Strange how one forgets culture shock so easily.. Looking back, I have found that I do not really remember how hard I found it to make my way around London. I did carry an A-Z with me wherever I went for a while, and even felt like Harry Potter trying to find platform 9 and 3/4 at Kings Cross. After some time though, it seemed to be very easy. And all this even with delays, cancellations, replacement buses and anything else that nature and TFL dealt out to customers. I even began to enjoy the laconic comments that occasionally came from some tube drivers, as well as the entertaining platform announcers who could easily consider a job as radio show hosts. (All this particularly after I began to truly understand British sarcasm and wit!)
I must have struggled at some point, taking pains to realise how everything worked, and to be inducted into the so called ‘secret society’ (thanks, C. Skrine for this term) of people who actually knew what the signs and letters at the bus stops meant. And then I became a Londoner. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened very easily. I developed a healthy dislike for tourists, people who walked too slowly, and people who did not understand what “stand on the right” meant. I enjoyed bad puns, sometimes enjoyed banter, and was even able to hit back in my own way.
Well, I don’t have to remember how I felt back then, because I am facing the exact same thing again. Needless to say, public transport in Singapore has changed vastly over the past five years that I was gone. Prices have gone up (though still pale in comparison to price hikes in Europe), certain rules have gotten more strict (eating was not allowed, and now drinking too, is not allowed on the MRT), and as I rarely took the bus before, I was completely unfamiliar with bus routes except for the ones that I had taken when I was 14. Some help that knowledge was going to be. In addition, I have now moved to the more western side of Singapore. New travelling routes, and struggling to find my orientation – it is no surprise that there have been many days so far where I’d much rather stay at home than wander around in the afternoon heat trying to find how to get from A to B.
Which brings me to the topic of church. As many of my readers may know, I decided to join a small, growing (mostly student based) church called the Crossing. For those of you who are not acquainted, it is a church that has been set up by a guy who used to be a student in London, and who attended St Helen’s Bishopsgate while he was studying. I have been to the Crossing a few times, and each time I went, I was amazed by how much it had grown. I made the decision to leave my old church where I had grown up (for a variety of reasons – church instability and some inhibition to my personal Christian growth being the main reasons), and to attend the Crossing. I felt very confident, as I knew a few people there, and I had even attended a few services while I was at home for the summer. And yet – for some reason all my confidence and bravado was gone. I felt afraid of going alone, and I even foolishly said to myself, “But I do not even know which floor the function room is on!” (As the Crossing currently rents a function room in a hotel to hold its services) Even when my rational self looked up the location on google, I still decided not to go. I was too afraid. I had been back two Sundays, and I was still too afraid to take the bus and go to church.
Thankfully, my mum has not been pressuring me to attend my old home church, and has left me alone while she and the rest of my siblings (if in the country) attend the morning service. Not going to church makes me feel very guilty, and though I know I am not saved, or a better person if I attend church, I am sorely lacking in the two things my soul needs – that is, to hear God’s word, and to be around God’s people. Right now, it is so so easy to be tempted into worrying about jobs and money and prestige and having to work hard. I forgot that everything I have, and will receive is from God. I forgot that worldly prestige means nothing.. After all, those who aim to receive worldly praise, have received their reward. How easy it is for a few days to pass, and for me to forget the Lord. Next week, I must be brave, and go to church. I will get my friend to meet up with me, and we will go together. It will work out. And if she can’t go because she is working.. well, then, I will need some courage to go on my own.
In the meantime, I sat down to listen to a sermon series on Job. This was one I had planned to listen to many months ago, but could not bring myself to. Now that I am much better and suffering much less from the clutches of depression and anxiety, I could put it off no longer. Besides, I needed God’s word, and what better way than to do that something that I’d been putting off? I am 2/3 of the way through, and am content. Content in the sense that all the things I have been thinking about my illness, and why God put me through it.. They were all confirmed by the actions of Job and his friends. I am not saying I am like Job, though I would like to continue to praise God in my suffering. But I was glad to hear that my suffering was not a punishment, although it might have been for teaching (which may feel like punishment). It also might have been for others, just as I have received comfort from knowing that I do not suffer alone. And finally, it would have been to the glory of God. It would at least show that Satan the deceiver was wrong. We do not love God merely because of what he gives us.. for he gives us joy and sadness in their measures (though it is all towards our eternal goal and reward). We love God because our sins are no longer counted against us. We love God because we have been set free – and do not need to follow every whim and tide of the ways of the world. We love God because he is why we no longer need fear condemnation.
So I know that God isn’t condemning me for not going to church, though I know that he might be disappointed as a parent might by a child’s foolish ways and reasonings. But I can also trust that God will give me courage to go this coming Sunday. I can also trust that I will make new friends (as afraid of that as I am), and I can also trust that just like being in London, I will soon be undaunted by public transport, and settle in.
As always, thank you for your prayers. Please let me know how I might be able to pray for you as well!