boss built upon this when I paused. He told me that I wasn’t the first to have thought that way, because he had new musicians being surprised that boss practised for as many hours as he did. Well, I would have been as well. It’s the mentality that after some time, there will be a toolbox built from previous uses. It will then be easier to pick out techniques that I need from a box of tools, and then after it’s just about using that tool. That’s something I had wished for myself in time to come.

But boss made a good point. He agreed that it’s true that after some time, certain techniques are easier to pick up. However, he said that will only be because of the years of practice that allows those skills to be built up over time. At the end of the day, it’s still about faithfulness in practising. Just like what the Bible often says about faithfulness.

He had me fill in the blanks for this statement – “In the past 6 months of serving, it has been ______.” After thinking for about half a minute or so, I answered “… filled with fear and trembling”. He told me that it’s natural, and even shared with me the kind of nervousness he used to experience when he was younger. He was literally shakened when he was asked to play. When he went on with sharing about how he used to look at others in the ministry and thought to himself that he would never come close to where they are (e.g. listening to something and figuring out chord progressions), it’s something that I can identify with. This is just like how I am currently looking at him, HY, Nigel, etc. I guess I wouldn’t have imagined that there’s this part of him. To me, he’s someone who is naturally-talented, so it never occurred to me that he feels un-confident of playing in front of people or that there was a point in time that music did not make sense to him.

That meeting with boss was a fruitful one, I would say. In that… I realised that I’m not alone in my struggles, but that there are people who experience(d) these things as well. It changed my perspectives to some extents. It also made me rethink the beliefs that I long hold. For instance, I was telling him that I really think that I have no musical talents, and he interrupted me by saying, “that’s what you think of yourself”. He then asked me why is it that I think of myself that way, and I realised that it could be because of a remark that my piano teacher once made (my piano teacher told us frankly that my sister is more talented in music, but even though I’m not as talented, I was dilligent). I still don’t see whatever talents he might think I have, but anyway, those words and that question made me realise that I’ve insisted on my beliefs based on what someone has said. Well, it’s not that I think I’m talented now, but I guess I shall be less fixated on this lack of talent comment and maybe… see with new lenses what possible talents there are. Still strange to think of myself that way, but okay gonna try to put on fresh lenses.

Thankful for that short 30 minutes of genuine exchange of stories. Oh and one of the things that made me excited was when he informed me that I am to have a mentor to guide me through the next 3 months! :D Haven’t been so excited about having a mentor in a while hahaha excited to learn new things!

Meeting the Boss

To love

Was seized by fear the day before, and it bothered me for pretty much the whole night till I went to bed. The moment when I decided to take a careful look at it was when a friend asked if there was anything she could pray for me for. I struggled to put that into words, partly because I don’t really like verbalising my feelings and partly because that fear was rather “unprocessed” that I didn’t know how to even talk about it.

I feared coming close to people. Because when that happens, I risk letting myself go up and down along with the state of the friendship. And that can be quite draining. My first instinct would be to run, to build walls, to hide – but these no longer make sense to me. That was why I decided to talk about it with that friend who asked if she could pray for me, because I felt trapped – I guess I kinda know that it will be bad for any parties involved if I simply run away. Yet at the same time, I didn’t know how I should deal with that fear. Well, didn’t really share much with her since I wasn’t sure what was exactly happening, but as I spent time alone afterwards, I learnt quite a few things about myself. Things that I would hate to admit.

It’s only until yesterday when I returned to an empty house after a long day out that I actually sat down to talk to God about this. I had wondered if I had placed too much in people (like what my friend kinda suggested), so much so that my relationship with them affects how I am. So, if things were placed rightly, there wouldn’t be pain if I lose them? I was then reminded of Jesus and Judas, and the question that came was this – did it not hurt Jesus when Judas betrayed him? Was it not painful? It sure was, even for this Man who set the standards for how we love God and love one another.

Concluded that that pain would be reasonable. I was then reminded of this statement that said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable”. I went to Google it, and I found out that it was written by C. S. Lewis. This was what I found:

To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. 

Surely then, it’s a risk to take. It’s dangerous in some sense; or at least not 100% safe. Decided that alright, I’ll take that risk. What that quote said felt like a “It’s either you live by loving, or you die by shutting yourself away from it. There’s no in between.” So I guess, I choose to love.

A next question came along, and I told God that I feel like I love too much. And I felt that I have a problem with moderating the way I love – most of the time, it’s either too much or I simply don’t care. Interestingly, I was just looking at that same quote when it led me to something else that C.S. Lewis said.

It is probably impossible to love any human being simply “too much.”  We may love him too much in proportion to our love for God; but it is the smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for the many that constitutes the inordinacy….But the question whether we are loving God or the earthly Beloved “more” is not, so far as concerns our Christian duty, a question about the comparative intensity of two feelings.  The real question is, which (when the alternative comes) do you serve, choose, or put first?  To which claim does your will in the last resort yield?”

That was an interesting conversation on love. Definitely learnt something new about love. And it really felt like a two-way conversation. For now, I guess I have two things to work on after reading these: 1, to abandon that fear 2, to love God more.

To love

It’s just like that

Realise that’s pretty much how my attitude has been over the past… I don’t even remember when this started.

Earlier on, it was about devising ways to get people to respond as I realised that people just don’t bother. Think about RSVP-ing, submitting things they were supposed to, arriving at a time that was agreed upon… Whenever I take on the role of an event organiser, these are some of the scenarios that will play out in my mind and I’ll just be thinking about how to make them respond the way I need them to in order to help with the planning process. Like, how do I ensure that people show up at an event so that the catered food don’t go wasted, how do I ensure that those who are late don’t miss out on important parts of the programme while honouring the time of those who arrive early, etc. Clearly, the trust that says “they will do what they are expected to” has eroded.

There was once I excitedly planned for an event. Halfway through, the responses that came in made me feel as though I was trying to get a bunch of uninterested people together. That was discouraging. In the end I got angry, gave up the planning, let whoever still wanted it take over and I threw a tantrum by letting the person who took over know that I would not turn up for it. And I didn’t. If I didn’t remember wrongly, that was the last time I excitedly organised something in a bigger group setting and expected people to turn up. That wasn’t a mature way of handling that, I admit, and it seemed to have changed the way I value group gatherings in ways that I wasn’t completely aware of.

These attitudes towards the way I relate with people persist even till this day. I still have my backup plans for people who are late/don’t turn up at the last minute, and sometimes I will tell my co-organiser that honestly, I don’t think it’s going to turn out as expected. Lately, it’s been like that as well, especially as I see some of my friends are also struggling in dealing with some of these disappointments and feeling burnt out as they serve people. I sense a lack of motivation in me when it comes to gathering people and coordinating their schedules. Sometimes I’d feel that I would really appreciate it and life would be much easier if someone could just help me with coordinating schedules, because I am just so tired of what feels like begging people for their responses. I’d rather organise things in an informal setting, making it such that if the rest are willing to come then come along but if not, I’m really not going to try too hard. I will just arrange my time with the one who’s really interested in doing that same thing, and if the rest cannot make it then so be it.

And I decided to write about this because a friend just asked me a moment ago, “ARE YOU EXCITED”, and I find myself unable to say yes to that. I do think that it’s great she is excited about those plans, but I also can’t help to feel that reality might just end up in disappointment. I hesitated between sharing with her about how I honestly feel towards those plans – not hopeful – and encouraging her to carry out her plans.

As I hesitated, it just struck me that there’s something wrong with my heart attitude. It’s like this heart has grown cold towards things that are worth rejoicing over – e.g. the excitement of someone in encouraging others to mature in Christ. It’s saying, “ah forget it, I don’t think the rest will be receptive to it.” I guess it’s because my heart has decided that people are “just like that”, and I’m so tired of them being this way.

But hey, is not a good thing worth rejoicing over? Is it not worth me pursuing that goal anymore, even as I see the good in it? Shall I just be fine with people staying the way they are – I mean if I really think that’s how they are like? I am tired and disappointed yes, but I can’t simply let these hinder the progress of what is good.

It then occurred to me that perhaps this is how people experience a burnout in their jobs. Maybe they used to believe in a particular cause, but over time they experience disappointments because things don’t turn out as beautiful as they had hoped to see. Slowly, this mentality of how things are “just like that” seeps in, as if a change in the situation is impossible. Hopes are lost, dreams are lost. They become jaded with their jobs, ending up doing just the bare minimum.

It’s sad, but it happens. Others have told me about how social workers quit after a few years, or that they simply become jaded with their jobs. It’s sad, and I didn’t want to believe that that’s bound to happen to all social workers. I mean look, I have these teachers whom I look up to, and the common thing amongst them that inspires me is their passion to teach and to impart life values. Some did lose their dreams along the way, but these never. Surely there must be a way out of the possible jadedness, right?

I guess so. As of now, I’m still not motivated in coordinating things within groups. But I hope and I pray that God will change this heart of mine. It’s not good, and it can be better than it is now. Breakthrough needed in my heart, to see breakthroughs in lives as well.

Another thought that came to me this evening: If one day I really find no one running this race with me, will I still carry on with that same conviction that I have when I sing “Though my world may fail, I’ll never let You go”? If I will, then whether those in my world responds to things as it would be ideal, will no longer matter in my pursuit of what is good and right. It’s not just about meeting up, but also about running towards any good and right goal. If it is good and right, then it being good and right is sufficient a reason for me to keep on trying.

It’s just like that

His Empowerment

I’ve been sharing that I struggle with playing the guitar, and the insecurities that come along with that. Interestingly, each time I serve as a musician in service (this week’s gonna be the 3rd time), there will bound to be a song that makes me turn purple *cues emoji with half purple face with a drop of sweat by the side*

As I think about times like that, and about how even though there’s always this particular song that’s like that, I realise so far I’ve not crumbled in despair. Songs like that are difficult, but not impossible. They take more effort and require me to step out of my comfort zone more, but not unattainable.

They are not impossible and unattainable because God has been enabling me to pick up what I need to play those songs. There’s the help that God sends through people in my life – so many people I’ve bothered to ask to be my ears. I hear well in terms of decibels, but I don’t hear well musically. So these people have been my ears to ask them what they hear in this and that song. Trying to learn from them in the midst of this. There were also skills that God enabled me to pick up quickly within a short time. Like, playing along with the metronome, practising how to hold a pick when I’m plucking… I’m still not able to play very confidently (and the sound person has to deal with my lack of confidence haha >.< cos I’ll end up playing softer whenever I’m not confident and that changes the balance of the sounds), but I do see progress after staying stagnant in my playing for years.

I thank God for His empowerment in my worship unto Him. And each time I have to play, I know I can trust that His empowerment will come because if He has called me to this, He will give me what I need. I have little, but I guess it’s this little that helps me to understand what grace means (to be serving at this capacity when I am not good enough by this world’s standard) and what empowerment means (to be enabled to do things beyond my comfort zone). What I have in my hands are not my own, but what God has given and this teaches me to use these to worship my King.

I only have this much
But use them as You will

His Empowerment

Follow-up from yesterday

God turned up and saved the day.

Concerning that dilemma in the previous post, in the end I put aside what I was about to do. Told myself to be patient and simply wait. Something might just happen the next day, which was supposed to be today.

An email came in this evening. Approval granted :)

Praise God for the approval! And thank God that through this experience, He taught me yet another lesson on what it means to trust Him. Trusting Him not only when I’m at my wits’ end, but to hand the decision over to Him even when I have a choice as well. To trust in His wisdom, rather than what I think I know best.

I may not know what could have happened if I insisted on doing it my own way – annoy the other party on the other end perhaps? I don’t know! But whatever it is, I like the outcome today – the approval and even more so, the lesson learnt :)

Thank God for being my faithful God!

Follow-up from yesterday

Get up and run again

A few days ago, mom conveyed a message from Ps XH to write a thanksgiving note to my previous church for their 17th anniversary. Haven’t gotten down to writing it because…

But anyway, so mom wrote hers. Part of the response to her note that came in was this:
“青年人方面我只请到慧敏写,希望 [琬軒] 能写,尤其她住最远却最早到教会参加晨祷…。谢谢。”

One of the first thoughts that came to me was this – that’s pretty impressive. Impressed with the young but fervent teen then, but at the same time I couldn’t help but to ask myself, “What happened then?” I still remember that the leader, whom I’ve always loved and respected, once asked me, “What happened to you lately? You used to always be the first to be here, but now you aren’t even always here.” Elaborating on this part of the story isn’t the point of this post, so if you wanna know what happened, come talk to me about it.

But anyway, the point is that that kind of fervour was something that people remembered about that kid. Even when this didn’t surface in my mind when I’m asked about my experience there, it’s something that they reminded me about whenever they talked to me. By the way, I still love God and I genuinely do. Question for myself is, what changed?

I wonder, if there’s a weekly prayer meet like this in Hope, will I give my best to be there? Even if no one asked me to, even if no one expected me to, even if no one cares if I’m even there or not. Will I rise in the early morning at 5.30am again to seek God, just to seek God? Will I have that resolve, that determination, that eagerness?

Maybe, physically speaking, my body is no longer used to waking at 5.30am like how I did everyday in secondary school. But I’m wondering if this is just an excuse I’m making. Well maybe I’m busy now and stay up later into the night? Staying up nowadays is true, but much of it by choice actually. So if I actually do make an effort to rest early so that I can rise early, well. Being busy… I think I was more occupied with commitments and events than I am now (if you think I’m busy now, try asking me what I used to be up to from Monday to Friday each week lol).

On my way home just now, I kept asking myself, so what changed? Taking things for granted, complacency, eager feelings faded… all these came to me and all I thought was “maybe”. But suddenly, the word “passive” came to me and mm…

Passivity could quite likely be a cause. Been getting so used to getting fed, have people so nicely gently tactfully invite me for events (like prayer meet, fellowship, outreach), have people pasting reminders all over so that I am made aware of what’s going on and when’s this and that. For instance, when I first got here I used to find it odd that cell group leaders have to remind us that there is prayer meet coming up on this particular date and time. I even questioned the sensibility of doing that, and wondered what the rest were doing if they were not paying attention when announcement about prayer meet was being made. But guess what? I haven’t been aware of the past few prayer meets until my cell leader informed me about it, which by then, a lot of times I had already made some other plans. There was once, not long ago, when my mind just went, “well you didn’t tell me earlier, so it’s not my fault that I can’t be there”, and then the next thing that came into my mind was, “why wasn’t I paying attention to announcement, and why am I not keeping track of the fact that prayer meet is on the last Friday of every 2 months?” Good questions, no answer. Didn’t even bother to give much of a second thought about them.

No excuses, but I’ve just got to be more active when it comes to the things of God. It’s not about having the best attendance, serving the most, speaking up the most in LG, being there all the time, but to simply pay attention to the things of God because it matters to Him, and because it matters to me. My passivity makes me feel like these things lost their importance – because if things were important to me, I would be sure to catch them. And if I don’t like the gaps that I see, then I better be prepared to stand in those gaps, and to encourage others to stand with me. I can’t just be talking about how much I dislike these gaps and just be hoping someone else does something about it. That kid didn’t used to be so passive; if there was something she saw a value in, she would go out of the way to pursue it. Even if that meant lining up alone outside the Indoor Stadium, even if that meant joining external Christian organisations to take part in what the church was not involved in, even if that meant having to talk to Christian strangers so as to learn from them, and many other things.

Come on WX, you’ve got to get up and run again.

Get up and run again