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Friday, 16 November 2007

The settled- heart

today i was thinking to myself : " i am beginning to feel settled". On retrospect,  a lot of my emotions and views sprung from my unsettled heart. I was settling in my new marriage life, settling in my London church life, and settling in my job. Some people takes longer to settle and others sooner.
 
I am beginning to feel settled in my job when i accept what brother Soo Inn said that indeed this is life, the true reality of life, where not every task and job is exciting. I have accepted that, and also having that openness that life is full of potential and possibilties. Life is also an ongoing journey, not a dead end. Life is open ended. Two of my colleagues are leaving end of this month and i am the only remnant left in this exile. Others have asked me about how i felt and whether i was stressing myself being the only one in the squad. Surprisingly, i am calm. I will take it as it comes and do what i can.
 
This morning i read an article written by Soo Inn that confirmed the thoughts that came to my mind.
 
GRACE@WORK MAIL 46/07
[November 16, 2007 Edition]

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of
righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit . . . "
(Romans 14:17 TNIV)


Commentary: Football Highlights

I was in my mum's place in Penang over the weekend. Mum has cable TV
but she doesn't have the sports package so I couldn't catch the Reading -
Arsenal game on Monday. (Bernice and I are long time supporters of
Arsenal.) However we managed to catch the goals from that game on some
"Football Highlights" type programme. (Yes, Arsenal won 3 - 1!)

I suspect most football (soccer) fans are grateful for programmes like
"Football Highlights." In the space of an hour or so you see the highlights of
all the games played over any given weekend. Instead of having to sit
through hours and hours of football footage, much of which may be boring,
we get to see the most exciting moments.

This practice, of harvesting the most exciting bits of life to be packaged for
entertainment, happens all the time. Take shows like "Animal Planet" or
"National Geographic." In a one hour programme we see the most dramatic
moments in the life of the animal du jour. In truth the cameraman had to
cull those moments from numerous hours of film footage, much of which is
mundane and, well, boring.

Thomas De Zengotita describes what happens if we encounter real wolves in
the wild and they do not do the exciting things we see them do on TV nature
shows:

"The kids will start squirming in, like, five minutes; you'll probably need to
pretend you're not getting bored for a while longer. But if that little smudge
of canine out there in the distance continues to just loll around in the tall
grass, and you don't have a powerful tripod-supported telelens gizmo to play
with, you will get bored. You will begin to appreciate how much technology
and editing goes into making those nature shows on the 'Discovery
Channel.'"
(Mediated, New York: Bloomsbury, 2005, p.213 )

Unfortunately, this practice, of presenting life as packaged excitement, gives
a skewed view of life. Much of life is not crisis and/or miracle. (You don't get
a Bersih rally every day.) Much of life is just showing up and faithfully doing
what needs to be done. There are projects to be finished, diapers to be
changed, duties to be fulfilled. Some of us have the privilege of working at
things that draw on our passions but even then, few jobs give us a
continuous rush.

Similarly, we do not experience a spiritual high every other minute in our
walk with God. There are those moments when we have special encounters
with Him. But burning bushes are rare. Often, quiet time is a discipline that
we do because we love the Lord. (And sometimes done with the aid of coffee
so that it doesn't become too quiet.) Sometimes the heavens open during
corporate worship. Often, we discipline our hearts to look out for God when
sermons are not the most scintillating and the singing is flat. Walking with
God is not a thrill a minute.

Which brings me back to how life is presented in the media. Every day we
are exposed to shows that are emotionally engaging all the time. This is true
of the entertainment shows. Just look at the excitement level of popular
shows like "Lost" or "Heroes." But what is more insidious is that "serious"
programmes like the news or the educational shows are also packaged for
maximum excitement.

As a result of a constant diet of life served to us in this way, we begin to
expect that life must always be interesting and always exciting. And because
it often is not, we feel cheated and bored and are constantly on the look out
for our next excitement fix. Usually these fixes come from the world of
entertainment and from retail therapy.

A generation shaped thus by the media also expects the Christian life and
church life to be exciting 24/7. Some churches cater to this demand
and thus present the Christian life as one that promises excitement on tap.
As an unfortunate consequence God gets reduced to a divine entertainer
who is expected to keep things interesting for us at all times.

Not only is this idolatry of sorts, it makes us forget the real hungers of our
soul. Real life is communal and vocational. True joy comes from nurturing
our relationships with God and neighbour
(Luke 10:25-28) and in giving
ourselves to the pursuit of our vocation (Ephesians 2:10). And not in being
constantly entertained. We need to look elsewhere for a better metaphor for
life.

A good friend just discovered that he is going to be a dad. Indeed this seems
to be the season for babies. A number of my good friends have recently
welcomed additions to their families. All of us who have walked the journey
of parenthood know that this is a long and hard journey. You can't reduce
this journey to just the "Kodak moments." In the early days, it is sleepily
moving from one feed to another, one diaper change to another. And as your
children get older, its dealing with the many creative evidences of original
sin.

But there is a certain joy that comes when you hold your flesh and blood in
your arms. (It's hard to explain. You have to be there.) And one day they
say "I love you dad" and go on to university and to the rest of their lives. Is
the journey of parenting always exciting? Duh? But it is joyful and it is right
and it is life.

Life is not a cabaret old chum. It is rooting ourselves in the Father love of
God. And giving ourselves in service to God and neighbour. And that is not
boring.

Your brother,
Soo-Inn Tan
E mail: sooinn@graceatwork.org

1 comment:

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