(standing on the speaker stone in the Agora, Athens)
An unknown Abbot of Greve prayed, “Lord, may I be wakeful at sunrise to begin a new day for you, cheerful at sunset for having done my work for you; thankful at moonrise and under star shine for the beauty of the universe. And may I add what little may be in me to your great world.” I tried to live out this prayer for 2007.
As in 2006, God taught me many lessons. However, I have never been a good student, often rebellious and head-strong. I am blessed to have the Holy Spirit, a loving wife and children, and wonderful friends to make sure I learnt these lessons. Here are some of the lessons I have learnt in 2007:
• I’ve learnt that not making New Year resolution is a good idea.
• I’ve learnt that it is easy to pretend to be a Mr. Know-It-All but deep down, I know that I really do not know anything at all.
• I’ve learnt that it is okay to be me.
• I’ve learnt that God is not impressed with what I have achieved.
• I’ve learnt after leading a silent retreat for a group of graduating seminary students, that they have been trained to be activists rather than contemplatives.
• I’ve learnt that the more my true self wants to be closer to God, my false self draws me further.
• I’ve learnt that knowledge and information does not automatically translate to wisdom and practice.
• I’ve learnt that it is not easy to give up the things that I think I deserve.
• I’ve learnt that it is very easy to be misunderstood if you are a preacher, church leader or Bible teacher.
• I’ve learnt that acts of kindness can be mistaken as acts of cruelty.
• I’ve learnt that all people are self-centered including me.
• I’ve learnt that while darkness is my constant companion, God is also present in that darkness.
• I’ve learnt that while I value friends, I often take them for granted.
• I’ve learnt that I need more than 24 hours in a day if I am to do all that I want to do.
• I’ve learnt that the more I study the Bible, the more I uncover the multiple levels of meaning there.
• I’ve learnt that it is difficult for me to forgive and to receive forgiveness.
• I’ve learnt that either I accept that I will never be the person I want to be or be constantly angry.
• I’ve learnt that the more I try to detach myself from worldly status symbols, the more attractive they become for me.
• I’ve learnt that people do not like to learn the truth about the prosperity gospel.
• I’ve learnt that I can understand spiritual truths better by writing about Abba Ah Beng and his smart Ah Leky disciple.
• I’ve learnt that an academic pursuit of a PhD distances me from people and life.
• I’ve learnt that the more I research a subject, the more nebulous it become and the more uncertain I become.
• I’ve learnt that the pain I feel in my heart is the also the pain that God shares.
• I’ve learnt that it is easier to become cynical and judgmental when I become older.
• I’ve learnt that I enjoy working with university students and their youthful enthusiasm energizes me.
• I’ve learnt that the more I try to lose weight, the more I gain in kilos.
• I’ve learnt that inside this aging body is a little boy with a great sense of wonder.
• I’ve learnt that I comprehend more about Paul, Corinth and the Greeks by being there in Athens, Corinth and Delphi than all the books about them.
• I’ve learnt that in a top hotel in Athens, you must check your itemized bill because someone may try to change the amount on your credit card chit.
Each year is different, every year brings something new. I echo what Ruth Harms Calkin has written:
“Mysterious new year
So wrapped in reserve and surprise
You have no reason to feel smug
Or even condescending.
After all, the majestic God
Has full knowledge of you
Just as he has of me.
There is not an issue that you can evade.
Furthermore you are powerless
To do anything to me
That God does not permit.
All he allows in his infinite wisdom
Is for my ultimate good
And his greatest glory.
Consequently, new year,
You cannot trick or disillusion me
By your baffling unexplainables
Or your feverish activity.
My times are in the hands
Of my sovereign God
Whose power is limitless
And whose love for me is everlasting”
Soli Deo Gloria