Reflections: Change

As the title implies, I took this time to reflect on my journey with Guitarworks as well as my life in general thus far. I'm currently at the one and a half year mark now, going strong by the grace of God, Amen! Here are 5 points for discussion.


1. World View


Ever since I've been hit with mental illness and going through the process of healing, I must confess I'm not the same Alan I was in 2008. It is true that the environment and circumstances faced in life changes people. Here I am, a product of the "CHANGE" which took place. I believe this change was necessary and it was a positive one. No doubt there was intense pain, but I went through it and have certainly grown in my own understanding of life. Along came the change in this big word called "WORLD VIEW".


I no longer desire big salaries and bonuses, wearing nice office suits, sit in big offices, work in a MNC, driving a big car, living in a Condo, etc. I can live without them. Its more like a "PLUS" point in life. Right now, my world view has diminished to just being a simple but happy person, doing things which I like and that which will bless others. From the world's perspective, I might fall under the category of the "Irrelevant" or "Out of touch". Furthermore living in a metropolitan state of Singapore where everything moves so quickly, you might think that I cannot survive the constant change.


However, if you were to see it through the eyes of God, I would beg to differ. We are in the world but NOT of the world, as quoted. Now I begin to see myself as NOT belonging to this world. Worldly pursuits now no longer form my priority in life. Seeking God and His kingdom, fulfilling His purposes for my life does. I reckoned that my life now is in complete opposites.


One of the characters in the bible whom I can relate to is Moses. He was born a Prince in Egypt, brought up under the leadership of Pharaoh and his government. However while he was in his late teens, he discovered his true identity, a Hebrew. Events happened that led to him murdering an Egyptian soldier and having to flee for his life into the wilderness.


He was in the wilderness for a total of 40 years. His job was simply rearing sheep, shepherding. At the same time, he also met his wife and had children. Majority of his later life, he was pretty much disconnected with the World he used to grow up in. Somehow, in the midst of impossibilities, God still used him to deliver the children of Israel out from captivity and slavery in Egypt. This is the amazing part of Moses's life.


I likened my life to Moses. Though in different aspects of life, I find similarities in our responses to the problems we faced in life. Speaking about connectivity with the world, I can say that I'm only connected to music and the arts. Specifically guitars and teaching. This is my analogy of the comparisons between different world views with respect to a biblical perspective. I hope this is not too deep for your understanding.


Concluding, here's a question for you, what is your current world view?


2. Noah's ark


One of the most encouraging stories I've heard when starting Guitarworks was the story of the building of Noah's ark. I could still remember a brother sharing this story while I was attending a cell group meeting sometime in mid 2010. Back then I was still struggling to make ends meet with Guitarworks. There was pressure on my shoulders to succeed. My parents were not too convinced that Guitarworks is the direction God had for me. Besides committing all these emotions to God through prayer, I didn't really know what else could I do. Thank God I attended that particular cell group meeting and the Word of God really strengthened me.


This brother shared about the process, challenges and the emotions Noah went through while building the Ark.


He shared: "Noah must have felt so alone. Everyone thinks he is crazy, building an ark for whatever the reason was, completely illogical and senseless. How his wife could have felt? Thinking that her husband was a good for nothing man, only knows how to chop and gather wood, hammering them together to build a giant ship. How Noah's friends could have felt? They all mocked and despised him. He must have felt so rejected by his loved ones. People all around him must have loathed him and the Ark he is building. Do you know how long it took to build the Ark? Some sources say its 98 years, some a 120 years? Can you even imagine yourself going through mental torture for such a long time?


Guess what kept him going? The Word of God, rather the Voice of God to be exact. That's all he needed to complete his assignment. "Come hell or high water, I will get it done!", this must have been the conviction Noah had. If God has called me to do it, He will be responsible for it. It doesn't matter what anybody says, including those closest to you.


In the end, guess who had the last laugh? You know the answer well, Noah did. He overcame all the odds and silenced all the critics thrown at him during the process of building the Ark. Those that were not in the ark were all drowned when God wiped the entire Earth clean with water 40 days and 40 nights. God had a plan, a destiny for Noah. Unfortunately, it was not one that the world would celebrate in support of him, its the other way around. Complete opposites!


At the end of the day, whom do you seek to please? God or men?


3. Happiness Vs Contentment


Ever pondered upon questions pertaining to happiness and contentment? Especially in Singapore, a first world country where life is hectic and fast paced, how do we define our happiness and contentment? Perhaps maybe a good question would be, HOW much is enough? I'm thinking how should I go about penning my thoughts on this topic. Let me just start by asking a question. "If God's plan for you is to be a shepherd all your life, will you accept and do it?"


For me, I define my happiness and contentment with 3 things that revolve most around my life. God(including church and cell group), guitar(and the amazing world of music) and Manchester United(the football team I supported since 1995). Yes, that's all. Back to the question I asked in the previous paragraph, I would say my answer is NO as well as YES. Let me first share the NO and then the YES.


NO! No way! I don't want to be a shepherd doing mundane stuff everyday. Can you imagine what kind of life would that be? I don't like the smell of animals, let alone clearing their wastes. Its a LOW CLASS kind of job you know??? Typical Singaporean answer. I wish to relate the capacity of being a shepherd to starting Guitarworks myself. As you would have already know, it never came across my mind, NEVER! Growing up in Singapore, when we're put into an education structure that doesn't allow any room for deviation from the norm, the path I initially chose was to be an engineer in an oil refining company like ExxonMobil or Shell. It happens to be the field of my study in the local polytechnic. I calculated this career path would bring me super good income and a bright future if I can perform well.


Then I got enlisted into National Service where the leader in me emerged. I received several awards for outstanding performances during my service. In addition, I was also commissioned as an Officer in SAF. To cut the long story short, I felt NS was my peak in life. It really helped me develop confidence in myself and my abilities. After serving my tenure, I ORDed with pride and dignity. I thought that I'm going to be a SOMEBODY in life. This somebody got to have status, respected by people, a role model, charismatic and influential.


Heading home, if you were the high achiever person I was, would you ever consider yourself doing something mundane for a living? You must be nuts to say yes right? Therefore, as said, my answer is NO!


Now the YES part...........


YES! With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. As shared in above paragraphs, I couldn't believe I chose to take this path of doing guitar teaching as a career. It never ever came across my mind. However, God had this amazing plan of making things happen, and it did happen. The Alan that I was before being struck with mental illness is a highly competitive person, iron willed and very determined to succeed in life. Sounds pretty cool isn't it? But from a God's perspective, it ain't cool at all. Let me explain.


I was in the centre of the things I wish to achieve. There was no place for God. Simply, I did not even considered His plans for my life. Slowly, I discover that all my aspirations in life were to add credit to my name. Even though when I've always given glory to God verbally whenever people praise me for accomplishing something great, deep down in my heart, there was no real gratitude towards God. Why? The things that I've achieved were done within my capabilities, or you can say, my own wisdom, strength and intelligence. There was no particular work of God evident. So the big question, am I really pleasing God or am I simply pleasing myself with sweet words from people around me? Is your life like this?


This mental illness woke me up literally. It has shown me how a Christian I've been. In all the things that I did, God was never my FIRST priority. As I've mentioned before, God is present only as a spectator in my life, He is never LORD of my life. Only when my heart is fully submitted and yielded to Him, then I began to rediscover new life again.


4. My Identity in Christ


The next big thing that I discover was that I was insecure in myself and my identity in God. For years, I have been feeding on the praises and approval of men rather than looking unto God for His praise and encouragement. For a period of time, I grew weaker in my heart and I started to panic what's going to be ahead of me now? Slowly I began losing control of my life. The once ideal life I dreamed of has completely faded. In another words, my careful planning of how life is going to turn out to be has completely disappeared.


Guitarworks taught me that you don't need to accomplish great things in life to impress God or people. It doesn't matter if you did something good and nobody praises you. Your heavenly Father sees it. I learn to stand firm and faithful over what God has called me to do, whether BIG or SMALL, and learn to be secure Christ alone. It is very easy to be praised for doing something big, but never forget the little things you do that also pleases God's heart. Don't compare big or small, just be faithful, that's all. Leave the rest to God. No doubt people will still praise you and please don't reject that. However don't dwell and feed it excessively.


Guitarworks is a blessing in disguise for me. It is a small business, something like a personal ministry unto God, but I don't grow insecure by comparing myself to others. By the way the person we are to compare or model ourselves to is only Jesus. It may be small, but so long as God is pleased, I know I've done my job as His servant. The more important thing is everyday before I sleep, I tell Jesus that it is all because of You! If it is not for You, no matter how much I have done, it would still be in vain.


5. Your Role in God's Kingdom


If you are a history maker, good! If you're not, don't fret, because God has created you for other purposes. If the whole world is made up of history makers, there would be chaos. There will be no balance, no order. I don't mean that you don't aim high in life. I meant you need to discover what is the role you got to play in God's kindgom. Discovering our purpose in life is our personal responsibility, not God's. God has already done His part by creating a destiny in all of us. It is up to us to seek and to fulfill it.


A pastor once said, "If your destiny is big, GROW! If your destiny is small, SHRINK!" Don't compare your destiny with others. It has nothing to do with them in the first place. It only has to do between you and God. I always remind myself that the toilet cleaner is as important as myself in the eyes of God. Don't judge people based on their social status or job titles. If everyone is a CEO, who is going to clean toilets?


Lastly, don't put an identity to your job or social status in life. That's foolish, its only a temporary job on Earth for heaven's sake and its not eternal. Learn from Jesus, though He is the Son of God, but He did not walk around with an arrogance that "I am the Son of God". I hope you understand what I mean.


Last amended: 20 Nov 2011


Alan Chen
Owner & Founder
Mobile: 9755 8432

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