Finding Life

A Facebook friend commented after I posted photos of In-Cosmetics Asia 2016 held in Bangkok, Thailand, which my husband attended, “You must miss it!” She was referring, of course, to the life I lived before in the world of cosmetic ingredients – glamorous and exciting. And I burst out what I had been hiding in my heart these many years, for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, “I super miss it. Sometimes I still feel a painful pinch in my heart when I see photos like this.” That was a portion of my reply.

"GRAPEVINE". My watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper.

“GRAPEVINE”. My watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper.

Later, I thought about the exchange and examined it. Was I really still longing for that old life? Do I still want to go back to it? The answer I got was “No”. I feel a longing when I see photos of the world I used to inhabit, not because I am desiring to go back to it, but because I know the happiness and thrill it brought.

How can one go back to a life in the distant past (13 years) when one is a new person?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

It’s like putting a new wine to old wineskins which the Lord Jesus Himself spoke of.

Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. (Mat. 9:17)

I have always wrestled with this verse. What is the Lord talking about? But now I get a glimpse of it: A new wine like myself cannot thrive in the old life I used to live, the old wineskin, for after 13 years of walking closely with the Lord, I no longer know how to walk otherwise. Not that that world would be ruined because of the new me, but because I cannot be unequally yoked with it after the Lord has called me for His purposes. I can go, when all this sickness is over, not to work, but to tell of the wondrous salvation from the Lord. To win souls.

But why the longing? Somewhere in the deep recesses of my heart is this wish: I wish that I had known the Lord Jesus while I was at the peak of my career, that I had surrendered my life to Him even then. Maybe then, I wouldn’t have been taken out of it.

If I had known the Lord then and walked in His ways and didn’t make the bad decisions that I made, would I still be there today, working, healthy and strong?

But the saddest thing is – that wasn’t the case. That wasn’t my life. I was successful by the world’s standards, living my dreams, but l was dead in the eyes of God. Let the dead bury their dead.

How deplorable it is to think that there are many people in the world who put up multimillion businesses and have stellar careers, but do not know how to really live.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

No matter how much we deny it – we do not know how to live apart from Christ.

I knew how to live by the world’s standards – competition,  excellence, devising, etc. But with the way I led my personal life – important relationships like marriage and family, and most of all, a right relationship with the Savior – I was the biggest fool. In business, I made the wisest decisions. But in private life, I acted like I had no brains at all.

I didn’t live in virtue; I lived in selfishness. I was just one of millions who walk this earth in selfishness. The world needs a Savior, and indeed, He has come.

That’s why now, I have life. I live. Because of Him. Now, I can honestly echo the apostle Paul’s words:

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him… (Phil. 3:8-9, emphasis added)

This is what it means when the Lord said to lose our lives. Yes, to lose that life that is not really life but death, and to trade it with the life we find in Him. That is the true life. Everlasting life.

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Mat. 10:39)

This is pure wisdom: To be willing to lose the life that we adore so much and to find ourselves in Him.

It will be hard for some. They will look back with longing of the life they left behind every now and then. Like me. But not to take the first step to go back to it, but to be able to appreciate how much the Lord Jesus had to give to give us life.

A life that will not cease long after this world has.

This is the life Jesus gives. But many of us are not willing to take it. We want to remain as blinds and fools, not knowing what matters most. We only see the pleasures and thrills the world offers; we cannot see the other side, the side where the King of kings reside. Life and glory forevermore.

But even as we live in the Lord, sometimes we still act foolish and make foolish decisions the same way as the world does. Where has wisdom gone?

For whoever finds me finds life,
And obtains favor from the Lord. (Prod. 8:35)

Sometimes we dwell in coldness and lovelessness. In anger and unkindness. In selfishness. We respond harshly to criticisms that are supposed to help, correct, and improve us. We devour each other even as we call on the name of the Lord and carry His name. Christians.

Yes, sometimes we do not know how to really live, even if the Lord has already shown us how to. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Sometimes we act as if we do not know Him.

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Mic. 6:8)

Oh, man! (Put a crying emoji here). What does the Lord require of us?

Do justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

Do we trample each other and grind each other with our unmerciful words? But didn’t you know, oh man, that —

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. (Prod. 16:24)

Our words should bring life and healing!

The letter addressed to the church in Sardis should serve as a warning and reminder:

I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. (Rev. 3:1-2, emphasis added)

Life in the Lord must be fruitful, not barren. 

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The Pharisee Mentality

I have noticed a beautiful change in my spiritual life lately. Just when I stopped striving too hard to perfect my ways before the Lord and acted instead as His child who is loved, cherished, and a constant recipient of His grace and mercy, that was the time I began to feel and really enjoy His love. For years I had worked very hard to deserve His favor, perfecting my ways all day and night even when I felt my mind and body were burning out and my heart was shrinking.

I had been that hard to my sick and suffering self, willing it to do more for the Lord in each and every day perchance He would took pity on me and He would completely heal me at last. Looking back, I realize it now that those years, though replete with tough and precious lessons, were also the ones that were almost devoid of joy, rest, and a nurtured feeling. As I drove myself hard to win God’s favor, I felt I was becoming more bitter and certainly didn’t know how to rest in God’s love.

I would force myself to read chapters of the Bible even between my morning and evening devotions. I’d praise in my mind unceasingly as I rested. I taught the Bible to my children nightly even when I was dizzy and not breathing comfortably. I learned to sing new songs during my idle time. I didn’t socialize via Internet (and since I couldn’t go out, I had zero social life). I only read the Bible or Christian devotional books. I didn’t watch movies or TV. I never learned computer games. I only approved of Scrabble as a game for the whole family. My days were shaped by a great, cowering fear of God and desperate striving for perfection. Because of all these, when I still suffered despite of all that, I questioned God bitterly in my heart. I couldn’t feel His rest, love, and nurturing. There was only striving. I entertained hurts, resentments, and self-pity in my heart. My posture was of one who questioned, or had the right to question. I had these silent thoughts:

Why does God continue to bless him/her though I haven’t seen his/her perfect ways?

Why is he/she healthy, peaceful, happy though I haven’t seen him/her do diligently what I do for God?

I’ve praised, prayed, read the Bible, obeyed Jesus’ teachings, and yet, I’m still sick and suffering.

Yes, I could only see my attempts at perfection, what I did, but only became bitter because of them. Maybe, unknowingly, I had stood before God silently displaying my works and had not known how to rest in His love and receive His grace. Even when I hadn’t been perfect before Him. Especially when I hadn’t been perfect before Him.

This had made me like the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

When I finally let go of perfectionism and my strivings {I didn’t force myself to sing when I couldn’t; I didn’t force myself to read chapters of the Bible when it was hard to breathe; I slept instead of doing one more spiritual thing because it was what my sick body needed; I socialized on FB and it made me happy and I didn’t feel guilty about it; I read good, clean Christian novels; I watched good, clean Hallmark movies or Dove-approved movies (I also watched novel-made-intomovies like Catherine Cookson’s, though I felt miserable with them); I didn’t terrorize myself in my mind when I failed or committed a mistake} – it was then that I truly felt God’s love working in my life. That I can rest in it. When I loosened myself of the grip of perfectionism and allowed some ‘clean, fun living’ with all the shortcomings, mistakes, and failures that came with it – God’s grace and mercy in my life became more palpable.

When I allowed myself to be just His child with the mistakes that a child makes, my praise and worship of Him became deeper and more soul-felt because then I knew that I was under grace and in need of His mercy. 

Why can’t we be more like little children before God – humble and obedient but fun-knowing, imperfect but loving and devoted to Him?

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 18:3)

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Journey with Jesus,