Long-term commitment whether in marriage, religious life or in other forms, is harder these days because of change. The loved one changes, and we change ourselves with time; so our relationships change. We cannot live our whole lives at concert pitch. But when the tune changes, it need not be the end of the concert. It often is. In some countries half the marriages end in divorce. What is there in us that can survive the changes of time, and the up-and-down of living relationships? As we look back at a jubilee, we see our commitment is at once richer and more painful than when we started. Faithfulness is a bit of a mystery and a marvel; it has a value in itself. Faithful love builds up the one to whom we are faithful, expresses our hope in them. It is a grace, a gift: not so much what we do for God as what he does for us. It would make us feel humble, that in spite of all our inadequacies, we stuck it.
The last week has been an intensive round of traveling up north to Cameron Highlands and Ipoh, as well as south to Melaka. It’s a picture mirroring aspects of my life where there’s lots of movement more than even my family can catch up with.
There are seasons like this. I’m glad to slow down a little today. Some not-so-random reflections have been hovering in my head the last two days. They are many, but one constant theme is how I have changed through the years. Or perhaps more precisely, how numerous episodes and experiences have fundamentally altered the way I think and feel about a number of significant issues. This of course, covers the whole spectrum of personal and public thought.
Then some reflections on the changes in relationships too have been occupying my mind. That’s probably why the quote above resonates so strongly with me this morning.
“The loved one changes, and we change ourselves with time; so our relationships change. “
so often, we dwell too much on whether the change is right or wrong, good or bad, and the whole cycle of value judgments cloud the need for us first to just pause, and embrace the fact of change. The discerning comes a little later. What’s crucial at this stage is the lay it all out clearly on our mental table and look at the changes afresh.
What led to the changes? Who was involved that pushed or pulled me in the direction I’m heading? Why are these changes important? What does all this mean? How on earth should I respond? How have I responded thus far? . a full range of probing is called for.
And even when we are engaged in that, it doesn’t mean out ties to the center of who we are, and whose we are is cut off. It may feel fragile, but then this following sentence is so graciously needed.
“Faithfulness is a bit of a mystery and a marvel”
And it goes one, let the noise settle down, and in the midst of the silence, we hear again:
Faithful love builds up the one to whom we are faithful, expresses our hope in them. It is a grace, a gift: not so much what we do for God as what he does for us. It would make us feel humble, that in spite of all our inadequacies, we stuck it.
“In spite of all our inadequacies . .. .” is comforting when those inadequacies are so glaring in our face. There are times when I wondered whether I could be faithful to what I believe I’m called to at the most basic level to the most public. As time goes one, we might even have lesser friends. Sure, there will be new ones. But then, the fact of relationships which change is still there.
There will be some who stick it out with us. God surely has, and I appreciate that. And in moments like these, I’m grateful for all who have stuck it out with us even for a season. I know for sure how many a times, I found it hard to even stick it out for others. One’s limits and liabilities are so exposed in moments like that.
Maybe that’s why I’m still hanging on to this tune . . .
“We cannot live our whole lives at concert pitch. But when the tune changes, it need not be the end of the concert.”