Monday, May 20, 2013

Letting our stories be changed

During one of my home leave periods from the hospital, I had the privilege to visit with one of my godchildren.  This three year-old precocious and lovely child was delighted to see me as I was to see her, and I took the opportunity to read some stories to her while she paid rapt attention.  That playful side of me decided to spice things up and I changed a few of the details to some of her well known and loved fairy tales that her parents had been familiarizing her with, and to my delight and amazement, she picked up on each change, looked at me with eyebrows furrowed, and exclaimed loudly that I was wrong.  She knew the stories only too well to be hoodwinked with my little changes in the story.  She knew what she wanted to hear, and made sure that she heard it, as she knew it.  She had no desire for anything unfamiliar.

It made me think about our spiritual lives in much the same way.  The way that many of us encounter life and its challenges seem to mimic the way that my godchild almost silently demands that the story doesn’t go off track, and that the stories of our lives stick to some kind of time-tested routine and rhythm. 

To be sure, there is a general pattern that life does follow, from birth to growth to pre-maturity to maturity, and a peak, with perhaps a plateau-like phase, and then a slow descent when the body begins to be worn down and tired and finally to decease.  Yet, within this very familiar and common cycle, very few of us are even ready for those curve balls and surprises that really are par for the course.  These, I suppose, to use my story-telling analogy, is God’s way of ‘tweaking’ the story of our lives, simply because there is no one life that is the same as the other.  One phrase which I came across recently said that the biggest test that we can all take is life itself, and many fail because they end up copying others, and don’t realize that each person has a different question. 

Sometimes I wonder for whom it is that I am writing this blog, something that I started some 4 years ago and have been doggedly at it as a personal commitment once a week every Monday morning, Singapore time.  Certainly, the first person whom I am writing for is myself.  Not for vainglory or self-seeking reasons, but rather that I see in writing a certain reflection that I make of life and its spiritual challenges that come, sometimes at breakneck speed and without much warning.  It gives me space and the opportunity to speak first to myself and then to others that no matter what happens, it is alright when the script of life changes and things happen around the corner which no one could really foresee, simply because God has and always will be in charge.  It is a constant reminder that it is really all right to surrender our lives as fully as we can and fall into the hands of a loving God. 

The other ‘person’ or ‘persons’ whom I write for, are readers who can perhaps resonate with the seeming complexities of life, and struggle with life’s often unanswered questions, especially when our words, no matter how erudite we may be, leave us somewhat mute.  Didn’t Jesus himself say that he didn’t come for those who were healthy, but the sick?  I don’t mean to imply that all my readers and visitors to my weekly blog are sick and infirm in any physical way.  You may be, and if you are, you have my constant prayers.  But at the heart of it all, the real and honest truth is that none of us is perfectly healthy, and all of us are in need of the Divine physician who alone can heal all ills.  Some may think that the spiritual life has its aim the healing of all infirmities so that we can get on with life in the best possible way.  If so, then aren’t most of us only interested in the grace of God rather than meeting the God of grace?  Our faith and our spiritual journey could end up being yet another dimension of self-seeking utilitarianism. 

Charming and endearing though my godchild’s precociousness and attentiveness to well-known detail as far as her stories may be, there will come a time when she will begin to toy and chance with creativity and fantasy, where she dares to move into adventure, the unknown and the unfamiliar.  That she does this within the safe ambit of knowing how much she is loved by God remains the untiring work of her loving and prayerful parents (and godparent) is a shared responsibility that never quite ends.  When this is done well, it should be something that prepares a person to receive all that life can and will offer, and this includes curve balls of all shapes and forms.  Her ‘container of life’ needs to be filled with all the care and love in her first half of life so that by the time her second half comes, there is a certain willingness to empty that very container for God.

Allowing God to lead and guide is, I believe, one of the hardest things to do well, largely because it entails surrender.  We don’t get there automatically, and we need a large training ground on an almost endless horizon called life.  We like to call the shots, hold the steering wheel and go where we want.  And if life brings changes to our ‘story’, many of us are like my attentive godchild and demand that the familiar be reinstated. 

In those times, we need to re-read John 21:18, where Jesus tells Simon “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished.  But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 

It is only when our containers are sufficiently filled and willingly emptied that we will go to where we do not wish to go.  But when we do get there, we will also realize to our utter amazement that those will be the places which we needed to go.


  1. Yes frLuke, so true. And i am sort of resisting where He wants me to go these days. Help pray for me, please.


  2. Dear Father Luke
    Just as you are committed 'doggedly' to write, we your readers are gladly looking forward to your sharing. And your posts during this difficult time showed how much you care for God's flock. So that we may continue to know Him through your writing and reflections (however personal that may be). Today's post is so apt for me as I faced uncertainty and fear of where God is leading me and if I can surrender totally, without the need to take charge. Tough Father! But thank you Lord for Father Luke. May our good Lord continue to bless you and love you. Keeping you in prayers.


  3. Meeting the God of grace, is a grace of God!

    And we may catch sight of Him in the most challenging moments of our lives......yes, when events happen at breakneck speed and most times.............without warning too! At the best of times, it happens round the next corner.........and at the worst of times, we catch a glimpse of Him in the curving ball moments..........and recognizing Him - one is surprisingly re-assured.

    But, however many times it has happened - one is never ever ready, though one may be prepared! So I do fully agree that when the tapestry of life is alright......... for He will always be in charge and so we can fully surrender................falling into the hands of Love.
    Thank you for sharing. God bless you, Fr.


  4. Very beautifully written! I couldn't agree more! Thank you for sharing this wonderful post Fr. Luke. Thank you for making me realize. I learned a lot from your post. Let God guide and lead us. May God bless you! :)

  5. Fr Luke. It was wonderful to see you celebrate mass at St Ignatius yesterday evening. Be well, be joyful and know that the Lord has you in HIS warm embrace! Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  6. "Her ‘container of life’ needs to be filled with all the care and love in her first half of life so that by the time her second half comes, there is a certain willingness to empty that very container for God."

    I definitely agree with you on this. It is only when we get our life story right at the first half of life that we can "allow" God to change our story in the second half. I thank God that that you were given this grace during your 1st half, and I ask for His mercy as you struggle with Him in your 2nd half. We all know this emptying of one’s container for God is not going to be easy, and it is always going to be a struggle. The only difference is the “2nd half person” will battle and will let God win in the end.

  7. Peace Fr Luke, your last para is so true. I've often wondered why we need to empty our containers. It just occured to me that we are called to do so in order to conform to Christ- the sole objective gold/platinum standard of Love. God's Will for our salvation sweeps us inexorably towards the proverbial 'narrow gate' in Scripture. So whatever in each of us which is not true good & beautiful is to be purged, whatever barang-barang which is too 'broad' for the 'narrow gate' is to be shed... ouch! I guess the emptying is for our own purification, and the process is iterative. Trusting that our loving Father allows it helps a bit but doesn't make it any easier each time.

    "Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love. I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks. Yet though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer." Hosea 11:3-4

    an Anthonian