Making Light of Things

June 2012 Archives

Joined as One

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
Proverbs 31:1-2

My dearest Faith,

It’s nothing short of amazing to think that it’s been twenty years since we first held hands, and in some jejune manner, made a choice to commit ourselves to each other. It’s easy to think as adults do and deride childish notions of romance, but when I look at it closely, love is something intrinsically understood, and the young probably have a better grasp of what it is, untainted by the constraints of pragmatism. As we grow older we believe that our choices are shaped by circumstance, and even in design the better designers view and accept constraints as guiding principles rather than restrictions, but things of God — the eternal things, the ones that really matter — exist outside of these constraints. These are the things that overcome.

In our journey together we faced our fair share of obstacles. As I sit back and recall how we dealt with the difficulty of growing up and staying together, as we both sought our individual identities, I remember how it tore at our very hearts that things didn’t seem to just stay “in a good place”. As we graduated from school to school, environments changed, and my sense of security was shaken when you wondered aloud back then if you had foregone many opportunities by being with me.

You definitely have.

You waited for me through National Service. You shaved my head, and thanks to my brilliant advice to use the electric shaver without its plastic guard, gave me the shortest and most uneven haircut of my life. You waited while I queued up for 3 minute phone calls on the public telephone at nights just to hear your voice. It was hard to put on a nonchalant face, but there were 30 to 40 topless men waiting behind me to use the phone. For two and a half years you waited.

You waited for me through college. In a time before Skype and Facetime, we chatted daily on IRC. It was 5 in the morning in Arizona, and the end of the day for you here in Singapore. There were days when you were so tired but still hung on to find out how my previous day went.

There were many opportunities, many nice prospective men, and somehow you hung on to this shimmer of a relationship so far away. It’s been one of God’s greatest blessings in my life that you did.

The second decade (9 years now) spent as man and wife have been the sweetest years of my life. Even now, the thought that I no longer need to bid you goodbye, and that we’re on an ongoing date thrills me to no end. The nights spent beside each other fills us both with the excitement of a sleepover, and I instinctively stick my toes out of our blanket, wiggle them and squeal at how blessed we are to be right here, right now.

Having you by my side as we admire the spectacular sunrise of our children’s lives can only be described as having the joy in our cup overflowing past its brim. Even now Anne reads over my shoulder, asking why I’m writing you a letter when you’re sleeping right in the next room. I tell her that like the storybooks she writes and illustrates, I write because I want to remember, and read this many years from now.

I thank God for you.

In Moments Like These

There is so much that begs to be written.

A couple of months ago, Faith conceived our third. It is odd how we look at childbearing as a decision these days, when in fact it is the act of preventing childbearing that is deliberate. The decision to leave it in God’s good hands wasn’t an easy one. We were settling in a nice routine. The kids were growing up and it made no logical sense to have a third child.

When you decide to have your first, it is a monumental step you’re embarking on. As a couple you get ready for this next step in your relationship and take the plunge. It is after that where you think of how lonely a single child must feel, and you have another. So if you are, where I was, with two children — a boy and a girl no less — there is very little impetus to have a third child.

But God didn’t leave us alone. Working at a government agency that looks into the decline of childbirths, it was hard not to be introspective. There are a myriad of reasons why people choose not to have children, but for me it came down to pretty selfish reasons. It was a matter of control, and not wanting to give that up. To be frank they aren’t even good reasons. The best moments Faith and I have had in our lives so far have had to do with our children. Their presence in our lives gave us such unspeakable joy, yet here we were, trained to look upon the bringing up of a child as a chore and a burden. It’s almost telling, how universally we speak constantly about the “cost of raising a child”, but so little about what paying the cost brings. Children are seen as a time sink and a sunk cost.

The psalmist writes “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed in the man who fills his quiver with them!” (Psalm 127:3-5).

It is amazing how short our memories are, and how quickly we cling to self-centeredness disguised as pragmatism. Faith and I were hesitant to even consider having another child. The costs seem so real and enduring, while the joys so fast and fleeting. Yet I know this: that on my deathbed, I will not begrudge my children the money I spent on them; I will regret the time I withheld. The smiles and laughter of my wife and my children will be the most precious things, the last things I reluctantly hold on to when the time comes for earthly existence to fade.

It took us a while, but we eventually surrendered our rights to “family planning”, at least for now. It wasn’t long before Faith conceived.

We were afraid of what it meant, but we rejoiced.

Almost exactly twenty years ago, Faith prepared to take her ‘O’ Levels. Needing help with her mathematics, she went to a tutor who took a personal interest in her, and things got creepy. I hung out with less than desirable company at that time, and the tutor happened to live in our neighbourhood. Nothing much happened, except that Faith and I grew closer and eventually became something of an item.

It has been a heck of a journey, and it wasn’t always smooth. There were times when the tectonic forces of growing up, finding our own identities as individuals, and staying together as a couple, seemed diametrically opposed and threatened to tear us apart. But I’m so very thankful to be her husband.

Even this afternoon as I looked upon her from afar, with Caleb sitting on her lap and both of them laughing, I realised how truly, truly blessed my life has been, to have been able to love so deeply without fear or apprehension. To rejoice in the wife and children of my youth.

A few hours ago, ultrasound scans of our third child revealed that there was no heartbeat to be heard. It was an oddly emotional moment. How do you grieve someone you never knew, or be nonchalant about the passing of someone you have spent so much time imagining life with? Part of you wants to cry, and part of you chides yourself for being silly because there never was anything to cry about. But there was. Is. Would have been.

It was only last night Faith and I read Isaiah 55,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

All we can say is that this journey, though cut short in our eyes, was exactly the journey God had planned for us, that we might learn to differentiate the unimportant from the important, and learn to relinquish control and return unto God what is rightfully His.

There is so much that begs to be written, so many thoughts to be laid straight.

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