Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Happy belated

A little coincidental that finally, on the 60th anniversary of the PRC (Oct 1 -- this post is backdated for easy searching), I have some space and time to write this long-awaited reflection for my own anniversary of half as many years. As I say every year, I don't place much intrinsic value on the day (I think I worked until 9pm that day); rather, it is simply a convenient milestone to gauge the progress in our lifetime. Though that's a misnomer since I ultimately defer to God's progress in my life, for any progression that I appear to exhibit can only be attributed to his guidance and carry. No doubt, my entire journey is a most blessed one: growing up in a loving family having learned healthy values, enjoying a joyful education in various healthy social environments, reflecting on the realities of this world as grounded in a healthy spiritual foundation -- health -- the new virtuous goal of the developed world (i.e., more virtuous than the goal of money) is something human effort can only manage so much but is ultimately outside our control. And usually, people only contemplate physical health, let alone the health of the holistic person, or even further, the health of a community, society, or the world (which, I would unfortunately describe as 'cancerous'). To be sure, I would not see this aspect of my blessings were it not for David, who experiences less than ideal health on a daily basis, though through it all, he maintains a spiritual perseverance that is affecting.

So, while such many blessings are to be appreciated and enjoyed, God demands a response, and many of us respond with good intentions in varying degrees. I confess my response has often been made inferior as I knowingly constrict it within practical and rationalized limits. A recent bout of busyness at work was a poignant reminder of my personal weakness to actively maintain the status quo or to deliver superficial achievements to the neglect of true personal freedom. While it is commendable to be a responsible and competent employee, it is not everything.* Plus, having generally enjoyed a very comfortable three years thus far in Hong Kong (exactly to the day!), I know I have exhibited an unacceptable level of mental laziness that I know needs to change. Last year, I alluded to certain impending changes and this year, this birthday marks a turning point in my understanding of that freedom -- true freedom in faith.

As a first try, I left a comfort zone in Toronto, and unexpectedly jumped into an even bigger comfort zone in Hong Kong. Next, I came to terms with stepping out of the comfort zone that is "the Firm". Having 'grown up' in the Firm, the very thought of leaving it brought me mental stress and anxiety last year. I have accepted (and embraced!) that now, but there is yet another step of leaving the industry. This thought still frightens me to tears, which I know is an attack on faith that draws out many underlying psychological fears. That manifestation is a little scary, and even scarier when I realize how much I claw to hold on to my so-far past life, meanwhile not regarding a hopeful future in possibly a handful more decades. While I work through this, David provides much motivation and support to progress along this long journey. Yes, we plan to study full time together next year. I will apply for programs in Education and will see what roles God provides me.

And so, such change -- of family status, of career, of location -- is spiritually, mentally, and emotionally very scary, but infinitely exciting at the same time. Only God can provide peace that transcends our understanding to enable the strength required to live a free and healthy life amidst the uncertainties, discomforts, and chaos of this world. Further, I think faith to live in God's freedom is part and parcel of our personal identity in Christ, another one of my recurring themes. To be sure of my identity in Christ is to believe his death on the cross not only (abstractly) released my soul from the grip of sin, but also released my soul from the very tangible constrictions that compartment our lives. With this new understanding of freedom, this year marks the undertaking of a new, long, difficult, exciting, gracious, and hopefully fruitful journey...

“They were a free people, free to live in faith before a merciful, saving God. But a free life of faith, lived in the vast and gracious mysteries of God, is a large, demanding life—it is far easier to live small, reduced to the visible and tangible requirements of petty gods and tyrant kings.” -- Eugene H. Peterson, "First and Second Samuel", p. 56, in commentary of 1 Samuel 8:4-18, where the Israelites rejected God's kingship and demanded a human and tangible king, like the other nations.

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

* One of the best leadership books that I have read discusses leadership as a similar challenge through the release of your own identity in the course of leadership: "Building the Bridge as You Walk on It" - Robert E. Quinn.

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