So wait

Memorable and amusing moments.

1. When my sister was little people often mistook me for a young mum. Now, we’re about the same age, apparently.

“Are you studying medicine too?”
“No.”
“What course are you studying then?”
“Umm, primary school?” Is that a course, she wonders.

I get it that it can be hard to tell – Asians often look young and ageless. But the guy asking was Asian as well.

Around the same time last year restaurants also started to ask us whether we wanted to “pay together, or separate?” I’m always tempted to say separate, quite innocently, and leave her to settle her own bill. Just kidding.

2. After one such meal, I was waiting for the credit card payment to process – both palms pressed down on the counter, leaning forward on tippy toes, possibly staring absent-mindedly into the distance.

“Stand like a lady! Girls stand like this,” she imitates me, “and ladies stand like this.” She demonstrates, standing tall, all prim and proper.

3. Speaking of instructions, before going on holidays with dad, she had some specific ones for me.

“Don’t go out with your friends too often. And you have to be nice to mum.”
“Okay, but I get annoyed easily.”
“Yeah, don’t. You have to be patient.”
“How do you do it? You seem to be very good at it.” It’s true.
“I know, it’s hard,” she replied sympathetically, “sometimes I’m impatient too. I don’t know how. I’m just telling you to do it.”

4. We often say that she sees clearly when it comes to others (in many things beyond her age), but it’s hard to do the same when it comes to herself. If we are honest, that’s all of us, really.

“I don’t know if I will go to heaven.”
“Why’s that?”
“Sometimes I want to be good, but I can’t! I don’t know why,” she lamented.

We talked about relying on grace rather than works again.

“You sounds like Paul, let me read it to you. ‘“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!'” (We read the whole section,  but this is from Romans 7:15, 24-25.)

“Oh yeah, that does sounds like me! Where’s that from? Which chapter?” A few weeks later she told mum about how she struggles like Paul and showed her the passage. Surprising what kids will understand and remember.

5. We came to the bizarre story on the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28) and the topic of spirits, demon-possessions and such things. Nothing new. She and her friends have heard all about Ouija boards on YouTube.

“So wait, wait.” Thinking hard. “If you can see that people are demon possessed, how come you can’t see it when they have the Holy Spirit?” What a searching question for all Christians to consider.

6. I didn’t have time to get changed after work one evening. At dinner, she looked at my flowy top, skirt, make-up, necklace.

“You know, you look all strong with muscles in your gym clothes.” But when you wear this you look all…” She paused, frowned and pursed her lips. All weak? She hates dresses and girly things.

“When you wear this, you look all beautiful!” She continued warmly with an unexpected hug.

Kataware doki

I do like the idea. A time when light and dark co-exist. Of start and end. Past and present. Where dream meets reality. It’s a colourful time of the day too.

I think I live in this unreal state of mind too often. At times, I wake up from a vivid dream and take awhile to realise that nothing was real. The years are a blur, especially since I started working. Recency and clarity don’t correlate. The end of the year just past is as clear, yet distant, as the previous, and the one, and two before.

I will give the start of last year a little extra airtime though. I wish the drive in those first few weeks lasted longer. Alone and carefree through vast country. Soaking in the summer alpines, cities, coastal towns, rock formations, faraway beaches, historic ports, crater lakes and caves. Getting acquainted with, and being grateful for the predictable presence of McCafe on the road. Then I came to the hot, cactus-laden desert, with waterless lakes and straight roads with no apparent end, and there’s not too much I care to remember thereafter.

The breath of life

Today is the day. I know because I receive automatic notifications of admissions to the public hospital. I knew anyway because I was reminded. Reminded to send a new referral prior to this date because the original didn’t have the required wording. Required wording – by law, or by the local service? I don’t know and neither did the coordinator on the other end of the phone. The omission was unintentional anyhow. But I was to amend to the precise wording, “I recommend termination of pregnancy due to psychological reasons”.

The teenage girl came in with her mum and boyfriend about a month earlier. The atmosphere in the room was tense as she went off to collect a urine sample. Mum was hysterical. The boyfriend stood behind mum (not enough chairs), occasionally brushing his fringe and slowly flicking his blonde shoulder-length hair to the side, before staring down at the floor again. He looked kind of stunned.

“Well, what did you think would happen?!” Mum snapped. They’d been together for a few months. Neither had a job. We discussed their options. Arranged tests and referrals.

That week another girl of the same age was in a similar situation. This was her second unexpected pregnancy, and she didn’t want to go through another termination. In the following week she went back and forth between wanting to go ahead with the pregnancy, and not wanting to. Her pregnancy was already quite far along and she needed to make up her mind. The latest was that she’d felt pressured by her boyfriend and his family to have an abortion, but he’s come around now. Is this a better outcome, or worse?

Pro-choice for the woman – how quickly that can become the-only-choice, if termination is seen by everyone around her as the only acceptable outcome. Including the health professional who is quick to put in writing, as I did, that termination is recommend for psychological reasons. How complete is the patient’s or their doctor’s knowledge about what benefits this individual in the long-term? Is what we want at the time always good for us? What if I don’t recommend? I suppose any colleague could refer her instead. What good, or harm, would come out of that?

Then there’s unexpected miscarriages. One woman had the slightest spotting, just once. Scans came back with an intrauterine pregnancy, but no fetal heart rate. Non viable pregnancy. This was the second time this year and she was devastated. Why does that even happen (not a medical why)? What happens to the fetus? Life ending so early, from something outside human control, is tragic. Equally so, is the deliberate act of ending a new life that could have continued.

There are reasons and there are circumstances. I acknowledge that I don’t know what they all are or what it is like to be in my patient’s shoes. Though I hope to make choices with a clear conscious before God, now and in the future, I can’t claim to know what my response would be should a difficult situation arise in my own life. Yet whatever our views are on abortion legislation and access, I think we can agree that the “demand” for these services – whether from unwanted pregnancies, medical conditions or other reasons – is not a good thing.

Reminds me once again that we live in a world broken and affected by sin. For unwanted pregnancies, I don’t just mean the choices of the woman and her partner (though in my view, we have personal responsibility regardless of our circumstances). Just as significant is the collective sin, of us as individuals in this society, in refusing to acknowledge God as creator. Believing that we are fit to define good and evil. That we only need to do what’s right for us, to be happy. Pretending that sex and childbearing are unrelated matters when we have modern-day contraception. Confidently asserting that we (rather than God) know best about relationships, sex, marriage, and even what constitutes the breath of life.

“As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.‭‭” – Ecclesiastes‬ ‭11:5‬

When it’s quiet – part two

Suppose I could use my sleepless night now to finish the reflections on troublesome pre-bed thoughts and difficulties falling asleep.

Sleep

Is a mystery. We are well acquainted with it. We can learn about the physiology of it. Yet when I consider sleep (in an abstract sort of way), it’s mind-boggling how it comes and goes, and what happens to us as the hours pass each night. The need to sleep, the inability at times to even make ourselves fall sleep, is humbling.

“Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God.” –  A Brief Theology of Sleep, John Piper

Desires

Are most keenly felt when it’s quiet. As are our heartaches and losses.

“We all have this place. Life has not turned out the way we want, and we know God could have handled things differently… How do we live with desire we cannot take care of and heartache we cannot prevent? We groan and wait.” Desire, John Eldredge

Groaning

Too busy to be sad? Groaning makes a time for itself anyway.

“How can we live without groaning? If we do not give our ache a voice, it doesn’t go away. It becomes the undercurrent of our addictions… Just because we do not feel it doesn’t mean it is not there. Our pleasant experience may be the result of the thousand distractions that fill our waking moments.” Desire, John Eldredge

There is such inexpressible weariness in living. We groan, sensing there is something wrong about living with suffering, futility, in a world corrupted by sin. About living with sickness and death, fears, conflicts, broken relationships and unfulfilled longings. In groaning, Christians or not, we often ponder on the difficult but important questions about our existence and future. In groaning, the children of God long all the more for an Earth made new, to dwell with God, and for him to wipe away all our tears, pain and death.

Poverty

In self sufficiency, we neither feel lacking in anything, nor do we feel unwell, without God. Doesn’t feel that God is big or that we are small. Shouldn’t we be able to sort ourselves out if we have sharp minds, adequate resources, years of experience, a few books at hand, sensible friends? (And a good doc? Haha.) Yet, when it’s quiet, in despair or weariness, it’s easier to see our emptiness and desire to be filled with a hope and joy that lasts.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:3-4