Reflections: Change

As the title implies, I took this time to reflect on my journey with Guitarworks as well as 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. Status Quo

Ever since I've had mental illness and going through the process of healing, I must confess I am not the same Alan I was in 2008. It is true 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 my perception of status quo.

I no longer desire big salaries, wear nice office suits, work in big offices, drive a car, living in a Condo, etc. I can live without them. My only aim is to be simple and happy. I choose to do the things I want to, not because I have to. 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 I cannot survive the constant change.

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. I begin to see myself as NOT belonging to this world. Worldly pursuits no longer take precedence in my 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. 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 40 years. His job was simply 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. The story of Moses was like poetry in motion replayed in my life.

2. Noah's Ark

One of the most encouraging stories I've heard when starting Guitarworks was the story of Noah's ark. Someone shared this story while I was attending a cell group in mid 2010. Back then I was struggling to make ends meet with Guitarworks. There was pressure on my shoulders to succeed. My parents were not 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.

He spoke about the process, challenges and the emotions Noah went through while building the Ark.

"Noah must have felt so alone. Everyone thinks he is crazy, Build an ark for what? Completely illogical and senseless. How his wife could have felt? Thinking that her husband 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. "If this is Your will, 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 what happened? He overcame all the odds and silenced all the critics thrown at him. Those that were not in the ark were all drowned when God cleansed the Earth with water in 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 and Contentment

Ever pondered upon questions pertaining to happiness and contentment? Especially in Singapore, a country where life is hectic and fast paced, how do we define our happiness and contentment? Perhaps a good question would be how much is enough? 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 (church and cell group), my family and friends, and work (guitar lessons). 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.

NO! No way! I don't want to be a shepherd (using as a metaphor) doing mundane stuff everyday. Can you imagine how boring life would 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. Growing up in Singapore, we were put into an education system that does not 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 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 NS, I ORDed with pride and dignity. I thought that I was going to be a SOMEBODY in life. This somebody got to have status, respected by people, a role model, charismatic and influential.

If you were the high achiever person I was, would you ever consider yourself doing something mundane for a living? Therefore, as said, my answer is NO!

Now the YES...

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 unexpected things 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 is quite the opposite. 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. Whenever people praise me for accomplishing something great, I would always give glory to God. However deep down in my heart, there was no real gratitude towards God. Why? The things that I have achieved were done within my own capabilities. 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?

This mental illness woke me up literally. It has shown me how a Christian I've been. In all the things 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 over 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 discovered was my insecurity of who I am, my identity. For years, I have been feeding on the praises and approval of men rather than looking unto God as my reward. I grew weaker in my heart and I started doubting my future. Slowly I began to lose control. The once ideal life I dreamt of has completely faded. In another words, my careful planning of how life is going to turn out 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 do 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 accomplishing something great. It is the little things you do when people don't see which pleases God's heart more. Don't compare, just be faithful. Leave the rest to God. People will still praise you but don't reject that. However don't dwell and feed on 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. The person we should model ourselves after is only Jesus. 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 God called you for something great, good! If not, it's ok because God has created you for other purposes. If the whole world is made up of bosses, who are going to be the workers. There will be no balance, no order. I do not imply that you don't aim high in life. What I meant is, you need to discover what is your role in God's kingdom. 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.

Someone quoted saying, "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 a cleaner is just 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 be employees?

Lastly, don't put an identity to your job or social status in life. It is only temporal while you are here on Earth. Learn from Jesus. Though He is the Son of God, but He did not walk around carrying an arrogance "I am the Son of God".

Last amended: 20 Nov 2011

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