I don’t remember if I ever asked my parents about them, but for most of my early life, I didn’t know where they went. But I had some theories of why they weren’t at home based on what I overheard from the adults’ conversations.
I had an idea of what I wanted my grandfather to be like – someone dignified. I wanted him to be someone who carried himself well, someone who cared for others, someone who could be my role model.
Based on the clues I had overheard, it was likely that my grandfathers were never going to live up to the image I had created for them in their absence. So I decided that it was better that I didn’t know about them.
I was afraid that I would find nothing about them that was worth celebrating, so I summarised them simply as the grandfathers I never had.
But one day, I did get to meet one of my grandfathers again before he passed on.
Both our meetings happened at the hospital, where I seemed like little more than a stranger to him – just as he was to me. He remembered my nickname from when I was a toddler … but nothing more than that.
I managed to say ah gong (grandfather) with a smile. I tried to hold back the tears from feeling so unknown to my own grandfather.
By our second meeting, he had tubes inserted into his body and he was in a lot of pain. His strength was fading and it was evident that it might well be our last meeting.I spoke as much as I could to him, trying to rememberthe way he looked and the sound of his voice. He couldn’t say much anymore, and I never got to tell him about myself. Or ask him about the last 20 years.
But at the end of that encounter, I was glad that I did get to meet him. I am grateful now for those 30 or so minutes that we spent in the same room, and for what I witnessed that day.
Because that was the day I began to give up being mad at him. I began to think of him as human, too. Who knows if he also grew up without his grandfather? Or his parents?
As I listened to the sound of the ventilator breathing on my grandfather’s behalf, and to the warm tones of my mother telling him not to worry anymore, I left aside my pride and my ideals of a picture-perfect grandfather.
Forgiveness was taking place.
At the end of his life, he seemed flustered, as if he still had a lot to say and worry about.
But he calmed down as soon as he heard he could hand his burdens over to Jesus. He began to be at ease when he heard that Someone would take his hand, he wouldn’t need to be alone.
He was hearing the sound of forgiveness – perhaps for the first time – and it began to silence his fears because it was forgiveness from God Himself. Forgiveness with the power to redeem and cancel out years of hurt and pain.
His strength returned for a few minutes and I heard his voice clearly for the first time ever as he said the Sinner’s Prayer, slowly and carefully. I saw anxiety release its hold on him; he found peace with God.
Then his speech began to slur again, only this time he looked peaceful. At ease, my grandfather had let go of his past as he was about to pass into eternity.
Forgiveness with the power to redeem and cancel out years of hurt and pain.
I never heard much from him, but the last words I ever heard my grandfather say was a prayer, and it made all the difference.
Because He accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour, I know that I’ll see him again one day. And we’ll have time then to talk about everything in a perfect world.
Before we got together as a couple, Cheryl and I had known each for almost a decade.
In all those years as friends, we were amicable on the whole. And after a period of exclusive dating, when we got together, we tried as far as we could to walk into the relationship with our eyes wide open.
But one thing we didn’t expect at the start of our relationship was just how much friction there would be between two individuals learning how to love each other.
They say that the start of a relationship is the honeymoon period, but I don’t think that was the case for us. Our first year was mostly spent ironing issues out together, and that made for some pretty painful conversations.
But, because there was so much ironing to do, we eventually got better at it. Now, I’m no marriage expert like Tim Keller or Joshua Harris – just an engaged guy – but here are some thoughts on fighting well as a couple that I’d love to share with you.
4 D’S FOR FIGHTING WELL
1. DECIDE EARLY
Things tended to get emotional and heated in some of the bigger quarrels earlier on, and it made it easier for the both of us to say things that might have been hurtful — things we usually didn’t even mean.
This abrasive pattern of conflict resolution went on for quite a bit until we stumbled upon the game-changer, which was to decide early that we wouldn’t let the issue divide us.
Resolving conflicts got a lot easier once we made a conscious choice that we would always try to respond to the issue — not react at each other — in a loving and humble way, pleasing to God.
Now the conversation is undergirded by the knowledge that we were on the same team — fighting for the relationship and not against each other.
We learnt to grow an awareness in being able to just take a step back in a tiff we were having, and remembering that it wasn’t me-against-you — it was us versus the problem.
When we began to see the issues that needed ironing out from that perspective, it immediately afforded us a lot more unity. Because, now, whenever we had to discuss difficult things, the conversation was undergirded by the knowledge that we were on the same team — fighting for the relationship and not against each other.
So decide early that whatever issue it is you’re facing — you’re facing it together. Whether it’s housing, money or career … You are looking at it together, working on it together — and the both of you will be closer for it.
2. DON’T ACCUSE
“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbour, and casts no slur on others …” (Psalm 15:1-3)
Cheryl and I have banned certain phrases from our vocabulary. “You never” and “You always” are two things we decided early on never to say to each other.
Because as humans, the natural tendency is to point fingers when things are going off-track. But the thing about pointing fingers is that it’s never productive.
Regardless of who’s right, accusations only make each other feel bad. Accusations only build up resentment and keep a record of each other’s wrongs.
But there is a better way: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
Unless the issue is a non-negotiable, there’s great value in learning to be offended less easily, especially with the person you’re going to live with for the rest of your life.
Whenever I come across this verse, I am reminded to have the right perspective on our conversations — especially tense ones that must be had. Before we speak, we pray, and we ask ourselves if this is going to be a productive angle to approach the issue from.
Additionally, I personally ask myself if this is an issue that will come up next month, or the month after — is it going to be recurring issue? Can I ask God to grow me in grace and help me overlook it?
Unless the issue is a non-negotiable, there’s great value in learning to be offended less easily and quickly (Proverbs 12:16), especially with the person you’re going to live with for the rest of your life.
Love believes the best of each other. Love meets the person where she is, but believes in who she could become in Christ.
So don’t react out of anger. Respond and speak out of love and a desire to build each other up into greater Christlikeness.
3. DIVINE INTERVENTION
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
We can never truly love our spouses if we do not know the way of love (1 Corinthians 13). Without love, all we do amounts to nothing. So then, how can we do without love — when our God is the very definition of love?
Without love, we are nothing. Without love, we cannot love.
Right from the beginning, Cheryl and I decided that we weren’t going to chase the Hollywood style of love we grew up with on movie screens. We wanted something real.
We wanted our God with us, divine intervention in everything we did together — especially in the context of a difficult discussion.
Now, practically, that looks like inviting God before, during and after a tough talk. When the God of love is invited and present with us, the atmosphere in the room becomes tangibly different.
We had a serious conversation one time in the car, when Cheryl was in the process of deciding whether she could see herself being married to me. Things were understandably tense, and there was even some anger on my part — why wasn’t she committing?
Having sat together for the longest time in tense silence, something in the air broke the moment I opened my mouth to pray, and we could speak heart to heart after that. We got together not long after.
When we invite God into the conversation, we move from us against the problem — to God-and-us against the problem. A very different kind of mindset and posture underpins our behaviour when we let God run the show.
This becomes the logic we live by: Because we are first loved by God, we love Him. And because we love Him and are filled with His love, we love each other from that overflow.
Such a love is humble, and has a way of bringing down walls and soothing hurts.
4. “D-WORD” — NEVER SAY IT!
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.” (Malachi 2:16)
This is a serious one, so also add this to the list of things you’ll never say to each other: Whatever happens in a fight or quarrel, however angry or hurt you feel — divorce or breaking up is not a card you can play and threaten with.
It shouldn’t be on the table unless your partner has committed adultery, or you are going through actual abuse. Playing the separation card as a threat does nothing but wear down the integrity of one’s relationship or marriage.
Love never threatens, it doesn’t play with ultimatums or insists on its own way at all costs.
Do you believe that your mouth and tongue have great power (Proverbs 18:21)? Words go one of two ways – they either build up or tear down. They let in life or deliver death. There really isn’t an in between.
For me, it’s as simple as choosing never to use words like “stupid” or “stubborn”. It’s choosing not to laugh at things like her cooking but encouraging her and believing the best of her.
The things we choose to say to each other will draw us closer in the love of God, or separate us. So choose life.
I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t know it all, and we certainly don’t have all the answers. These four handles are just some precious lessons that God has taught us in our time together thus far.
As we look towards our marriage, we are filled with great excitement for the many more things God is going to show us in our lives together. For to my mind, there are few greater joys than seeing the very face of Christ increasingly revealed in your spouse as she is transformed from one degree of glory to the next.
I believe that’s what quarrelling well, doing marriage — indeed what all of life is about: Pursuing Christ and imitating Him in all things for the glory of God.
If you were at PraySingapore over the weekend or read one of our stories, you would know that it was a powerful time of prayer and consecration in preparation for a year of revival.
Corporate prayer and unity in the body of Christ is always great, but if you asked me what really captured my heart that day, it was the moment the married couples in the stadium were asked to stand up and renew their wedding vows to each other.
TRIGGER WARNING:Warm fuzzy feelings may arise. ❤
I mean, even as a young single person who’s never said wedding vows before, it was adorable to see couples holding hands – some more bashful than others – and praying together. Several even had their children and grandchildren seated around them.
Most of us Asians are accustomed to restrained displays of affection between our parents. So you can imagine how my heart melted to see couples stand with their arms wrapped around each other, many with little lines etched into their faces – proof of how much of life they’d walked as one.
It was a somber and quietly beautiful scene as couples recited their wedding vows, rededicating themselves to their spouse and their families. And as I watched the couple in front of me tightly embrace, a tear came to my own eye when I saw the husband tenderly wipe away his wife’s tears.
This is what I hope my marriage will look like in the future, I thought to myself. A vulnerability towards my husband who receives it with godly humility. A love for each other that withstands the test of time and disagreements and quarrels – to become a testament of a greater love that holds two people together.
I also thought of the multitudes of young people in the stadium who got to witness this powerful model of marriage. None of us have walked the long road of holy matrimony, not for more than a decade anyway, but I dare to say these couples kept it real for us. It won’t be easy, but God can renew hearts and restore broken walls of division.
Seeing hundreds of couples praying together left me thinking: To have a marriage last a lifetime, two people must be willing to keep facing hurts and forgiving wrongs. A good marriage is made up of two good forgivers. And in humility and constant surrender through prayer, God’s love covers a multitude of sins against each other. Christ must be the centre of it all.
I used to wonder if commitment was the only thing that kept a marriage going into its twilight years – if there would still be love after so long. But sitting amidst a sea of couples worshipping God with hands intertwined, I got my answer. This was the power of God-given, agape love. Love that always protects, trusts and perseveres.
I left PraySingapore with new hope in my heart and a new picture of love: A love that starts even before I am the lover of my (future) husband – an eternal, faithful love between my Saviour and me.
Samantha is a creative who is inspired by the people and stories around her. She also loves striped tees and would love to pass her collection down to her future children. Currently level 1127 on Candy Crush.
Why should I honour my parents when they don’t deserve it?
by Stella Lee | 8 October 2018, 12:29 PM
This article is going to be quite a personal one because it concerns my family. I’m not sure how people will view my family and I after this post gets out, but I pray that God will use my thoughts to help people who can relate to my experience.
Growing up, I had dreams for my life. I believed in them almost as if they were fairy tales, but none came true with the limitations my parents brought me under.
I resented most of my childhood, having spent many days crying alone in the study room. My diary from those years is all torn and shrivelled up – probably from all the tears I poured out crying to God.
I asked if He was there and whether He knows how I was feeling.
As I grew up, nothing much changed in my relationship with my parents.
In fact, as I got older, I began to see the uglier sides of my family even more clearly. My family isn’t a godly one, in the sense that people aren’t likely to know us as Christians by the way we behave together. We weren’t a family united in Christ.
People who met my mum often expressed surprise that her three girls attended the same church and served together. But I was always uncomfortable hearing that. I was disgusted at the facade we cultivated in church, when the reality was that we weren’t behaving quite the same at home.
People say that when a man wants to date a girl, he should look at her mother. Because the values her mother holds and the way she conducts herself will be visible in her daughter’s life.
I always thought I’d surely be left single if that was the case.
I wasn’t taught about life. Often, it was life that taught me instead.
My mum didn’t teach me to spend within my means. She didn’t tell me what being in a relationship was all about. She didn’t push me to study or tell me I needed to have goals. My mum didn’t do all these things for me.
My dad wasn’t the fatherly figure I saw in other families. My dad didn’t tell me to pursue education or develop my interests. He didn’t teach me about boys. My dad didn’t do all these things for me.
My diary from those years is all torn and shrivelled up – probably from all the tears I poured out crying to God.
As you can tell, I harboured a lot negativity towards my family for a long time. But I decided to change my frame of mind. I decided to look at the good side of people – to believe the best of my family.
I see that my mum quietly provides for my basic needs. My mom thinks of me even when I’m not with her because I see the things she buys for me when I come back home at night. My mom cares for my happiness: even when she was financially tight, she always tried to give me the things I wanted. My mum made sacrifices for me.
And my dad? He is patient and not quick to anger. My dad works hard to provide for the family. My dad notices when I am troubled and comforts me. My dad buys food for me when I’m hungry. My dad walks me home even when he is tired. My dad made sacrifices for me.
As I think about all my parents’ good points, I realised I could keep going on. Likewise, when I was thinking of all their bad points, that list could also have been endless.
Gratitude breeds gratitude. It is far more productive to think well (Philippians 4:8) of them because it produces love and not resentment.
My mistake was focusing on all the things they didn’t do for me – when they were loving me in their own ways the whole time! I spent so many years blind to the love they gave me. They have helped to make me the confident and God-fearing person I am today – I can never deny that.
So while my childhood may not have been the best, I now understand what my mum meant when she said that we had come this farby the grace of God.
God loves us unconditionally. He didn’t set conditions or terms before making a move to save us. He first loved us and sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners.
When God said to honour our parents, He didn’t say to honour them because they loved or provided for us. It’s one of the Ten Commandments and when we seek to obey the commandment, God is glorified.
““Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise)” (Ephesians 6:2, ESV)
If I had to think or evaluate how my parents have loved or cared for me before honouring them, then my honour is conditional – totally opposite to how God loves.
We don’t get to measure what others deserve. The only thing we all deserve is death. It would have been a deserved fate if God simply tossed us in the fire – but He embraced us instead and offered us eternal life.
God’s love is unconditional. He didn’t set conditions or terms before making a move to save us. He first loved us and sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners.
So because His love is unconditional, honouring our parents should also be unconditional. I prayed to God for humility and wisdom to be able to love my parents in the same way He loves me, because He is glorified when we obey His commandments.
But we will never be able to do such things without the Holy Spirit. Without God’s transforming work in our hearts, it is impossible to obey His commandments and follow Him.
In closing, as I was writing this article, Bishop Desmond Tutu was mentioned in a sermon I attended. I ended up doing a search on him, when one of his quotes jumped out at me.
You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.
When God gives us gifts, we accept them with joy and gratitude. So now I’m thinking about how I can show gratitude to the family that God has given me.
This time, by the grace of God, I am going to love and honour them unconditionally.
This article was first published on Stella’s blog and is republished with permission.
“One special morning four years ago, God spoke to my wife Lilis and myself that she will be a spiritual mother in a way she has never experienced before,” shared Lead Pastor Ian Toh of 3:16 Church at PraySingapore.
“We were both touched by God and we knew He was preparing us for something amazing to come. That night, Roslina called.”
Roslina was a girl whom Pastor Ian and his wife had been acquainted with after they spoke at a halfway house for juvenile delinquents. Roslina was residing in the halfway house because her parents could not and would not provide for her.
“Roslina seemed so disinterested when I was sharing. In fact, her face was so black that I felt like I had offended her,” Pastor Ian joked.
Who knew that years later, God would bring them together under the same roof: First in church, and later literally under the roof of his home?
Pastor Ian Toh speaks at PraySingapore.
Because the same night Pastor Ian and his wife received the word from God, they also received a call from Roslina. She asked if she could stay with them, as she had been told to leave the halfway house but had nowhere to turn to.
“We knew that it was a call from Abba Father not just to open our homes but to open our hearts for His children,” Pastor Ian told attendees of PraySingapore. “That night we received and adopted Roslina into our family. She became our oldest child.”
Four years on, Roslina is now well-settled into her new family. And just as how Pastor Ian and his wife took the radical step of welcoming a stranger into his family, Roslina eventually took the step of reconciling with her biological father.
“God is in the business of bringing His sons and daughters back home, and He is in the business of turning the hearts of children and parents to each other,” he said.
BLESSING THE FAMILY
“I believe God is doing something as we declare the words of life into the atmosphere,” Pastor Ian said as he led the crowd to stand and prophetically declare Malachi 4:5-6 together – thrice, as a mark of confirmation and completion.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
“God is bringing about restoration, reconciliation and redemption!” Pastor Ian cried. “He’s here to hear your pleas for your son, daughters, mother, and father!”
“God is bringing about restoration, reconciliation and redemption!”
He then led the tens of thousands in the National Stadium in interceding for the salvation of their unsaved loved ones.
“We pray now: Save them. Use us to love them. We pray for a mighty harvest to come in the land of Singapore. Your kingdom come, Your will – that none should perish – be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
BLESSING THE NEXT GENERATION
As Pastor Ian concluded the prayer, three local church leaders – Senior Pastor Chern Hock Chye of Renewal Christian Church, Senior Pastor Jeff Chong of Hope Church Singapore, and Senior Pastor Samuel Gift Stephen of Smyrna Assembly – took to the stage, accompanied by a group of children dressed in white.
“We are not praying for gold or silver, but for souls to come into the kingdom,” Pastor Hock Chye began.
Pastor Jeff Chong speaks a prayer of blessing over children at PraySingapore.
Pastor Jeff spoke blessings over the children, representing the next generation in Singapore. “You are not just a good gift to have, but you are God’s sharp arrows. You are the future of family, you are a sign of hope. Be strong in the Spirit and do great exploits for the honour of God’s name.”
In response, the group of children received the blessing with an age-old song known by generations of Christians the world over.
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Two years ago, without fully knowing that I had feelings for her, my best friend of 11 years invited me to go to a Christian seminar on dating with her.
I sat beside her awkwardly, waiting in tepid silence for the workshop to begin, when the speaker finally began his segment by declaring these four words: You deserve God’s best.
In the dramatic pause that followed to allow for thought, I leaned over to Cheryl and whispered: “Sounds a little entitled, to be honest.” But what I didn’t realise then, was just how much that phrase would come up when I began seeking God on the question of dating Cheryl, and even when we started dating.
Now, before we go any further, I have to get this out of the way early: This story is not going to encourage some kind of self-centred mentality. Life really isn’t about us. If we’re being pedantic (or accurate), the only thing we “deserve” is death!
Yet in the grace of God, real living becomes possible when we walk on the paths God wants us on – when our lives are spent for His glory. So, in my mind, “deserve” really refers to what we ought to pursue – you should pursue God’s best!
Now I’ll share how the whole game was changed for me, when I took myself and what I wanted out of the dating equation, and began asking what God wanted for me, and what He wanted for my best friend.
When it comes to “God’s best”, the first thing to do is to acknowledge that His best may look nothing like our best.
Sounds simple enough, but a swelling heart can block one’s vision quite quickly. And when blinded by infatuation, we become quick to conflate what we want with what God wants.
So surrender is the healthiest place to begin from. Surrender is humbly acknowledging that God knows better (He knows best!) and accepting what He wants for you – even if it’s not what you may want.
For me, it meant I had to come to a place where I was able to tell God: “Whether or not You allow this relationship with Cheryl to happen, I am yielding to what You want for me. You know better. You know best. Your will be done – even if it means I am to be single for the rest of my life.”
Ceding that sovereignty in my life took awhile! While I had sought out my youth pastor for advice on how to proceed, and told her cell leaders about my affections for her, nothing really seemed to change or progress in our friendship that hinted there was a chance we could go further.
For a time, there seemed to be some kind of blockage or invisible obstacle to making the next step.
Nothing really changed or happened until I finally had that moment of surrender in my secret place with God. Only then did He begin to orchestrate occurrences and engender feelings between Cheryl and myself, which paved the way for a new chapter together (Proverbs 3:6).
I realise now, that if I had ignored the prompting of my heart to cede this sovereignty over to God, I would have spent all my time in the relationship always chasing a mere ideal of what I wanted – what I thought was best – rather than pursuing something real and good which God wanted for me.
When you want God’s best for your girlfriend, you are wanting what is truly best for her.
When that happens, the love you share then shifts away from a worldly dynamic of what-can-we-get-out-of-each-other. Instead, love hinges on a kind of heavenward helping: How-can-we-get-Christ-out-of-each-other?
It’s about helping each other become more Christlike.
Love does not seek its own (1 Corinthians 13:5), instead it hopes for God’s best for her (1 Corinthians 13:7). Like I did with myself, I had to come to another place where I could tell God: “I really like this girl, but I want what You want for her more – even if it means I’m not a part of those plans”.
In the early struggles I spent trying to learn this way of love, we still had many quarrels because of my residual selfishness or neediness. I still had many old ways in me (as I still do) and it was a painful thing to have them excised.
In wanting God’s best for each other, we increasingly began to trust and realise that God did actually want the very best for both of us.
But God was beginning to transform us both – right in front of each other’s eyes! As our gentle Gardener dug up our old roots like self-centredness and pride, in the course of time we found new fruits springing up that were both surprising and sweet to share.
One month there was a new gentleness we hadn’t seen before. Generosity in the next. God’s finest produce from a once-barren land. God’s best.
In wanting God’s best for each other, we increasingly began to trust and realise that God did actually want the very best for both of us – He was growing things we never expected or could!
So we trusted Him and kept on. And in time, love looked more like taking from God and giving to each other – drawing love and wisdom from God before meeting each other’s needs.
Cheryl and I are getting married next year.
As I look back, I think we both appreciate the value of having pursued this idea of God’s best. Because wanting God’s best for each other also afforded us a lot of clarity right from the start of our relationship.
While we did our utmost to nurture the relationship as if it were a new garden in spring, we walked into the relationship with our eyes wide open. That is to say, in the event that our relationship didn’t work out – we were never going to be resentful.
A courtship where you discover he or she is not for you is still a successful one!
Cheryl and I thank God for who He is and for the gift of being together. That I have this lifelong luxury to behold the growing likeness of Christ in her – what a privilege! I know we have found “God’s best” in the area of companionship.
And now, on to discovering God’s best in all of life’s other areas together. ❤