How do I love someone who hates me?

C2 invited me to dinner with a couple of friends from church on Tuesday evening. To be honest, I was surprised that he finally wanted to meet up after an entire year of not seeing each other. However, I felt even more surprised that he actually wanted to get a group of Christians together and meet us; his tweets on twitter leave me without a shadow of doubt that he has grown to hate Christians. Nevertheless, I thought that perhaps he still values whatever is left of the close sibling-like relationship that we used to share. I certainly do want to preserve the shreds of our friendship that he had cruelly torn up and cast into the wind, and so I agreed to his invitation.

I was stricken with anxiety in the hours and minutes before I met him. I was worried about how the meeting would turn out. I feared that I might say something to anger him. And worse, I figured that he would probably be bringing his partner along and I was not sure I was definitely ready to meet him. As I made my way to the restaurant, I prayed and prayed to God that all will go well at this gathering. I prayed that I would be able to show C2 that I still care about him even when he has chosen to flip the bird at my God. I prayed that our love and genuine concern for him would remind him of the family he has chosen to estrange himself from. I prayed that God would be in the midst of us.

Personally, I felt that the evening went pretty smoothly. We chatted and had a chance to catch up with each others’ lives. His partner was there, and he seemed quite reserved. I did not know him at all, and so we made polite conversation. C2 had also invited one of his non-Christian friends along to dinner. She was very loud and animated, and kept us all entertained. It was also nice to catch up with one of the other Christian guys who came along as I had not seen him in ages! We talked about God briefly and privately, but were very careful that it was not excessive to avoid causing C2 and his partner any offence. To be honest, I felt like I was carefully tip-toeing through our conversations that night. I knew that C2 was not ready to hear any ‘preaching’ at all and I wasn’t about to give him any. I just wanted him to know that we are still friends, and I am willing to be friends with his partner too.

Until today.

I was carelessly browsing through C2’s twitter feed, realising how much he really hates God and Christians. Besides condemning Christians for being judgmental and trying to impose their views on him, cursing the hypocrisy of Christ’s followers, and complaining about the injustice he is suffering at the hands of Christians, he is even signing petitions to de-establish the Church of England from the state. I was aggrieved to read some of the comments he has made in such a public domain, and am sad to see how much anger he feels towards people who love God. I scrolled through his feed, until I came across his comments on our dinner gathering.

He described the conversations that night as being “polite.” He was angry that we ignored his partner (which I honestly do not think we did- it is a little hard to have a conversation with someone from across a big round table, especially when you hardly even know that person!). He was annoyed that we all pretended not to see the big elephant in the room and point it out (well, I honestly did not think that he would have fancied us harping on about his alternative lifestyle every time we met him). He said that his partner does not want to ever see us again. Which means that he probably will not be seeing us again either.

To him, it was all our fault. The dinner was unpleasant because he has stupid Christian friends. Stupid Christians and their stupid bigoted opinions.

I am so angry and sad all at the same time. Angry at his hypocrisy in demanding that no Christian should impose their beliefs on others, yet I see him try so hard to force Christians to accept and condone his own beliefs. Angry that he should see none of the heartache that we have suffered because of him. Angry that he is making unfair accusations regarding our behaviour that seem to have been borne entirely out of his own imagination. Yet, I am sad. Sad that he has so completely rejected my friendship behind a facade of amicability. Sad that I do not seem to know who he is anymore. Sad that he has forsaken God without even a tinge of regret.

Our friendship is not even worth two pennies to him now. Is it time for me to let go too? Why should I hold on to someone who hates everything and everyone I love? Why should I have to feel so upset and hurt to see him self-destruct simply because I care? Why should I have to feel so battered and bruised by the person who betrayed this friendship first?

Today, I am tempted to forsake this friendship. Yet today, I also remember that Jesus suffered the very same emotions as I do now. In fact, he suffered worse. Jesus loved a world of sinners who hated him.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

Jesus never even considered forsaking the sinners who nailed him to the cross. Maybe I should not forsake my friend too.

Dear Lord, this is so hard.

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Exam results and Les Miserables

Firstly,

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Oh the joy! The relief! The lifting of a huge burden off my shoulders! After a long, gruelling year of revision and exams, of being shackled to my books and papers, of long days and sleepless nights, I have finally cleared the Primary FRCA and am allowed a few months of freedom!!!!!!!!!! (before the next hurdle of the final exam, that is). I had much fairer questions this time round, and nothing unexpected was examined. My examiners were also lovely, and they tried their very best to help me out when my mind completely blanked out for a few seconds. Nevertheless, I still had sweaty armpits, racing palpitations and a parched mouth throughout my exam day, and I was absolutely elated when the final bell rang and the deed was done. When I got my results yesterday, I rang home immediately and sobbed without restraint. The floodgates were opened and I just kept telling my mum “you don’t know how much hard work I’ve put in, you don’t understand how painful this year has been, you cannot comprehend the sacrifices I have made for this!” I had been on the brink of a physical, mental and emotional breakdown in the weeks leading up to my exam; to have all the pressure, the pent up frustration, and the indescribable exhaustion suddenly lifted off me was inexplicably liberating- so liberating that I did not know how else to express it but to cry.

Despite my success in the exam, I am also very wary of the people who have failed. There is a guy whom I met at an exam prep course a couple of weeks ago who sat the exact same exam as me. He was the candidate one number before me, and like me, was resitting the viva after a previous failure. He was desperate to pass the exam this time round so that he can finally spend time with his toddler at home, and start to prepare for his wedding this May. We kept each other company through the day, going off for coffee and lunch together between our exams. It was nice having someone to chat to and distract me from the stress of the day. However, after his first exam, he kept telling me how he could not see himself passing it. I tried to keep his spirits up through the day by telling him to leave that first exam behind and focus on the next exam. You can never tell how you have done so try not to discourage yourself just yet! Nevertheless, I now know that he did indeed fail his exam again. He must be gutted! I feel really sorry for him. I really hoped he had passed! I pray that the Lord will give him some rest for now, and help him through the pain of having to revise and take these dreaded exams a third time.

Exams aside, I went to the movies for the first time in almost a whole year! I went to see Les Miserables today, and it was amazing! It was everything I imagined it to be and even more! I remember seeing the musical at the West End in London and sobbing my eyes out at the end when Jean Valjean died, and true to my emotional self, I wept once again when the protagonist died. In fact, the whole movie theatre was filled with the sound of sniffles towards the end of the show. I was truly moved by the story of love, of forgiveness, of mercy, of integrity. As my heart became overwhelmed by the display of such Godly virtues in the movie, I could not help but think of my Lord Jesus Christ. Such unconditional love, self-sacrificial redemption and complete adoption is true and real and even better in real life! Jesus is God, the Lord who breathed life into the universe. Yet, He is the same Lord who forsook all He had in heaven to walk on this earth as a lowly, despised man. He came to a world that mocked Him and scoffed at Him, to die for the sinners who hate him so that they may be reconciled to God. Jesus loves us, and like the priest at the start of the movie, he offers us more treasures than the priceless silver that we try and steal from him. He is filled with justice like the character Javert, but unlike the iron-fisted policeman, Jesus forgives and forgets. Like Jean Valjean to Cosette, my Lord offers to adopt us into a new life with no more pain and sorrow. He redeems us not just with 1500 francs, but with his own precious blood, shed on a cross more than 2000 years ago. But the best thing about my Jesus is that he is alive, true, and real, not just a make believe character in an Oscar-winning film. That blows my mind, I hope it blows yours too.

Feeling fragile

I am in London.

Getting ready to head off to the slaughterhouse first thing tomorrow morning.

Feeling very nervous, immensely fragile, thoroughly exhausted.

Needing someone to lean on today…

Dear Lord, please help me through this suffering. Please let it all go well tomorrow- grant unto me a cool head, a calm mind, God-given memory, and a confident eloquence. I need you Lord, please give me strength.

Wishing for a better 2013

Moving swiftly and surreptitiously, the year 2012 has slipped by in the wink of an eye.

2012 has been a year of loneliness for me.

So many of my friends have moved on, in their locations, their relationships, their careers. People have moved away to the US, to Australia, to another city in the UK. Friends have gotten into relationships, many are engaged, some married, and a few have had children. Colleagues have passed exams, published work in journals, presented at conferences. As for me, I seem to be stuck in a rut. I am desperate to move forward too, but the sense of being left behind is stronger than it has ever been.

I feel like I have hardly achieved anything in the past year. All I seem to have done is revision, revision, revision. I have sat a couple of exams, failed one, and am forced to retake that exam again in this coming year. Reluctantly, my notes and textbooks have become my best friends, as I only ever seem to spend “quality” time getting to know them.

Last year, I have hardly had much of a social life outside of work and study. I come back to my empty flat everyday after work, eat dinner alone, watch videos on youtube in my own company, then head off to bed alone. I often go shopping by myself and am no stranger to dining out, going to the park, or visiting the cinema without company. Last year, I sung myself my birthday song and celebrated getting older by eating an ice-cream at home, alone. I made my own Christmas dinner and ate it, alone. I have no close friends left in this city, and I have nobody to hang out with even when I am desperate for company. I often wonder how long it will take for anyone to even notice my absence if I were to collapse or die at home. I try and seek solace from facebook, browsing through photos of the friends I really care about, only to be reminded that they have all moved on in life, and I am left behind.

“Go out and make new friends then!” I wish the problem was so easily solved. I work antisocial hours. I have important exams to revise for. I detest superficial polite conversations. I struggle to form meaningful friendships with older people with whom I have nothing in common. People my age are all busy getting loved up in their relationships. Younger people shy away from me because they think I am too old. And to be frank, I am boring and people are not interested in me.

At 27, I think I may be experiencing something of a quarter life crisis.

Despite all my struggles, I do believe that I am going through this for a reason. Perhaps it is so that I can be much more empathetic and sensitive to people struggling with the same kind of loneliness in their lives. Perhaps God wants me to experience a tiny fragment of the intense loneliness that Jesus has saved me from so that I am reminded to be thankful. Perhaps this is the storm that will eventually reveal a calm, cleansed serenity when its dark clouds finally part.

I honestly hope that my loneliness has reached its nadir in 2012, and that the only direction life can take on now is onward and upward! I pray that 2013 will be a year of change- for good, for better, for friendships and fun, for hobbies and happy days at work, for a man and maybe even marriage.

But most importantly, let me love God more than I can ever imagine. Let me love Him, because He first loved me.