I love this “Marriage is hard” 4-day reading plan for its straightforward delivery style!
Here are the excerpt and the four daily topics: 1. Marriage is hard: We’re prideful Apologizing is hard work. Apologizing and changing your behaviors is even harder, and what makes it so hard is pride… When your spouse has an issue with something you’ve said or done, listen twice and think three times before you say anything. It may just be that the best thing you can say is, “I’m sorry.”
I was never interested in faith of any kind. Egoistic and self-reliant, I was an everything-is-possible-if-I-put-my-mind-to-it kind of gal. Paid top dollars to attend seminars by renowned speakers; walked on fire (burnt my toe), read many famous self-help books. Christianity? Definitely not on my list. I thought it’s weird, prudish, weak, rude and definitely geeky and boring. Christmas to me, was party, drink, presents, merry-making, heck-yeah.
This is my story of why I’ve changed, decided to accept Jesus, (remained a non-geek), and how He had changed my life.
First of all. Christianity deal breakers.
Tension and wars among people of different faiths led me to conclude that religion divides. I did not want to have anything to do with that.
Who needs God? God had nothing to do with me. I refused to believe that Jesus has anything to do with a happy life. I’d seen my share of Christian hypocrites. I’m fine, I’m cool. No, thanks.
Then one day, this thing called marriage happened. I got married to a recent divorcee, with a daughter (sole custody with him), and an ex-wife with unlimited visiting rights. Any goon would have run a mile. But not this goon.
Drumroll Introducing … the most miserable time of my life.
Before marriage—Happy and so-in-love.
Instant status of a wife and a step-mother, not pretty.
So naive. I did not realise what I was getting into. I thought as long as I love his then six-year-old daughter as my own, give her a stable and supportive home, we will be a happy family. Nope.
Rejected by his daughter, in-law, trouble from ‘unlimited visiting rights ex-wife’ and a husband caught in-between everything and everyone; are not ingredients for a sweet beginning to our marriage.
I came from an unconditionally loving and accepting family background, so yeah, I had the shock of my life. Slapped awake.
The dreamy-marriage bubble burst. And the nightmare begins.
I was often angry and would burst into a rage at home. I had chest pain from all the outbursts and thought I would collapse from heart attack one day.
Suicidal thoughts started entering my head as the shouting kept getting worse. I was sane enough to not kill myself as I know either it’s 1) It’s painful. 2) It’s messy.
Oh. Then husband accepted Christ one year after we got married. Great! We now had one more topic to argue about!
The concept of surrendering and obeying God in the Christian faith was another deal breaker. I don’t get it. It seemed so weak. To some, f* is a revolting word, to me then, the four letter word is o-b-e-y.
I often cried shaking, angry tears. From a happy person, I became cynical, bitter and felt very alone. I had no one to turn to. But outwardly, I look composed. Still very much a goon, influenced by movies, I kept going away for short breaks thinking that it would help, but that was a lie. The deep pain in my heart did not go away. Hollywood, dang it!
Three nightmarish years later, came the turning point in my life.
Finally, I got so tired of everything, tired of all the fighting, tired of myself. I have nothing left.
I didn’t know when or how, but my hardened heart started to slowly crack. There was a hairline opening in my heart to let God in. I remembered suddenly getting “it”. I’d realised that all the ugliness in the world was done by people, and had nothing to do with the real God.
I also started to question myself: “I’d been living life my way for 30 years, but despite all I had achieved, all I had done, something was seriously not right… I need help.”
I have attended many seminars, I stayed positive, but nothing seemed to work long-term. What else could I do?
One day, I went with my husband to a church’s 2010 Christmas production, “Mad World”. At the end of the production, I followed the pastor to say a simple prayer.
It was weird as I didn’t think about wanting to accept Jesus at all! But I felt compelled to follow along to pray. As I said this prayer in my heart, I felt my cry for help –
Then, I pursue God. I told myself that if I want to find out about Christianity, I should go to the right source and discover once and for all.
So I attended Alpha.
Asked loads of stupid questions like ‘ why the heck God planted the tree-of-life in the first place?’ ‘No tree, no fruits, no eating of fruit, no sin, helloo.’
Finally, after chasing God around, in July 2011, I said, “Yes” again and invited Jesus into my life with the above prayer (scroll up, will ya).
This time, I’m clear and sure. And the exciting journey of getting to know God and drawing close to Him began.
Four years later as a Christian…
I am still in awe of how everything changes when we have God in our lives.
I still talk about Him with sparkling eyes and childlike wonder.
I’m still love-struck.
To someone who is so proud and driven, God has to allow many tough lessons in my life. Sometimes, I do say, boy, being a Christian is tough! Of course, I don’t say ‘boy’ in real life, only Mark Twain will say that.
I struggled daily, DAILY! with God…
I do NOT want to say sorry! He says: Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
I do NOT want to forgive! Do you know that person is wrong? He says: Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
How can I love such a despicable character person! He says: Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. – 1 Corinthians 13:7
It’s inconvenient to call, talk, help him/her. He says: If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? – 1 John 3:17
I want this and that, God. He says: Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.- Matthew 6:33
I struggled and wrestled with God, wanting my way. He says: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Matthew 16:24
But when I obeyed, all the breakthroughs in my life happened. When I surrendered and let God take the steering wheel, that’s when He flipped my life right-side up.
Our marriage. God took our biggest mistake and turned it into something beautiful.
Relationship with our daughter. She doesn’t just call me mom with her word, but with her heart.
Our family. Three musketeers, having fun, loving life, learning from life, learning to love.
My work. Gosh, my work. I thought I gave up my precious start-up, a baby that I wouldn’t let go. But actually, He made way for me to have the best season of my working life.
Serving others. I’m joyfully serving full-time in my church. Hubs and I also started to volunteer in pre-marital counselling at our church.
His ex-wife. We are actually friends now.
And the praises to God goes on.
God is teaching me the meaning of life. I have less to complain.
My blinded eyes were open to see a lot of things which hardened my heart and gripped my life in the past.
I also realised many things that I thought were the norm, weren’t right.
Trusting and accepting Jesus—it is the most liberating thing I ever did. Unshackled my chains. Letting go and letting God into my life.
This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might LIVE through Him. – 1 John 4: 9
This, is the reason for Christmas.
Here’s the invitation…
His love is for me, you, everyone. It doesn’t matter your past. God offers us forgiveness, freedom, his Spirit to live within us, and eternal life. To accept the gift, you just have to believe and trust in Jesus. It’s an act of faith. If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can pray the simple prayer like what I’ve done (scroll up, will ya). It will be the best gift that you will ever receive. Ever.
Something has been increasingly catching my heart and attention – the refugee situation in our world. Note that I said – Our world. Not, their world vs our own cocooned comfort air-conditioned world.
Just few weeks ago, I got angry and reacted at a senior lady for saying ‘But they are Muslims, let God deal with them.’ Just typing this makes my blood boil with anger. I clenched my fist as I held back my tears and told her – They are human beings as how God had created each and every one of us AND commanded us to love one another.
Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. – John 13:34 Msg
Though I don’t have her prejudice, I wasn’t any better. Why do I say so?
In everything about justice, love and righteousness, I let the mindset of ‘there are so many people who need help, I can’t possibly help them all’ stop me from helping that one person.
I was ignorant. I was detached. Sure I give financially. But that sure is the easier thing to do, ain’t it? Don’t get me wrong, financial aid helps people, so yes, please do be a generous giver. But is that it? After I have given, I pat myself on the back, felt comforted that I am ‘doing something’ and let my conscience rest? I refuse to live such a life any more.
“Wait until you see what happens when there’s an absence of water, an absence of food, or one tribe fighting against another for mere survival,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.
I am really far off from what the advocates and activists have been doing in this area. Heck, I’m blur like sotong; I don’t even know an inch of what does it mean to be an advocate or activist. But, I refuse to let my excuse of ‘I don’t know’, ‘this is too big’, ‘what can little me do’ or worse, ‘someone is already doing something’ hold me captive any longer.
The media has played a big part in influencing people on what is deemed to be ‘the norm’. Giving up on a tough and bad marriage is one of them. From Hollywood movies to Hong Kong soap operas, the message is this: If it’s causing great unhappiness to both parties and there’s no workable solution in sight, then the only solution is to get a divorce.
One of my heart’s burdens is the health and well-being of marriages. It breaks my heart to see marriages falling apart and in the process, dragging everything down with them. Families are torn apart. Children are having to learn how to live a ‘new normal life’ when nothing is normal about broken families – despite what the media is saying to us.
Look, I am not trying to make a suffering relationship sound easy. I am a product of a divorced family, as my parents divorced even before I went to kindergarten. Later in my adult life, I find myself living with the consequences of being in a second marriage relationship; my husband’s second marriage, my first. I have seen firsthand how my step-daughter suffered during her earlier childhood; being torn apart from her shuffling between her biological mother and father, who has sole custody of her. I have had power struggle with his ex-wife for imparting different and conflicting values into my step-daughter. I have screamed through bitter arguments with my husband. At this point, I have to say that while society dictates I call her ‘step-daughter’, in my heart, she is no different to me than a biological child. So it is only for the purpose of this article that I am using the term ‘step-daughter’.
“Be completely humble and gentle; Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”- Ephesians 4:2-3
To cut a long story short, our earlier years together was close to being hell on earth as a new ‘blended’ family. It wasn’t until all of us came to know Christ, starting with my husband, then three years later, where I too decided to surrender my life to Him that He took our biggest mistake and made it right.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12
Both of you have to commit to the ‘No exit clause’ in your marriage from the beginning.
We had to learn through the most painful way how not to live life selfishly. We had to learn how to love unconditionally despite seeing how hopeless our relationship seemed to be. I am ever thankful for the lessons, horrible as they were. The hard lessons have taught us to close the exit door of our marriage. We decided that ‘there’s no exit clause’ in this marriage, and we are going to work it out, no matter what.
With our marriage being rooted in God and made stronger, we can give our daughter a stable growing up environment. She has seen the bad and ugly consequences of both husband and wife wanting their way and insisting that their expectations be met. As she is now maturing into a beautiful teen both from the inside and out; I thank God that she too is, growing her roots deeper in Christ. I can’t be any happier for her or love her enough!
By God’s power, I believe that the ‘generational curse’ of bad marriages and divorces from both sides of our family has been broken. It stops at our generation.
My last take on this – If you have yet to make the decision, please don’t give up on your marriage, please don’t get divorced. Get help, seek counselling, pray. Do whatever, but please don’t give up.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Eph. 6:10
I have this habit of bringing along my organ donor card, blood type card and medical card when I go out; just in case… who knows? Organised or morbid? You decide.
So I’m not shy of the knowledge that we don’t know the length of our lives, it can happen anytime to anyone.
The thing is, even with that kind of awareness (organ donor card!), it doesn’t change how I live my life as if tomorrow will always come! I get angry at trivial things, let my mind be absorbed with worries by thinking of other to-dos while I am doing the current to-dos. And I certainly wasted too much time on social media with things that don’t add value to my life and others.
For the past one year, I knew in my heart that I need to start living as if today is my last, but I wasn’t intentional in doing that; until I learned that a friend with healthy living lifestyle was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Though I’m never naïve about healthy people do get cancer, that news finally shook me. That and perhaps, I’m old enough to see lives of loved ones lost at way-too-early age.
I do question my mortality from time to time, how long do I have? A question asked in vain I know, and a wrong question to ask.
Thus, I went to my church’s book store and finally picked up this book which caught my eye a year ago but I didn’t buy it.
So, here we go. Day One of my One Month To Live challenge.
How different would I like my life to be at the end of reading this book?
When ‘Day one’ challenge asked me to ‘As quickly as possible, without thinking too hard or too long, make a list of five things you’d change about your life if you knew you only had a month to live’… I really have to imagine that it could be true and that scared the heck out of me. Being not sure how long is ‘too long’ and how hard is ‘too hard’, I took less than 10 minutes to list down my five things.
Apart from the obvious item number one, which is to be less anxious about what’s ahead in my day, the rest of the four things caught my attention so much that I just stared at the items on the list. Simple, little things that I procrastinated upon, because I thought ‘there will always be a next chance’.
So today, I’m saying good-bye to ‘next time’ and getting a kick start with this ‘One month to live’ challenge.
How about you?
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. – James 4:14 NLT
A person’s life really transpired between the two dates on the tombstone. Birth date -(dash) Death date. What will our ‘dash’ be? What will we live for? Who will we love? Who need our forgiveness? It could be ourselves, even! We get to choose how to spend that ‘dash’. What are you spending yours on? Let’s ask God for wisdom and guidance on how best to spend our lives.
Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.’
P.s.: If you have an encouraging experience from this challenge, I would love to hear from you, share your story on the comments below.
It’s easy to love lovable’ people, anyone can do that! But it’s in the loving of people who have wronged us or caused harm to others, or simply just very different from us that my walk being a Christ follower is tested.
I’m chewing on this passage.
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. (Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG)