A Plaster of Smiles

You smile and I pause. Then I smile. And things go on. I wonder how far this plaster of smiles will hold?

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Lives Not Lived

Sometimes in a sudden moment of clarity – when everything seems to be at standstill for a split-second and the fog of life is lifted – I realise just how strange it is that I am here right now, living the life I am living. I see the faces that pass me. They are faces that I could have perhaps known. They are people I could have perhaps been. How many decisions have I made, how many chance happenings have occurred, which have brought me to where I am? A million other lines splay out around me – different lives I could have perhaps inhabited. I feel tiny and wispy. The wind blows and I am afraid of disappearing into my myriad different personas. It is staggering. It is sad. I wish then that I could live life a million times over and experience every single possibility. It is a nostalgia for lives not lived. People not loved. Places not travelled. Timelines not known. I look ahead and am too paralysed to take the next step. Every choice I take closes a million other doors. How can anyone ever hope to move?

But move we must. So I take a breath and allow the fog of life to descend. The paths fade away, and His path remains. I am here because He has led me here. And He will lead me to where I need to go.

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Fight

Sometimes when I close my eyes, or when I daydream – maybe in class, or in the car, or even during a prayer – I picture someone fighting. He brandishes a sword, or he catches arrows on his shield, or he draws a bow. Sometimes I am watching him do it. Sometimes I am him. I used to think it was just the childish side of me – the one that played with figurines and fake swords as a kid and watched WWE as a teenager. But I am beginning to wonder if it is not something more.

Is there something in me that is just perpetually restless? That person never ceases his battle. Every time he is conjured he takes up his arms again. Now a longsword, now a dagger. What exactly is he fighting? Where do these imagined enemies spring from? Wait. Not he, perhaps. I?

Yes, I. Always poised, always tense. From one battle to the next, like a never ending RPG. I am a fighter, I am a warrior. I sweat and I bleed. I shout my cry and I raise my sword. No.

I am weak. He who is strong fights once and never needs to fight again. He vanquishes his enemies and they stay gone. He lives in the peace he was won. But the one who keeps fighting is weak. He is desperate – like a cornered animal that bears its teeth at everything to survive. That desperation keeps him fighting, even if his enemies are not real.

Whenever I watch shows, I find it ridiculous that the protagonist almost never falls. He might get shot in the shoulder, or take stab in the gut, but it never is fatal. What kind of luck is that? That doesn’t happen in real life. The fighter eventually gets defeated. He gets tired and he slows. He allows a gap in his defences. He punches but he misses. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.

But thankfully this is not real life. We tend to be stronger mentally than we are physically. Our minds and our hearts can get beat down time and again but we can always get up. If this is an endless RPG, at least there seems to be limitless lives. Wounds can be bound, armour can be repaired, weapons can be reforged. But even this process of constant revival is itself a battle. A battle of attrition. And against the world, our resources will run out first. One day the fighter will get struck down. And he might stay down. Then he will discard his arms. He will take off his helmet and drop it into the dirt. He will lower his eyes, and never raise them again. His enemies will disappear – but that doesn’t matter any more. Nothing does at this point. At this point, the fighter is defeated.

Wait. Not he. I

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I have always been cognizant of the fact that my posts are often short and slightly cryptic. It is not my wish to portray myself as a mysterious poetic soul, but I suppose it is only when I am in such mysterious poetic moods that I feel the compulsion to post something. And in these moods I often do much rumination and pondering, which produce distilled sentiments, images, or words, which then go into my post as the vague ramblings of a madman.

This is an effort to depart from that tendency.

The new year is again upon us, whether we like it or not. I, for one, care little about new year resolutions. Besides the fact that it has just become a cool thing to post on your social media more than an actual resolution to keep to, I don’t see why the new year alone in particular is deserving of new resolutions, and not any other time. Why not the 17th of July? Or the 15th of October? In a sense, everyone should be resolving to make resolutions (hurhur) all the time, because that means you are always thinking about what to change in your life to become a better person, and you are always aware of the seasons you are in.

Nevertheless, I do find myself to be forming some sort of resolutions in my head, not because of the new year per se, but because thoughts have been gathering and gaining momentum in my mind. As of yet, they have remained as vague impressions and desires, not “resolutions” as one might see in a list on a Facebook post. Therefore, with the aim of crystallising them, I shall attempt to delineate them here.



1. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

It was recently impressed upon my heart the richness of this line which we often recite but gloss over. Sure, this is an encouragement and a promise. It makes us feel safe and at peace. But I think that with it also comes a call. A call to trust. A call to be His sheep. The Lord is my Shepherd. Do I trust that He is my Shepherd? That wherever He leads me is good for me? Will I follow in faith? Will I look to nothing else? I shall not be in want. Is God enough for me? Do I trust that He will provide, if I walk in His will? Is He my spring of living water, or do I dig empty cisterns? To know this truth is to follow God wholeheartedly, with utter devotion, with complete faith. In the immediate, this would apply largely to my first graded semester. I hope to walk in this truth – to live in obedience according to His purposes, and not chase after grades, or friends, or men’s favour.

2. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.

There are times when you read a verse that you know you have definitely read before, but it seems totally foreign and new. This was one of those times. All of those times that I came across it, it never hit me. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. Do you struggle with seeing God’s face, in experience His presence, His love, His power, His grace? I do. And I have realised how importance the pursuit of holiness is. So pursue, I will.

3. Pray

This has been on my Life’s To-do List for a while now, and I suppose that’s not necessarily a bad thing in itself – we should always be wanting to pray and pray and pray. But I think that despite me knowing I need to do it, I find myself not making headway in living the prayerful life. Somewhere down the line I stopped having my personal retreats, I stopped my fasting, I stopped praying throughout the day. Basically I allowed myself to forget how important praying is. But my desire is not just to go back to where I was, but to surpass that. I want the joy of praying, the delight in communion with the Father, that constant awareness of His presence with me, the alignment of my will to His, and the peace and assurance that comes with all of that.

 

There we go. I have a set of new year resolutions, and a lengthy and comprehensible post in proper prose format. I am cool now.

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Light Dark Light

Light. Dark light dark, light. Light. Sun and shadow play on the back of my eyelids – the sun pre-eminent and constant, the shadows brief and few.

And with my eyes shut in the moving train, I saw. I saw that this was how it is with the Christian life. His light ever shining on us, overpowering and blinding, purifying. The shadows are but fleeting and futile. Always His light envelops us again, searing His image at the back of our eyelids, our minds, our hearts.

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Well, it kind of hurts when the kind of words you say
Kind of turn themselves into blades
And the kind and courteous is a life I’ve heard
But it’s nice to say that we played in the dirt, oh dear
‘Cause here we are, here we are.

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