I am not where I imagined I would be at 26. I thought by now I would be raising my own kids – yes, kids. I thought that people would, and should, ‘have it all figured out’ past the 25th mark. But instead, here I am, a working woman, who is, daily, rummaging through her brains and dealing with her ever-surfacing insecurities, as she tries to lead her team through an unprecedented pandemic.
Thoughts of, “I am not wired for this job” surfaces, a lot, every day. Silent comparisons, with others whom I believe would be a better fit, and worries of failure and my incapacities keeps me up most nights.
The thing is, I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I know that God always has a plan. But some days, the emotions are overwhelming, and I can’t help but centre my attention on myself. So daily, has it been an exercise, to cast this sinful tendency aside. “To put off [my] old self,” (Ephesians 4:22-25) says the Word, and to put on Christ.
This is why I often fear being celebrated. I am scared I’d bask under the spotlight and take it away from Him who is truly worthy. I know the tendencies of my heart that delights in being seen – even if in subtle ways. So a lot of the times, my knee-jerk reaction has been to run and hide.
But I also know that God had called His children to be lights. “A city on a hill cannot be hidden,” (Matthew 5:14-16). And so we are called to bend low on our knees when we are entrusted in high places.
celebrating life in a different way
Until today my heart still wrestles back and forth between being seen and being unseen (for surely, faithfulness looks different in different seasons and occasions – there are times when it is most faithful to step out into the limelight for God-glorifying purposes, and there are times when it is most faithful to retreat into a private audience with the Lord). But one thing I have committed to doing, since I gave my life to Him who gave me His – is that every birthday would now be, a celebration of God’s life-giving life.
My birthday should not be about me, as my new birth, too, had not been my own doing. Life is a gift from God – He breathed life into Adam, and so is new life – God had breathed His Spirit unto us adopted as His own.
God’s life gives life – and so should ours. Our lives should simply be a reflection of the life-giving nature of our Maker. My life is no longer mine, but the Lord’s. And so shall my birthdays be – unto Him, a service; all for His glory.
every human life: fearfully made
The past years I have had the privilege of giving my birthdays away to various causes. And this year, through the pandemic, and a series of events, I have been meditating on the value of every human life.
Witnessing the alarming death rates has been gravely sobering and exhausting. Hearing about the griefs of friends who have lost loved ones has been unsettling. Surely there is much to be said about the reality of death and mourning, but one truth that speaks volumes into pains of death is the value of a human life.
Scripture teaches us that all of humankind had been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and so all of us had been endowed with a particular honour and dignity that surpasses the rest of creation. Regardless of a person’s gender, race, age, ability or disability: all had been created in this same image – the image of the Almighty God.
Yet a sad reality has been, particularly in developing countries such as my own, people with disability had often been disregarded and treated as “less than”. In Indonesia, it is still common that people with disabilities are shackled to chains and wooden boards, shunned, and perceived as having been accursed. Though I have to admit that there has been progress (and I applaud them!), schools are yet to be inclusive, and our society has yet to learn about supporting people with disability well.
the same Abler, but differently-abled
So for my 26th, I decided to raise funds and awareness for the differently-abled community. As a result, through the weeks of preparation, I have had numerous conversations with the founders of social enterprises that worked with children with disability. I also have had the privilege of getting on a video call with people who had complete hearing impairment – but of course with the help of a sign language translator. However, a personal favourite would have to be, spending one Saturday morning painting with the students at a special needs school via video conferencing.
As I sat watching the kids paint that day, I couldn’t help but fall into deep awe. At the end of our session, each held their paintings up, and I was amazed. There was no pity in my heart for them, only admiration.
1 Corinthians 12 says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” And though the passage refers to the gifts of the Spirit, it rings true for the the physical and physiological gifts God bestows.
I used to think that helping the diff-able (I prefer to use the term diff-able as it stands for differently-abled, rather than disabled) community means that we must do all the work (there goes that saviour mentality that I must rid of). But these weeks I have been rebuked and reminded that people with disability are, too, gifts of God into this world. This is the truth that I must recall, over and over again, if I were to better serve them.
every man’s purpose: God’s display
Whenever I converse with others about people with disability, I am reminded of the passage in John 9, where Jesus’ disciples asked Him about the reason for a man being born blind. It seems an odd question to ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” but is this not the response of many towards families with children with disability?
I have heard stories where people would blame the mother upon the birth of a child with disability. The remarks that people would make include, “did she not watch what she ate or drank?” or “what did they do wrong?” Having a child with disability is difficult. But the jeers and sneers and side comments – they can be much worse.
The response of Jesus, however, was different. At the face of such an insensitive and ignorant question, Jesus answered with the gentle words: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Though sin permeates to every man: surely the blind man and his parents had sinned. But Jesus was very clear in His statement. God endows people with ability and disability for the same singular purpose, of becoming unto others, His display. This is the truth that I must cling to, if I were to serve others, at all.
I am not where I imagined I would be at 26. I don’t have kids nor am put together. Daily, I wrestle with my own insecurities and sea of emotions, be it in my work, or as I relate with others. But if I were to live another 62, I know of no better way than to, daily, put off self and put on Christ. And as the Lord leads me through high places or solitary troughs, I pray that I may only continuously cling unto Him, and in my weaknesses, strive to be unto others, His display.