Thursday, December 31, 2009

What I Learned in 2009

This is the year my eldest daughter got married and my youngest daughter graduated as a medical doctor. I also published another book. Actually Spiritual Formation on the Run came out in December last year but its publication date is January 2009 so I guess that counts. There are many highs and lows in the year but I wish to testify here to the goodness of Our Lord to my family and me. Here are some of the lessons and reflections of the year.

· I still hold to the idea of not making new year resolutions is a good one so that I will not be disappointed as I reflect on what has happened during the year.

· The more I serve in ministry in the forefront (preaching, teaching, eldership, writing, counselling etc) the more I want to retreat to the background. Each year the desire grows stronger to retreat and spent more time in contemplative prayer with God yet the Lord pushes me out with more challenges.

· I love teaching medical students as their youthful and sharp minds stimulate and challenge me. Yet I know I need to focus to do the work the Lord calls me to do which means I have to give up some of the things I have been doing even though it has been fruitful and beneficial to others.

· Offering spiritual leadership is difficult. My call to spiritual leadership is to introduce people to God and to deepen their spiritual life. Unfortunately many interpret spiritual leadership as having more programs, money, power, attendance and buildings.

· There is a very real danger to me that I talk and teach more about God than I actually talk and walk with God. I really need to spend more time in prayer and listening to God in the Bible.

· Every time I think I have made some spiritual progress in the growth of my soul, I backslide to square one. My inner struggles are mainly with pride, anger and patience. Kylie ereison.

· Walking my daughter down the aisle is a deep joyful stroll that concludes with a deep sorrow as I gave her away in marriage. The feeling is bitter-sweet as I release her to the next phase of her life and to accept the transition to the next phase of our relationship. I was in denial about the wedding for a long time. I am slowly learning how to relate with my adult children.

· Getting to know my son-in-law is interesting after I got over the shock of having a strange man wandering around in my house.

· It still trouble me what I think others think of me, but I am learning not to let it bother me.

· Being misunderstood is something that comes with the territory of a teacher/leader. People will only hear and read what they want to hear and read so I need to learn not to be too upset at being misunderstood. I need to remind myself to check whether I am pleasing the Lord or people. The temptation to please people is strong and so is the temptation to be popular.

· The pride I felt watching my second daughter ascend the stage to receive her bachelor degrees is humbled by the honour she showed us on stage by bowing in our direction (after the traditional first bow to the chancellor and the second bow to the dean of the medical school). This third bow is my daughters’ idea and I really appreciate the gesture.

· As my second daughter pick up the baton of practicing medicine, I wonder whether it is time that I lay down my own medical baton. Practicing medicine is fruitful and rewarding but is demanding and exhausting. I wonder if I have the energy to continue the practice.

· I find too much learning distances me from people. I prefer thinking about some obscure theological paradigm than interacting with people. And I prefer spending time in reading, writing and research than in building relationships with others.

· I look older than I am, and feel much older than I should. Yet there is this little mischievous little boy always lurking in the shadows

· I am deeply bothered by the state of my community, society, and country. I often feel despair but have never thought of leaving. In my despair I find hope in the Lord. Maranatha.

· I still have bouts of depression and suffer from dark nights of the senses and of the soul. I have learned in these times to sit, wait, and to embrace the darkness. The darkness of God brings light to the soul in due time.

· I discover that I am a systems thinker; seeing the big picture and able to find links between incongruent connections. However I am still hopeless with mental arithmetic and cannot calculate the correct change

· I need more bookshelves. Books, movies, computer games, and comics are still my love and joy.

· I enjoy travelling (this year we travelled to San Francisco, Shanghai, New Zealand, Australia) but I enjoy being at home more.

· My family time with my wife, daughters, son-in-law, god-children and grand god-children are the most precious time of all.

Macrina Wierderkehr in her poem O Pilgrim of the Hours express beautifully my reflection lessons for this year.

Each morning

night’s curtain

opens on a new day.

You are invited

to join the great opening.

Open your ears.

Open your heart.

Open your eyes

to the sacred path

you travel every day,

the path of the hours.

Greet the hours

with joyful awareness.

Greet the hours

with faithful presence.

Greet the hours

with a reverential bow.

Greet the hours

with a sacred pause.

Reverence each hour

as a small steeping stone

on your pilgrimage

through the day.

Receive the gift

of seven sacred pauses.

practice waking up seven times a day.

(Macrina Wiederkehr (2008), Seven Sacred Pauses, Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 16-17).

Soli Deo Gloria

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Blogger kc bob said...

Loved reading your list Alex. Thanks so much for sharing it. I can relate to these Alex:

+ My inner struggles are mainly with pride, anger and patience.

+ I am slowly learning how to relate with my adult children.

+ I look older than I am, and feel much older than I should.

+ In my despair I find hope in the Lord.

+ I still have bouts of depression and suffer from dark nights of the senses and of the soul.

I hope 2010 is a great one for you and your family!

5:13 AM  
Blogger Reb Anthony Loke said...

tq for sharing. many items equally applicable to me.

5:54 PM  
Blogger alwyn said...

a beautiful list, Alex - i'm a ways behind you but i think i'm starting to appreciate the last point about family time

10:56 PM  
Blogger blogpastor said...

I am moved by your open heart and the frank reflections you generously shared. I identify and I am blessed. Thanks Alex.

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great post Alex

Ron Choong

1:13 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

thanks, Ron. It's been a while since I read it but reading it again, I find many of the issues raised are still relevant.

1:27 PM  

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