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Lessons learnt from losing a friend: How to maintain a lifelong relationship

by | 27 October 2017, 12:21 PM

2003. I still remember the first time I met her.

We were both 11-years-old when she transferred to my class. Her hair was tied into a tight ponytail. With her fringe pinned up, every single strand of her hair was slickly cordoned off to the side.

Ramrod straight, she sat tall in her seat. A model student. A prefect.

And then there was me. A rough mess.

Who would have thought she’d be the one I’d introduce to others as my best friend for the next decade of my life?

2007. “I don’t understand why Christians have to tithe. Why can’t it be like other religions where you give out of free will?” she questioned over a flurry of SMSes.

She’d never had a good experience with Christianity because of a hypocritical Christian relative. I had only recently become a believer. So I did my best to put a message together, explaining how we tithe and why we do it.

She wasn’t convinced. More questions came flooding in.

I had all but run out of words. I sighed and put the phone down.

2008. “I can’t take it anymore. Please stop telling me about him,” I begged her through a text.

She’d gotten into an ambiguous relationship with a guy from work who already had a girlfriend. We both knew he wasn’t a good guy. On multiple occasions I cautioned her against the relationship, but it was to no avail. She didn’t want to listen, and I couldn’t bear to helplessly watch the disaster unfolding before me.

As I waited for her reply, I began to regret sending that message. I had acted out of frustration. My phone vibrated.

“Ok.”

I think that was the first time I realised just how much we had changed. She was no longer the best friend I knew in primary school, just like how I wasn’t the same rough mess. Our values, belief systems and worldviews had shifted over the years. There were but a few things we still saw eye-to-eye on. And while we remained friends, we weren’t nearly as close as before.

8 years later, we ended things on a bad note. Our friendship was marked with scars as the years passed, slowly fraying until it all fell apart. Where did it all go wrong?

3 LESSONS FROM LOSING A FRIEND

1. RELATIONSHIP REQUIRES INTENTIONALITY

Upon graduation, we went to different schools. We kept to ourselves except during birthday gatherings where we caught up with each other. But in those quick meet-ups, we always had to condense what had happened to us over the course of a few months into quick summaries.

We thought this arrangement worked fine. But the truth was we weren’t present in each other’s good and bad times. Like watching a rerun of a familiar series, we lived through each other’s lives in fast-forwarded highlights.

The less we invest in our relationships, the less both parties get out of it.

Looking back, I’ve learnt that it isn’t enough to simply “update” a treasured friend. Personal involvement is crucial too. There is a difference between being present and simply being aware of the ups and downs in a friend’s life. And sure, even if you don’t get a lot of time to spend with that person, intentionality is required in maintaining any relationship. The question is how much is it worth to you?

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Even the oldest friendships require effort to sustain them. The less we invest in our relationships, the less both parties get out of it.

2. DON’T JUST DWELL ON PAST GLORIES

When I look back, I realised a lot of our conversations revolved around the good old times. We kept going back to our after-school shenanigans: How we would wrestle with each other, the boys we used to have crushes on… It was fun reminiscing the old times.

But it was pretty much all we ever did.

Nostalgia’s sweet, but constantly living in the past may also mean that we’re missing out on the present. So instead of building something new and meaningful, we let a friendship go stale.

I was reminded of this lesson when I watched an episode of Black Mirror titled “The Entire History Of You”. Set in an alternative reality where people can have implants installed in their bodies to record and play back everything they see and hear through their eyes, the main character obsessively rewinds footages from happier times – from before his wife left him.

Trapped in his own memories, he was miserable and unable to move on.

WARNING: Slightly disturbing scene starting from 3:20

While admittedly the show is an extreme depiction of dangerous nostalgia, it still holds a poignant truth: When you’re so stuck in the past, you let go of the present and are at risk of living in denial.

And I now realise how detrimental that was to my friendship.

For the past 10 years, we called each other “best friends” but we were close only in name. In reality, we barely knew each other. 

We weren’t really best friends. We had stopped being best friends a long time ago.

3. OUR FAITH IS ALSO A FRIENDSHIP

Drifting apart in a relationship doesn’t happen overnight. It is a subtle process. How I wish I had known that earlier. I wish I didn’t have to learn this lesson through losing a friend.

But it’s the exact same with our relationship with God.

Jesus said that there will be people who claim to know Him on Judgment Day, people who He will have to dismiss because they never truly did (Matthew 7:21-23). It’s a sobering reminder that our faith is evidenced in a living, breathing, evolving relationship with Jesus – not a one-off meeting (Philippians 2:12).

“Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14)

If we think our relationship with God is rock solid and needs little attention, we need to think again. The moment where you think you’ve arrived is the moment where pride has won.

Are we in true, continual fellowship with God or are we just living lives of denial?

For those who aren’t believers yet, the invitation to the wedding banquet has been sent. All that’s left to do is to add your name to the guest list. But just as there’s a time to invite – there will also come a time when it’ll be too late to RSVP.

Come. Come before it’s too late.

/ siqi@thir.st

Siqi loves to eat. Except for peas, egg yolk, cucumbers, livers, intestines. Among others. She also happens to be a writer.

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How far would you go for love?

by Weiren David Ong | 20 February 2018, 9:20 AM

“Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2)

That’s from the famous story of Abraham and Isaac. When Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his son, he proves obedient and is commended for his faith. And importantly, right before the knife falls – Isaac is spared.

I think that when I first heard this story as a child, everything seemed more … watered down. I mean, it had a happy ending.

What I didn’t think of back then, was how Abraham must have felt during this whole ordeal. For instance, after receiving this grave command, he rose early the next morning to get ready (Genesis 22:3).

I wonder if he even slept properly, knowing what was to come. He seemed deliberately obedient, but as Isaac’s father, surely his heart was grieved.

And the journey took more than 3 days! Putting myself in that position, if there was something I dreaded doing, getting it over with as soon as I could would be the best solution. But poor Abraham had to wrestle with God for days on end – ever having the easy option of turning back home right behind him.

Laying down your own life is not an easy thing to do by any standards. But laying down a loved one’s life … That seems impossible to me.

Isaac was Abraham’s legacy. He represented Abraham’s promise from God. Isaac was indeed everything Abraham was asking God for – and now it seemed like Abraham had to return it.

I won’t be surprised if you find the whole thing rather twisted. I did as well, initially.

In the same way the man Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for God, God was willing to sacrifice His Son for man. But while Abraham’s hand was stopped – God gave His son for us!

But still the story progresses, with Isaac questioning his father as to why they didn’t bring the animal that would be sacrificed.

Abraham could only reply each time, that God would provide the lamb. It must have been extremely awkward at the moment when Abraham started to tie Isaac up, having to tell him, “Isaac, it’s you.”

Abraham picked up his knife and was about to sacrifice Isaac on the altar, but his hand was stopped just in time because God knew then Abraham was fully devoted – he was willing to lay everything he ever wanted back down again.

Then God provided a ram to take Isaac’s place.

Why would God do this? It seems so extreme. I don’t have a conclusive answer, but I do know and trust God’s character – He is no sadist.

And I know that God Himself was in Abraham’s position: In the same way the man Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for God, God was willing to sacrifice His Son for man. But while Abraham’s hand was stopped – God gave His son for us!

It seems like a lot to most, but Abraham only tolerated 3 days of grim foreknowledge. God knew what needed to be done since He made the world – waiting for the time to give His son to it.

“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

If you have also glimpsed the vastness of God’s love and grace, I’d like you to pray this with me: “Dear God, the love You have given me is so deep I will never fully grasp its depth. But help me to see clearly that You have proven Your love, over and over again. And soften my heart to fall in love with You, over and over too.”


This article was first published on Weiren’s blog, and is republished with permission.

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I got stood up on Valentine’s Day

by Geraldine Koh | 15 February 2018, 3:48 PM

It was Valentine’s Day. I could have gone on a date with my husband. But I had looked forward to meeting Miss L. She was a freelance sex worker from East Asia, pacing the streets of Geylang’s red-light district to eke out a living.

In her 30s, she was new to Singapore, having travelled a long way here from her hometown.

I had met her on a warm Friday night under the faint neon lights of a corridor in Geylang. I was on one of my regular walks with a group of volunteers who were committed to expressing the love of Jesus with marginalised communities working in the red-light district.

Miss L had been friendly during our first meeting. She was chatty, talking incessantly about her hometown. She was clearly missing home badly. She had no friends, never taking the initiative to mix with fellow sex workers from her home country who stood along the same glitzy street.

I met her the second time on another Friday. I braced myself to ask if she had someone to celebrate the Lunar New Year with. She looked down forlornly and shook her head in silence. I suggested having reunion dinner with her.

Her eyes lit up, and she said “Yes!” without much hesitation. Having a reunion dinner together would have made her feel at home during this festive season which can ironically be superficial, long-drawn and lonely.

I suggested having reunion dinner with her. Her eyes lit up, and she said “Yes!” without much hesitation.

She had agreed to meet me on Valentine’s Day, the same week of the Lunar New Year celebrations. I got myself ready and travelled quite a distance from my home to Geylang, looking forward to meet Miss L and bless her with a sumptuous meal.

I waited and waited. The dreaded message came. Miss L texted, I have not slept since I finished work with a client. I am very tired. I need to have a good sleep before heading back into the streets again. I cannot meet you for dinner.

I had a surge of mixed feelings. I did not feel too much disappointment. This was not my first time being “stood up”. Several other street ladies I had arranged to meet before also did not turn up, citing similar reasons as Miss L.

On the other hand, I felt immensely sorry for Miss L. She needed her sleep from working long hours in the prostitution trade. In fact, she needed more than a physical state of rest. She needed the rest only Jesus could give her.

I hope to have that reunion dinner with Miss L soon. Reunion is about families reuniting and getting together to celebrate love and kinship. For my reunion dinner with Miss L, it would be special; it would include having fellowship with a very special family guest — Abba Father — someone I know it would be worth it for Miss L to know and embrace.


Operation Mobilisation (OM) Singapore has a ministry reaching out to marginalised communities working in the red-light district of Singapore with the love of Jesus. If you and your friends are interested to pray, give and go with this ministry, please write to info.sg@om.org

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Love hurts … But not like that

by | 13 February 2018, 2:34 PM

What is love? Baby don’t hurt me.

Fifty Shades Freed, the movie adaptation of EL James’ last book in her Fifty Shades trilogy, is released this Valentine’s season. In most cultures, Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love, so the movie’s release in this season might suggest that it’s a movie about love.

But nothing could be further from the truth. I urge you to think long and hard about what kind of love is in the movie. The root of that romance is selfishness.

If love is self-centred, it’s not true love. True love looks to the interest and wellbeing of someone else before their own – so where does inflicting physical pain onto a lover come into the picture?

And it doesn’t insist on its own way. It’s not about taking control over someone. Selfish love only leads to more pain for both parties. It is deriving personal pleasure at another’s pain.

Now if you say, “But this isn’t meant to be about love – it’s consensual pleasure!” That might well be so according to society’s rules. But out of love, I must attempt to convince you how destructive such a twisted view of love and sex can be.

Broken relationships, divorces, adultery, fatherlessness and even sexual confusion – these are but the offshoots of selfish love. It’s why I am urging you not to watch this movie or engage in deviant sexual practices – even within marriage.

The kind of selfish love you might witness in Fifty Shades sits upon the spectrum of BDSM pornography. Fifty Shades is a soft-core variant – porn with a marginally better plot.

Also, Christian Grey is portrayed as a man whose child abuse results in his BDSM fetish. If the normalising of BDSM fetishes in mainstream media wasn’t already problematic for me – it is exacerbated by the fact that it is done so while glossing over child abuse.

True love looks to the interest and wellbeing of someone else before their own – so where does inflicting physical pain onto a lover come into the picture?

But there is a better way – real love exists – and I want to tell you all about it.

“For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.” (Psalm 149:4)

If God brought us salvation, delighting in us – then I wonder if Jesus experienced profound joy while suffering on His way to the cross.

Fifty Shades is about suffering for mere pleasure – but God suffered for our salvation. Mere pleasure is never the purpose. Love is the end where sacrifice is the means.

So, true love isn’t the eros (erotic) love of Christian Grey – but Christ’s agape love. It is saving love freely given to us when He came to earth to die – wiping out the death this world’s bogus loves bring.

And it’s waiting for us to believe.

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:10-12)

This Valentine’s Day, think about true love. Love God selflessly, love one another sacrificially.

/ roytay@thir.st

Roy has a peculiar appreciation for subtle wordplay, an inexplorable passion for competitive sports, and an insatiable hunger for delicious food.

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Porn and the things I’d rather love

by JH Kwek | 12 February 2018, 9:16 PM

It has been said that there are two types of men: Those who watch porn, and liars.

The truth is I belong to both categories.

My struggle with pornography began when I was 11. I was surfing the web when I stumbled onto some highly sexualised anime clips. Ever since then, this thorn, this drug, this corruption has been with me.

I’ve tried my whole life to break free, only for each attempt to end in failure. I got really good at lying about it though. Even when I confessed this sin to my cell members, I managed to phrase it in a way that made me look like the victim – like I was really trying my best and somehow that was enough.

It was like there was no real consequence to remaining in my addiction, as long as I cried and looked like I didn’t like it.

But I did.

I loved it: Every lustful moment in the toilet, every fantasy fired up by sensual Instagram posts, every filthy thought – I revelled in all of it. I knew the sinfulness of my addiction, but I didn’t really believe it. I was deluded, a man who thought nothing of eternity and only of the momentary high that came each night I gave in to my lust.

The struggle against pornography is often portrayed as a noble war, as if we’re righteous creatures born into a broken world, battling the forces of lust that seek to ruin us.

But we are not righteous creatures. We are dead creatures (Ephesians 2:1). We don’t just sin – we love to sin. We delight in it. We take pleasure in it. By ourselves we are so far from righteousness.

When God shook me out of my stupor, I finally saw how great my sin was – but I also had my eyes opened to the vastness of His grace.

The struggle against pornography is not a mere struggle to stop loving porn: It is a struggle to love Christ – and love Him more than anything else. So my problem wasn’t that I loved pornography – my problem was that I didn’t love Christ.

How then can a dead man love Christ? He can when he is brought to life.

My problem wasn’t that I loved pornography – my problem was that I didn’t love Christ.

And that was exactly what God did for me. In the quiet moment of a ministry retreat’s worship session, I read Ephesians 2 and became utterly convicted of my sin and sinful nature.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved …” (Ephesians 2:1-5)

There and then, I repented, and asked God to bring me back to life.

And He did. He called me back to life.

That’s the power of the Holy Spirit. As the words of Ephesians 2 filled my mind, He began to convict my heart of my very real state of sin, that I was indeed dead in my trespasses and sins, carrying out the desires of my body and my mind, just like the rest of mankind.

But the same Spirit who convicted me of my sin also revealed to me so mercifully and lovingly that God, because of the great love with which He had for me, was calling me out of death in my sin to a redeemed life with Jesus Christ. It is by grace I have been saved.

There are so many of us – men and women – who struggle with an addiction to pornography. I still struggle with it. Porn is undeniably pleasurable. Speaking from experience, it is one of the strongest and most addictive pleasures I’ve ever come across.

But I can also speak from experience, that the cross of Christ brings a permanent joy and satisfaction that pornography can’t even touch. How blind I was! And how blind I still can be!

God gifted us priceless pleasure and fullest joy in His Son – yet we reject Him for worthless things. Father, forgive us!

A dead man can only love Christ when he is brought to life.

The cross of Christ brings a permanent joy and satisfaction that pornography can’t even touch.

You may seek love in pornography, relationships or achievements – after all, we were designed to receive love. But there is a better way.

It is the love that God gives to us. It’s the same love that caused Him to send His only Son into the world, so that we who were doomed to die might live through Him. All this while we did not yet love Him. Our Father loved us, and sent his Son to pay our debts (1 John 4).

I pray that God brings you back to life and opens your eyes, that His Son is no longer just words on a page to you, but the very real and tangible pleasure that surpasses all other pleasures.

A heart full of Christ has neither need nor want of porn. Help us to want and need you God – bring us back to life!

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What if my family makes for an unhappy CNY?

by | 9 February 2018, 6:05 PM

Happy Chinese New Year! … Or is it?

Speaking to a number of people recently, I’ve realised that the festivities can be a difficult time for some. Not all’s well at family reunions, it increasingly appears to be.

Are you one of them? Are the relationships in your family breaking down faster than traditions can keep them together?

Maybe you once held out hope as a child, that things would get better in the family. Maybe you’ve tried, over the years, to get everyone together – but you no longer see a point to it when you’re the only one trying.

Maybe the relationships in your family are breaking down. Maybe you’re not even sure if there’s going to be a reunion dinner this year.

But what I do know is that it’s easy to feel like everyone else is having an amazing time when you’re scrolling through Instagram. It’s important to have perspective: We’re looking at the highlight reel of other people’s lives on social media.

Think about the things not present on Instagram: Strained relationships, family deaths, generational tensions, divorces, bitterness … The list goes on.

But I’m not interested in staying stuck in self-pity – we don’t have time for that. I want to think about how we can respond, if in reality, our family isn’t that perfect, shiny and colour-coordinated dream we see on-screen.

Love gets harder as we grow up – which only means our love needs growing up too.

British-Ethiopian poet, Lemn Sissay, was fostered from birth and abandoned at the age of 12. By 18, he had lived in four children’s homes. He illustrates the importance of family using the game of squash:

“Family are like the walls in a game of squash. You hit the ball and it comes back at strange angles and you try to get it again … It develops your muscles in strange places, because you have to stretch sometimes to get the ball back in to continue the game.”

You have to stretch sometimes. The stretch is the place where love is learnt. We begin young with the easier stuff: We shared our favourite biscuit with dad, or gave our favourite toy to our sister.

But love gets harder as we grow up – which only means our love needs growing up too!

It’s harder when love requires more from us, like when we’re faced with an aunt whom we just don’t want to tahan any longer. It’s hard when family culture seems impossible to change. It’s hard when money gets involved or when “face” gets in the way.

But when it’s hard that’s precisely when we need to persevere.

It’s not easy to be the first one in the family to say a loving word in response to toxicity or sarcasm. Unity is not easy. It’s not easy to put aside our pride and ask for forgiveness. And it’s not easy to choose to love when others don’t care.

If we give up on family, we never develop the “muscles” that we need. Sissay also says this:

“And that all that would happen throughout my life is that my muscles would waste away beneath me because I’m not using the muscles that develop in the game of family … Family is defined by how it deals with difficult issues. It is strengthened by how it resolves them and weakened when it tries to ignore them.”

So don’t be discouraged if your family is facing difficult issues. Consider what real love is to your family members. Be the one who would love them.

Why should you do it? 1 John 4:19. “We love because he first loved us.” Jesus Christ loved us to the point that He would die for us – all while we were still sinners. God’s love takes the initiative. Jesus did – so we must do the same.

If we give up on family, we never develop the “muscles” that we need.

We may not have gotten the love we needed from our family. We may even have even been disappointed by the very people who were supposed to be our best bets – but we always have a Father in Heaven who loves us perfectly.

“And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18)

Being filled with our Father’s perfect love for us enables us to love those around us. If your family is challenging, then let it challenge you. That’s where the growth is at.

I pray you’ll have faith to see that your best days are ahead of you. I pray you’ll have hope in God to do what you cannot on your own, and I pray that you will love someone enough to step out of your comfort zone.


Screenshots were taken from our Chinese New Year initiative, “One More Rice Bowl“.

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious and one of her dogs thinks so too. She loves a good chat with strangers, store assistants, and fluffy dogs.

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Article list

Lessons learnt from losing a friend: How to maintain a lifelong relationship

How far would you go for love?

I got stood up on Valentine’s Day

Love hurts … But not like that

Porn and the things I’d rather love

What if my family makes for an unhappy CNY?