Author Archive
Hannah Lois Ng

Transitions

What would it be like if our world was always day, with no night?

I asked myself this question while on a plane from San Francisco to Singapore – a 16-hour flight, with nearly all of it in daylight because of the time zone differences.

Because I love sunlight so much, I figured I wouldn’t mind having it 24/7. It would filter cheerfully into my office through the glass windows, even at 7pm; and if Singapore’s weather were cooler, after work I could lie on the grass, under a tree, and read a book in the sun. Without darkness, I might just feel more alive, more cheerful, more hopeful.

 But in such a world, I know I would miss having sunrises and sunsets – those precious hours where clouds turn impossibly pink and everything becomes gold. For such glory to exist, day needs to graciously make way to night, and night to day. If either ‘season’ remained forever, we would be robbed of the beautiful transitions between them.

‘Transitions’ is a word which brings up mixed feelings. As a youth, each future transition always seemed exciting. In junior college, I looked forward to entering university to pursue a course I liked (where I finally did not have to study Math!). In university, I spent hours and hours dreaming of what I would do once I graduated. Too often, I simply could not wait for the next change to come.

Ironically, now that I’ve actually started working, I find myself yearning to be back in student life again. This new season of work has, at times, felt like overwhelming darkness. There are days I wish the ‘sunlight’ of studenthood didn’t have to end, so I wouldn’t need to move out of that carefree season into this period of heavier responsibility.

Then there’s the transition into married life, which I will be making in a year’s time. I’m looking forward to it, yet am sometimes gripped by bouts of anxiety that can completely overtake the anticipation. I know I will miss living with my siblings and parents – what if we drift apart? What if I’m too incapable or too emotional to support my husband well? Too irresponsible to manage my own home? The looming transition brings spurts of excitement met by other moments of despair, where I’m sometimes tempted to maintain status quo and not get married!

What’s tough in transition is that we bid farewell to a previous season which can never come back, while ushering in a new season of life. This quote from Elisabeth Elliot aptly captures the mixed feelings of letting go and moving on:

“The growth of all living green things wonderfully represents the process of receiving and relinquishing, gaining and losing, living and dying. The seed falls into the ground, dies as the new shoot springs up. There must be a splitting and a breaking in order for a bud to form.  The bud “lets go” when the flower forms. The calyx lets go of the flower. The petals must curl up and die in order for the fruit to form. The fruit falls, splits, relinquishes the seed.  The seed falls into the ground…

There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops.”

One heavenly day, we might experience a place where there is no more letting go and moving on; a period of unending daylight. But on this side of eternity, we are blessed with more sunrises and sunsets – transitions big and small – to walk through. May our eyes be opened to the glory and beauty in each one.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

… He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Hannah has a big heart for the youth, she loves to read and is a regular contributor to reflections on life@COOS.

Love Made Real

I spent a week this December in Dili with a team of COOS youth, serving Timor’s young people together with our long-term missionaries. One of the most memorable programmes we helped them with was a Christmas service for youths.

‘Christmas service’. For me, this term calls to mind a stage decorated with trees, stars, and fairy lights; the nativity scene; singing familiar carols – and perhaps even watching a full-blown musical. Could we call our meeting a ‘Christmas service’ if we weren’t planning to include any of those elements?

At 9:30am on a Sunday, our service kicked off with fifty barefooted youths – Singaporeans and Timorese – perched eagerly on plastic stools in a simple room. We went crazy playing an icebreaker, shed tears as we sang in unison about the Father’s love (no carols), listened intently to the Word (which was not about the nativity), then huddled in small circles to share about our lives and pray for one another.

One moment in the gathering stood out for me. After the last worship song about the Father’s love, many Timorese youth were in tears, perhaps missing their own earthly fathers, or being deeply moved by their heavenly one. Instead of closing off the worship time and moving straight into the Word, our preacher, Siew Lee paused and asked us all to give a hug to someone of the same gender. Singaporeans and Timorese youth offered each other long, heartfelt embraces. I pulled a Timorese friend into my arms and she began to cry. Each hug ministered the Father’s love tangibly, through the language of touch. It was as if the arms of God encircled every person we embraced.

This mission trip taught me that it is ‘love made real’ which people need. In the same way that getting a hungry man to think about food will not satisfy his hunger, merely explaining the idea or concept of God’s love to a starving heart will not satisfy it. We humans need to feel God’s love experientially, not just ponder it conceptually, for it to sink into our beings that we are loved. Someone needs to be there with us, to help make God’s love real.

I think parents already understand this concept of needing to be physically present in order to communicate love to their children. When we reached out to the Timorese kids, we intuitively knew that it would not suffice to simply say, “God loves you”. Instead, we spent hours sitting beside them on tiny stools, performing every action of their kindergarten songs with them, playing kiddy games with them, and getting our hands sticky making crafts with them at the same tiny table. In many ways, we became one of them.

At Christmas, we celebrate the heavenly Father doing just that. He became one of us, His children. He probably grew up running with other kids down dusty streets, perhaps scraping a knee or two, inevitably perspiring under the Middle Eastern sun. He didn’t feed the five thousand in a I’m-a-superior-being-so-let-me-help way, for He himself knew how human hunger felt (Matthew 4:2). He did not emotionlessly wipe away sadness, but felt troubled and wept with the weeping (John 11:33, 35).

At Christmas, the Father didn’t just send a message or a miracle to say, “I love you”. Instead, He –LOVE – became flesh and dwelt among us. He became God-with-us, and communicated His tender love in a tangible, ‘humanly-experiential’ way. At Christmas, LOVE is ‘made real’ to us.

Unlike our Christmas youth service in Dili, at this year’s Christmas service at COOS we will have our decorated stage, our lights, our carols, and our Scripture readings about the nativity. These function as signs, pointing us toward what we’re celebrating: God coming to live among His children; God making His love ‘real’ for each of us.

As we walk in Christ’s steps, why not seek to make the Father’s love real – a tangible experience – for someone near you this Christmas? Perhaps a simple hug is all it will take.

Hannah has a big heart for the youth, she loves to read and is a regular contributor to reflections on life@COOS.