Tuesday, January 29, 2008

As Faithful As He

As children of God, we're called to imitate Christ, His qualities, thoughts, and deeds. We're commanded to love as He does, to preach as He did, to pursue His standards of holiness, to serve as He serves. Yet we all know, it's easier said than done.

I've always been conscious of some character struggles. I battle with pride, discipline, and temperance. I need to strive for humility, wisdom, submission, and selflessness. I've always known these problems. I know I have to imitate Christ in these.

Yet recently, God gave me a greater understanding of His one quality that I never did, and probably never will, fully comprehend--yes, faithfulness.

It's easy to tolerate a church co-worker's one offensive statement; after all, everyone's human. It's part of Christian life to practice compassion and patience, knowing God does the work in people's hearts. It isn't hard to declare that one would support one's friends always, with unconditional Christlike love. That's easy to say.

Forgiveness, compassion, patience, love...they're easy to have, one at a time. Yet I seem to fail in them all, when comes the test of faithfulness, the test of time and heart.

What happens when a ministry leader offends and commits mistakes repeatedly, unapologetically? What do I do when I find frustration in ministry...not because of the ministries, but because of the people? God calls me to focus on Him. He calls me to keep on with a pure heart of service. He calls me to be faithful.

What happens when all the care and compassion I give go thankless or seemingly fruitless? What when my heartfelt, painstaking advice to people's questions goes unheeded and ignored? God calls me to continue working, continue praying. It's all in His hands. I must continue to reach out to everyone around me. He calls me to be faithful.

I've struggled with self-righteousness. I complain in my heart that I do not deserve such treatment. Why should I sacrifice time and heart to care for people who wouldn't appreciate it, to guide people who wouldn't heed, and to support people who wouldn't treasure my help? When a ministry goes wrong because of others' mistakes, I'm tempted to give it up. When multiple people come complaining over the results of their own folly, asking for my comfort and concern, I'm tempted to bark "I told you so" and give them up. After all...I have every right to do so, don't I? I've already done my best, haven't I?

Yet when I turn to God to complain, eight words silence me.

"How often do you do that to ME?"

I cannot answer Him. How often do I treat God with ungratefulness and impatience? How often do I come crying to Him, asking Him to fix what He had told me not to do? How often do I treat Him a thousand times worse than others had treated me? Every day, I'm afraid...almost every single day.

Faithfulness is unlike any other quality, for it is the consistency of all of them together. At times, when I want to give up on anything, I remember Him. He is faithful, and so should I be. I deserve nothing; I am privileged to know Him, to reflect who He is.

May we learn to be faithful, as our Father is.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Daddy's Little Girl

People always feel that it takes maturity for a girl to outgrow her father's protection, yet today I realized that it's the opposite. It takes maturity to accept and appreciate one's position as daddy's little girl.

When it was decided that my dad would accompany me to have a skin test taken this morning, I wasn't enthusiastic. I wondered if it would be boring, or whether my dad would inquisition me during the trip. Yet as I woke up sleep-deprived to prepare for breakfast, the skin test, and some errands at the mall, reality proved me wrong. It was a beautiful morning.

Some people might think I enjoyed our activities because it was about me, or because there was expensive breakfast food or a nice ride. Yet that wasn't it. What made a simple morning of errands leave a deep impression on me...was the warmth of knowing I was loved.

Why would my dad drive me personally when the church driver was available? Why did he pay the expensive valet parking fee to accompany me when he could've waited at the parking lot and leave me to myself? Why would he do the waiting at the hospital payment counter, to let me relax in the lounge section?

The initial observer might think him rude to flip the newspaper while we were eating. My less mature self would feel cross that he wouldn't trust me to handle the small test alone. I would've felt ashamed that my dad couldn't muster the word "pulmonary" clearly enough to make himself understood at the reception counter, or that he tried to answer all the questions for me.

The pulmonary medicine section was filled with children, and if I'd been more childish, I would've squirmed in discomfort. It wasn't exactly nice to answer "19" when the nurse asked for my age...especially when others were answering "7" or "8." It sounded stupid to be asking my dad what to do at every stop we made.

Yet inside of me, there was an understanding I never had before.

This was a father's way of loving, and the times he could actually take me around as a little girl are growing fewer and fewer in number. I had the ability to handle things on my own, but he just wanted to do those things for me, with me. No matter his answers were "yes" or "no" to my requests, I knew, with teary eyes behind his back, that he was grasping for the fleeting chances of having his only daughter be his little girl.

A father was there to guarantee I didn't lack anything. A father was there to order me, yet to help me. And during a time of my life when even unacquainted cashiers or young doctors would cast side glances and ask for my name...a father was there for my security, to be someone to whom I could say, "Help me guard myself, until the right and real one comes along."

I'm thankful to God, very thankful, that He gave me the chance to see the beauty of the situation before I have outgrown it. There's nothing to be ashamed of if people laugh at him. There's nothing to complain about if I appear helpless (as long as I'm not). I know that each little action of self-sacrifice was motivated by a father's love grasping at the moments left in my girlhood.

And when I find myself hurt or disillusioned at the end of stubborn pursuits and empty hopes...there's is nothing better than a father's protective, unconditional love to remind me of the Father from above.

I'm daddy's little girl, not because I need it...but because he loves me that way, and because I've been blessed with the maturity to see the wonder of it all. I've actually grown into daddy's little girl. Imagine that.

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Year Reflections

It's my first post for the new year, and I write it with mixed feelings. My family spent the new year abroad this year, and I was given many opportunities to reflect upon the past and coming years. Yet in spite of that, it's been confusing.

The year 2007 was the most dramatic year in my life so far. There were many first-time experiences, many new observations, many awakening realizations, and many things that would leave permanent markings in my life's history.

Ministerially, I was pushed to my limits both in skills and in partnership. I grew through expectations and through friction. In terms of my family, I grew to realize how many things take effort. And in my widening and deepening social circle, I found new friends in numbers that overtook all the years before. I was put to the test in every area, in mind, in soul, in deed, in heart, and in spirit.

I coped with a changing identity as our church grew. I faced thrilling moments as well as times of depression. I learned to reach out to many young people dealing with questions in salvation, in friendship, and in love. I faced rejection from the university of my choice; I experienced the shattering of most of the "normalcy" in my life.

It was a year of pain and growth. It was a year of memories. Yet most of all, it was a year that made God all the more real to me. Never before had trust become more real than in those moments of pain and confusion. Never before had His faithfulness and love been more precious than in those times of uncertainty.

As I look to the year ahead, I can see no clear direction. It will probably be a year as dramatic, if not more dramatic than the year before. I feel unsettled, but I don't fear. The past year was a revelation of God's reality in my life, and the coming year would be the best chance for me to apply that knowledge into words and actions.

As a child, I used to long for drama, and I even complained that I did not have enough of it in my life. Yet now that life is starting to have irregularities for me, I'm experiencing how all the "dramatic elements" do not exist for their own sake, but to sharpen me for His glory.

I don't know what to expect from the year ahead. But God is real in my life, and that's all that matters.