BFFs? Maybe not anymore

Today I came to a (startling) revelation that one of my girlfriends whom I have always considered my “BFF” may not be a BFF after all.

I have known her for 14 years and we have certainly been close friends… but upon careful reflection, she is not my best friend by any measure.

To me, best friends are people who will be there for you all the time. People who have the same general outlook in life as you do. People who will stick with you through thick and thin and provide encouragement along the way. BFFs are people whom you can pour your heart out to, who will listen to you rant and ramble without making any judgment. They are the ones to whom you can speak before you think, or maybe even know what you want to say without so much as a word being exchanged.

KS is none of the above.

I have no doubt that we used to “click” and enjoyed each other’s company. I have no doubt that there was once a time when I could say anything and everything to her. I have no doubt that she was once a true BFF to me. Once upon a time.

I think time and distance has drawn us apart. Perhaps further than I am willing to admit. With her living in the USA for the last 8 years and me in the UK for the last 12, her living with her boyfriend and me remaining forever alone still, her pursuing an academic career and me a clinical one… I think our paths which once were crossed have now straightened out into parallel lines. Perhaps I don’t know who this person is anymore.

I find it so daunting to speak to her these days. Everything that I say needs to be politically correct. Everything I say gets a comeback from her. When I make a comment about my wants and desires, she throws a wet blanket over and never ceases to remind me how the grass is always greener on the other side. When I pass judgment over someone or something, she quickly reminds me that she never judges because “you have to hear the other side of the story.” When I talk about something interesting I’ve seen on facebook, she is swift to tell me to stop living my life through others’ and to “get off facebook and get a hobby” (whilst she herself is a subscriber to every single form of social media known to mankind). When I lament about the tragic state of society in general, she hastens to quip that “you shouldn’t make such sweeping statements.”

Yes, I know that she may well mean well. She may sincerely want me to have a balanced outlook at things. But no, I need this voice of reason when I’m being stupid; not when I’m frustrated and upset. When I’m irritated or sad I need a girlfriend who will just listen and build me up, not someone who will kick me to add an extra bruise to my wounds.

I’m fed up and sad at the same time.

Every time I get beat down I get so angry. I get so mad that I can literally feel the heat build up towards my head. I shake with frustration and then become completely inarticulate (which totally does not help my cause). I get so pissed off with her for making me feel like I am of questionable character.

Or am I really just pissed off with the fact that perhaps we are truly no longer the BFFs that we naively thought will actually last forever?

I really want this friendship to work. Having lost so many precious friendships to time, distance and relationships, I am grasping onto whatever is left. But I guess whatever is left is simply not good enough.

Not good enough.

And it hurts.

Holding on to a friendship that hurts

Following the saga of the seemingly nice dinner with C2 that was ruined by horrible tweets he subsequently made about us, I certainly was not expecting to hear from him again in a long time. Thus, I was completely taken aback by a text I received from him the other day inviting me (and the same group of Christian friends at the previous dinner) to his private birthday dinner party. After everything he had said/typed on twitter, I had completely assumed that he was no longer interested in being friends. I assumed that he had chosen to move on in his life and preferred the company of worldly friends who would simply join him in eating, drinking and making merry. But maybe I assumed wrongly? Surely, if he really hated us then he would never have wanted us at his birthday party? It took me a little while to make a decision on whether to go or not. A part of me really did not want to go and be hurt by him again. I just wanted to stay at home on a Saturday night instead of putting myself out there to be battered and bruised by whatever he plans on throwing at me again. Yet, another part of me knew that I had to go. I had to go because God wanted me to go, to show that I still want to be a friend, to let him know that I have not forsaken him even when he has chosen to forsake God and me, to make sure that he still has Christian friends/aquaintances in his life. It took me a lot of determination (and strength from God) to say yes to his dinner invitation. I went yesterday, and though I felt like I had turned up to a stranger’s birthday meal and felt uncomfortable a lot of the time, I know it was good. It was good because God was there, with us.

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.

Worshipping work

Earlier on today, I was having a conversation on whatsapp with a friend, KS, in the USA. She is a PhD student at John Hopkins University under a full scholarship to study genetics. She was telling me about how stressful her work and personal life are and how poor her health has been of late. She did not sound very happy, and in her own words, she hated her life.

Well, there was nothing much that I could do to rid her of her bodily ailments over the phone. Also, I had no way of helping her with her relationship problems given her reluctance in telling me anything. And so, the only words of advice I could offer her was to not let work ruin her life. Having been brought up in Singapore, I knew exactly the mentality she had towards her work. “Must get published, must top class, must make a name for myself to be invited back as an independent investigator, must complete my work and graduate ASAP.”

We have been born and bred in a hypercompetitive environment, and have been taught from a young age of the importance of the “paper chase.” You are foolish to pursue professional sport, music, art, or drama- they cannot guarantee you a secure future. Do medicine, law, or business instead- these are the subjects that will earn you the “ooh”s and “ahh”s from people around you. Join everybody else, run the rat race, aim for the 5Cs (cash, credit card, career, car, condominium), live miserably.

I look at the people in my country and think: are they truly happy? On the surface, they seem to have everything. A good degree, a secure job, regular holidays, a beautiful house, expensive cars… but what really lies beneath this facade of “having it all?” Is it a sad teenage girl who has been forced to give up dancing to study medicine by her parents? Or is it a brokenhearted young man whose marriage is on the rocks as he never had time away from work to see his wife? Is it a middle-aged woman battling infertility because she could not sacrifice her career or afford to raise a child when she was younger? Or perhaps it is a frail elderly gentleman, living everyday in regret of all the things he never got to do in his health and youth.

God never created mankind to work. When He made Adam and Eve, He created them to glorify Him and for them to enjoy Him forever. Labour only came into the picture later as a punishment for man’s defiance and sin. Nevertheless, as fallen human beings, we have naturally gotten this order of things wrong AGAIN. In our world today, we try and glorify ourselves through work, and perceive God’s friendship as a ball and chain that we would rather do without.

Work should be a means to an end, not an end in itself. Do not let it consume you.

There is more to life than this.

Another friend posted this on his wall on facebook:

Man: What surprises you most about mankind?

God: That they get bored with childhood, they rush to grow up, and then long to be children again. That they lose their health to make money, and then lose their money to restore their health. That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present such that they live neither in the present nor the future. That they live as if they will never die and die as though they never lived.

I pray that I will not live such a foolish, contradictory life.

He’s done it

Pen onto paper,

Vows said without a waver,

Grasping the hand of this strange man,

A ring wraps round your finger now, my friend

 

I wish I could be glad for you,

I wish I could wish you well.

I wish I could celebrate your status new,

With a boogie to the jingle of your wedding bells.

 

But alas, no!

I grieve this day full of woe.

I weep as on your new life you embark,

For stunning day has given way to a night too dark.

 

I shed tears this day for your lies and life choices,

For you chose hurt and betrayal for your friends and Lord Jesus.

Why did you ignore the Spirit’s prompting noises?

Giving the devil reign over your heart’s sinful desires?

 

You lust after this life full of sin,

Choosing a man’s promises, you chucked God’s in the bin.

Proudly parading man’s total depravity,

Dear friend, blind sheep, do you realize the gravity?!

 

Look back, turn back,

God still loves you though you’ve gone off track.

Stop shackling yourself to sorrow and regret,

Come back and let God free you from a sinful life’s debt.

Losing a friend

2 days ago, I received in my mailbox an invitation to a “wedding” that I wish will never happen. My heart sank, and I was filled with sadness.

I know it sounds bad that I should be wishing against the coming together of 2 people who are “in love,” but I know that I have every right to do so in the name of the Lord Jesus. When a relationship is drenched in such murky waters of sin, when such coming together desecrates the sanctity of the institution that is marriage, and when a “wedding” publicly and defiantly sticks a finger up at God and His laws, I have to reject it.

I know that people will hasten to condemn the way I sound so self righteous about being judgmental. After all, we are entitled to a freedom to do whatever we want, right? Whatever they do is good, as long as it is right for them, right?

Wrong.

How can one claim to be truly free in life, when our pursuit of freedom in one area leads to an enslavement in another area in life? When we seek to be completely free to spend all our money on everything that we want, we cause ourselves to become slaves of the dollar bill and of debt. When we seek complete freedom to be intoxicated with alcohol, we become slaves to liver disease, slaves to broken relationships, slaves to a life that is but a constant blur before our eyes. In the same way, when we seek to be completely free to enjoy sexual immorality, then we become slaves to our selfish bodily desires, slaves to STDs, slaves to an imperfect sexual life that was never part of God’s plan for humankind.

When we insist on having our own total freedom to do whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want, we cannot help but impinge on other people’s freedom either. While one may feel free to steal a car, he is encroaching on someone else’s freedom to have their car safe of filthy thieving fellows. While one may feel free to indulge in bullying, he is depriving someone else of a freedom to feel safe and unthreatened. That’s why laws exist, isn’t it? Laws draw boundaries to our freedom in order to protect the freedom of other people, and that is why God lays laws down for His people too. God did not enforce a long list of commandments for the sake of depriving us of our freedom, He enforced them for the very purpose of preserving our freedom! We live in a world where our lives are all intertwined with that of the people around us. Our actions impact not only ourselves but also the lives of other people. How can anything be good as long as it is right for you, even if it is not ok for other people? How can such freedom be good?

Anyway, I digress.

I wanted to talk about friendship and its frailty. One half of this couple who is getting married used to be a really good friend of mine. We used to spend a lot of time together and he was like a brother to me. We lived together, studied together, played together, and served and loved the Lord together. For years, I thought we had a solid foundation to our friendship and that our close ties will last a lifetime.

But how time and distance has made a mockery of our relationship. 6 months was all it took for us to grow apart. 6 months was all it took to practically erase all the goodness that had been borne out of an 8 year long friendship. 6 months, the devil, and a man.

I was looking at a couple of old photos today and I have to say that I really do miss this friend whom I used to consider a brother. I look at his picture from then and compare it to the person he is now, and realise that he is no longer the same person I used to love. He has gone down a path that I would never have chosen for him, and has estranged himself from the precious friendship that we both used to treasure. He has become a stranger, again.

How feeble human friendships can be! It just reminds me of how broken and fallen our world is, that we are unable to even preserve relationships that we deem important to us. We fail one another, and then move on selfishly as if nothing ever mattered. What terrible friends we humankind make.

God, please teach us how friendship really works.

Good times with old friends

I met up with a bunch of my friends from junior college yesterday. It was awesome.

We celebrated our 10th year anniversary (since the first time we met) in true 02S78 style- the whole afternoon and evening revolved around lots of food. We had cakes and coffee at approximately 4pm, then moved on to have a lovely steamboat buffet dinner at 6pm, and finally ended the night off with more drinks at another cafe.

It is amazing that after 10 years, these people have hardly changed at all. They are still as spontaneous, witty and humorous as ever. There was tons of the usual banter and teasing that left most of us struggling to breathe between laughs. There was also a lot of catching up to do as well, especially since we needed to grill all the newly engaged people on the details of their marriage proposals! The best bit? Reminiscing the good old days that we spent in HC, and all the silly things we said and did then. We talked so much! And we had a really awesome time chatting about everything from relationships, weddings and babies, to gender reassignment surgery and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

I love this bunch of friends to death. I love the way we are able to feel so totally at ease with each other. We can share food and drink without even thinking about using separate cutlery or straws. We do not need to be self conscious about our image in front of one another. We can talk about literally anything and everything. We can say things that are not necessarily politically correct without causing much as a raised eyebrow. We are able to make truthful comments about each other without worrying about causing any offence. When we chat, one often hears things like “This isn’t the kind of thing I would normally say, but I’m saying it because I feel totally comfortable with you,” or “We know what you are really like, because we have known you at your best and your worst behaviour in the last 10 years.” I love that this is true, because when we are together, we can feel free to be ourselves without fear of judgment.

God brought this group of really cool people together in the same class for 2 years in our late teens. We were a bunch of starkly different characters, yet He blessed us with a friendship that unexpectedly blossomed for the next 10 years. In the last decade, 02S78 have seen each other through the A levels, University life, National Service for the guys, job searching challenges and successes, failed relationships and happy engagements. 78 has been a real pillar in my young life thus far, and I thank God everyday for them.

Thank you Lord, for friendship that withstands the test of time. Thank you for this precious decade long friendship.

Overwhelming love

One of my friends from church suffered a panic attack during the church service today and I was asked to go and help him.

I’ve never had to deal with panic attacks before, and found that there wasn’t really much else I could do except:

a) Get him to breathe into a paper bag

b) Sit with him and make him feel safe whilst patiently waiting for the episode to pass

c) Pray to God for peace and calmness to fill his heart

Whilst I sat with this friend watching him breathe into a bag, trembling from all the catecholamines knocking about in him, and crying from the distressing anxiety that had so abruptly hit him, I felt strange within myself. I realised that I felt an overwhelming love for him.

It was a really odd feeling. I don’t love him the way I love my best and closest friends with whom I share a strong relationship. In fact, I hardly know this friend at all! I definitely do not love him in a romantic way either- he’s married for crying out loud!

As I looked at him intently, I realised that I love him simply because he is a precious child of God. I love him because he is part of my church family. I love him because God loves him. My heart genuinely ached to see him so crushed by his panic attack; I really wanted him to get better.

Isn’t it amazing to belong to Christ? When we believe in Him, we join the rest of the body of Christ on this earth- His Church. The Church brings together all kinds of people, even those who are least likely to become friends. In fact, it does more than making us friends- the Church binds us together like a family.

Christ is the head of this wonderful family. And because His love overfloweth, I can be filled with an engulfing love for someone in His Church that I hardly know at all. Let me love the things that you love dear Lord, and let me treasure the people whom you treasure.

Better is one day in your courts, then thousands elsewhere

Remember I mentioned about a young girl R2, who suffers from Leukaemia?

She became very poorly on the 4th of January. That day, she had a prolonged seizure which warranted intubation and ventilation on the ITU. Whilst on the ITU, she began to suffer from a persistent GI bleed with haematemesis, likely secondary to her chemotherapy induced mucositis and thrombocytopenia from bone marrow suppression. She received unit after unit of blood and dose after dose of platelets, up to a point when she was on the verge of being fluid overloaded. At that time, she also continued to show signs of neutropenic sepsis which warranted aggressive antimicrobial therapy. She was miserable, in pain and remained mostly uncomfortable even with a morphine syringe driver. She really suffered.

During this time, R2 had a bone marrow biopsy and a lumbar puncture. We all hoped and prayed that her leukaemia would have come under control with the last month of aggressive chemotherapy. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Her leukaemia was still very much active. There was now nothing else that the doctors could do for her- the only plan left was palliation.

Naturally, R2’s family were devastated and in anguish. Their hearts were heavy and sad. They now kept vigil by R2’s side. Both parents (especially mum) barely slept and they were all exhausted. Despite all this, they continued to witness for the Lord through their suffering. Their trust, faith and hope in the Lord really touched me.

Little R2’s dad tweeted this on his twitter account:

“Bone marrow result came. Leukemia still active. Nothing more can be done, humanly speaking. Heavy hearts. Comforted to know that just one day in the courts of God is better than a thousand days elsewhere.”

Later, R2’s dad wrote about his attempt to talk to R2’s older sister Emily (4 years old) about R2’s imminent death.

On the way to hospital in the car with Emily, praying that God would help me with “the chat”). 

Me: So Emily…you know that R2 is very poorly?

Emily: Yes. 

Me: Well, do you know that sometimes, when people are really really poorly, they don’t get better?

Emily: Yes they do! They get new bodies in heaven that don’t get sick, and there’s no more crying there. 

I don’t think there’ll ever be a sermon on Revelation 21 that I’ll treasure more than this one.

I cried. How amazing is the faith and understanding of this child! I felt so thankful and touched that God’s good news reaches even unto the little children. At this time of crisis, it is so awesome that such a young child should be able to offer comfort to her own parents with the truths and promises from God. The God we serve is truly mighty to save!

17/01/12: Little R2 died.

We are all sad. But in a way, I guess we are all thankful. Thankful that God has taken R2 back to Him, thankful that the Lord has removed her from her broken earthly body, thankful that Christ has spared her from more suffering. Thankful even more still, for the witness that R2 and her family have borne for the Lord in their suffering. Thankful, that the broken world we now live in will one day be no more, and we will enjoy a brand new creation with the Lord our living God.

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jeruselem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said ‘write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.'” Revelation 21:1-7 

Rest in peace little R2. Enjoy your new pain-free body in heaven, where you are no longer attached to tubes and drips or drains. I pray that the angels will play with you and keep you company, making you laugh and smile the way you were never able to on this earth. Run along and sit at the feet of your mighty creator, pray to him that he will mercifully offer comfort to all the people you have left behind on this earth.

Sad

On the very last day of 2011, my dear friend has committed spiritual suicide.

In the space of 2 weeks, his facebook profile has gone from “single” to “in a relationship,” and today, it became “engaged.”

I wept, and I am sure all the angels in heaven did too. Here is a wonderful young man who has chosen to give his life over to the devil. Like a seed that has been sown among the thorns, the cares and desires of this world have come up and choked him. Like a prodigal son, he has abandoned his doting Father in order to squander his life away.

Devastated. Confused. Angry. Hurt. Sorrowful. I am overwhelmed with a melange of nasty emotions.

But despite all that has happened, I believe my saviour reigns. God is more powerful than Satan at its best. God still loves him, and I know God can turn him around. God even loves the person who has caused him to stumble and sin. God cares, and God forgives. God can use the worst situations to bring glory to Himself.

Enough crying! Pray instead. Let’s start all over again. I will treat him and love him as a non-believing friend, and hopefully one day his heart of stone will learn to beat again for the Lord. Even if he comes back to God in a mess, I am sure the Lord will give grace for us to pick up the pieces and put him back together again then.