We are all time travelers in a sense as we exist in time. However, the challenge is that our time travelling is unidirectional, namely, we can only go forward in time but never able to return back to the past to amend our episodes. This makes time travelling perilous because it means that we only pass each time marker but once. We cannot go back to a missed graduation or undo a bungled careless action.
Recently in my morning devotion, I was confronted with a question: “What would you do differently if you are able to relive the last 20 years of your life?” I find this question difficult to deal with because the natural tendency to answer this question is to articulate all my regrets for the last 20 years. However, I doubt this is the intention of the author as he penned this question for the readers’ reflection. What if we answer this question by listing down what are the things we would not change if we live our last 20 years all over again? Thereafter, we can reflect on how we can further strengthen those things which we will not change and to make them even better. This article shares my reflection of those things or relationships which I hold dearly and what I would like to do to further make them better in years to come.
Four things crossed my mind as I try to distill the many things which I want to keep if I can travel back in time. It is taken for granted that I will always want to be a Christian regardless and I will not use my precious four bullets on this unchangeable, immovable and absolute resolve to be a Christian.
The first thing is that I will still marry the same person whom God has given me. Huey Huey and I just celebrated our 25 years of marriage. I must say that it has been a wonderful journey which I will never want to undo. We had our wedding reception where the food was cooked by my housemates for 150 guests and our wedding dinner catered only to 18 of us – 8 family members and 8 housemates plus us. That is all we could afford as a full-time master student when we married. We lived in a rented apartment and employer’s housing since our marriage and only owned an apartment some 10 years ago although we have never really lived in it. In fact, Rev and Mrs Ridge Orr stayed in our apartment physically much longer than us! Our children were born when I was a doctoral student living on a NUS scholarship. For the first 10 years after our children were born, we never watched a movie by ourselves. We had our struggles dealing with the reverse cultural shock when we moved back to Singapore. I thank God for the rich experiences and blessed 20 years and this is one thing which I would never want to change.
The second thing is having the two children, Weng Shian and Yi Shian. Having children is a choice which every couple needs to consider and accept from God. When I first held Weng Shian in my arms, there was a tremendous overwhelming sense of inadequacy as God has given us a wonderful gift (7 lbs and 7 ounces and 13.5 inches in length) but the challenge is that this gift does not come with an operating manual. We are not sure what to do as Christian parents because Huey Huey and I are first generation Christians. The ensuing years were time of grace and mercy as God used flawed vessels like us to bring up the children in the fear and knowledge of God. This means having to make career choices and live with the constraints in our life to cater to their needs. It means discipline too to show them the ways of God, for example, we must never be late for church because we cannot let the Almighty God wait for us! I thank God for those years of seeing them grow and I would never trade the world for the experience.
The third thing is having worked in NUS, my first and only full time employer for the last 24 years. NUS has given me a job, an opportunity to further my education and a viable career where I can grow and experience the deployment of my gifting in teaching and research. NUS has provided for my financial needs. There were always moments of highs and lows but I will still work for NUS if I have to start all over again.
Finally, I will still call and adopt PSPC as my home church. Having been in this church since I first came to her as an unbeliever in my teens, I owe all that I have to the people and ministry of this church who has accepted me as part of her spiritual family. As the Christian ministry changes and churches wax and wane, PSPC will still be my choice if I have to start all over again.
In this final section, I will seek to articulate what I would like to do to further enhance those things which I want to retain.
For the lady of my life, I hope to remain faithful and to keep my wedding vow, namely, to love and to cherish her till death do us part. I hope to spend more time with her to have our twilight conversations, meals and activities. My prayer is that we will grow old together side-by-side and walk with God closely as He directs us to new challenges and adventures. We will take what God gives us one day at a time and not to worry too much about our future like what we had done when we first got married.
For the children, I hope to become a coach and a mentor to them. In addition, I desire to be one of their best friends in life so that they will always have a confidant whom they can talk to about their lives. My desire is to further point them to Christ as the one who can fulfill all their dreams and needs in life.
As for NUS, my utmost employer, the challenge is to know when is the curtain time. One day, we must part and the challenge is to discern when my season in NUS is over. I pray that I will have the wisdom to prepare for that day.
For PSPC, my prayer is that this will be the church which I will be able to serve out faithfully the rest of my life. My prayer is that I will be like those church members who had attracted a teen like me to the church many years ago. I hope I will be able to continue to serve PSPC to draw men and women into her to be nurtured, strengthened and they will serve God faithfully henceforth the rest of their lives.
Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. This means that He is invariant over time. We can never change the past or be totally consistent but we can surely with God’s help shape the future with His unchanging love and grace and strive to be faithful to our calling. May God help us in this time travelling. Amen.