This is post-dated (as Father’s Day is over) but I thought I should talk about it nonetheless since fathers father their children everyday, and not just once a year. But since I’m on the topic of parents, I thought I should share my thoughts on active fatherhood.
I want to urge you to appreciate your father and not take him for granted – especially if you have a good father to look up to and model after. Godly fathers are a blessing from the Lord. Do not wait for him to disappear from your life before you learn to be grateful for him.
I tweeted this recently and mentioned it in my prayer during the Father’s Day service I emceed at GII:
Mothers are critical in a child’s upbringing but fathers are central to it; Dads, are you placing your family in the centre of your life?
Fathers, listen closely… You have nothing to lose except your family.
If you are a father reading this, regardless of whether you just became one or have been one for decades, please take heart and continue to be that father who inspires, influences, insulates and instructs your children. I don’t know about you, but I desire so much to be a father with a spark in my eye.
This reminds me of Roald Dahl’s “Danny the Champion of the World”, one of the first books I read that left a vivid image of the type of father I’d want to be to my children.
I used to say that I’d want to be a father to my children that my father never was to me, but in recent years, I’ve decided to stop saying that simply because I believe God wants me to use my perfect Heavenly Father as my benchmark instead of my imperfect earthly father.
Well, for now, this video (put together by my shepherd, the vivacious Andrea Chan, and her team of Befrienders) goes out to my spiritual fathers – Ps Ronald Yow, Peter Lim and Chia Jenn Hui – who have seen me through the various seasons of my life since I became a teenager. I will always be indebted to them for taking the time and effort to walk with me.
My children, listen to me. Listen to your father’s instruction. Pay attention and grow wise, for I am giving you good guidance. Don’t turn away from my teaching.
Proverbs 4:1-2 (New Living Translation)
It’s Mother’s Day! I’m single-dating her tonight and I hope that she would have enjoyed the food and the company of her favourite son (Ha!). And since I (think I) am a writer, I will of course blog about my mother on this day that rightly belongs to her.
Mummy, I know you’re reading this – I love you and I want you to know that I am immensely proud of you for raising Maisie and me. You have done a remarkable job with your limited resources and no amount of words will do justice to the sacrifice that you have put in. But I do hope that you will be honoured this way – because I respect and love you very much. 放心，我和妹妹会照顾你的！
I found the transcript of an email interview my mentor Peter Lim conducted with me. It was part of his article for Motherhood magazine. And I was hoping that this may turn out to be a good read. This document dates back to June 2006 – so what you are about to read is my perspective half a decade ago, when I was still in the Army. And I’d like to think I’ll probably answer these questions in the same way if I am asked again today.
Anyhow, I’m publishing the document as it is. Enjoy the read. (:
1. Do you mind if I title it (the article): “Our mum is a divorcee”? And you can send me a happy smiling picture of yourself and your sister?
>>> Ya, actually I do mind. Because I never saw her as a divorcee. So I don’t want others to think that we think of her that way. In my head and heart she’s one amazing super mother. She’s living proof that you can raise two kids properly without a husband and with income that could only make ends meet. Her sacrifice is second to none. Perhaps you could skew your title to something with sacrifice? I’ll leave the coining of the title to you then.
2. How old were both of you when your parents divorced?
>>> Maisie and I were 5 and 8 years old respectively when our parents officially divorced.
3. Did you know why they divorced?
>>> Over the years, many different reasons have surfaced; some were conventional ones like financial disputes and failure to meet expectations, but there are also a couple of reasons that I cannot share because it’s just too personal. Both our father and mother gave us different perspectives on why the marriage failed; and of course they absolved themselves of any traces of blame. When we were younger we couldn’t understand why, but now that we are older, we see a much clearer picture by piecing all these information together. We’d blame neither of them for what has happened – or we’d blame the both of them.
4. What were your reactions then? (Or were you too young to understand?)
>>> At 5 and 8 years old, I honestly think we were too young to understand. The fact that I existed in a single-parent family only hit me when I was 15 years old. It hit my sister too, but differently. I hated my father for not being around, for not lighting my path to manhood, for not disciplining me etc., etc. Kids who have their fathers by their side through their growing up years will never understand what I went through so I’d say to treasure your father – they are a gift from God to their children. My sister struggled with another set of hurts; once the apple of her father’s eye, she found herself “demoted” to second-best when my father remarried and his wife bore him a son. She was no longer daddy’s girl and not being able to approach our Papa like the loving father that he used to be that hurt her the most.
5. What do you feel is missing (if anything at all) from a single-parent family?
>>> Nothing is missing from a single-parent family. 3 is a whole number and not an odd number. Our mother has done such a remarkable job at playing different roles you couldn’t tell that we were from a single-parent home. It did help that we became Christians; in church, we’ve been blessed to have a lot of brothers and sisters, both young and old, to love and protect us. Our maternal and paternal relatives are also a closely knit group. Maisie and I were never lacking in any area.
6. Do you compare yourselves to friends who have both parents in their growing up years?
>>> Comparisons are inevitable. We look at “complete” families and although we are delighted for them, we also feel a tinge of envy. But we wouldn’t have traded our single-parent upbringing for an “ideal” family (by the world’s standard). Our family background has allowed us to experience things that some kids would never even imagine. It has made us stronger, wiser and certainly more independent than most kids. We are more aware of what’s going on around us and there’s this unmistakable drive that Maisie and I both have; I firmly believe this was birthed out of a unique upbringing.
7. In your parents’ case, was there anything positive in being divorced (from your perspectives, not theirs)?
>>> Our mother married our father when she was 20 years old. She had her firstborn at 22 years old. While it was common for women in the past to marry early, it also meant that she never had the chance to “see the world”, and had to care and provide for her own family at a premature age. The divorce allowed her to expand her horizons, social circle and of course the way she perceives things.
>>> For our father, as he was the initial custodian to us both, his life revolved around us. His first and last thoughts of the day were of and for us. He was quite an extraordinary father. However, due to circumstances, my sister moved in with my mother after a couple of years, and I followed suit after another couple of years. I believe my dad’s life picked up from there. To date, I’m not sure if the path he chose (to start another family) was what he desired, or what he needed to do to feel normal again.
>>> Both of them have become a very different person from who they knew each other to be.
8. What’s your advice to parents who are divorcing/divorced, in relation to consideration for their kids?
>>> Regardless of marital status, always be there for your children whenever they need you. Your children belong to both of you, not one of you. It is possible to raise good and sensible kids even if you are divorced, but it requires an intentional and active sacrifice. Time is the greatest gift you can give to your children. Your presence makes a difference in their lives so don’t let your absence become the difference in their lives.
I regret not doing something crazy but radical during my evening run just now.
The final part of my jogging route took me to Holland Grove View, just off Mount Sinai Road. I sneaked glances into those huge house as I trod down a small road flanked by luxury cars. (I digress but isn’t it interestingly dichotomous that Mount Sinai Road and Ghim Moh Road share the same tar? What a world of affluential difference!) It was 7:30pm – dinner time. One in four households I ran past were sharing a meal over the dining table. And at every single gathering, the Holy Spirit pointed my attention to the father figure.
Without fail, I immediately spotted the head of the home. And by the time I hit the third household having dinner, I remember being prompted by the Spirit to go to the fence of this huge white bungalow, for it was just outside the dining room. I felt moved in my spirit to deliver the following words of encouragement to the elderly man clad in a white tee:
“Hey you! Are you their father? You don’t have to know who I am but I want you to know that what you’re doing – it’s great. Keep having meals with your family as often as you can, please. You’re doing an amazing job as a father. Don’t underestimate the importance of simply eating together!”
But alas, I didn’t. And within two paces, my window of opportunity vanished. I didn’t run by another house again with the dining room within shouting distance from the road. Then I started to reflect – on how I wanted my family to look like a decade from now. Due to external upbringing and an internal resolve, I was quietly confident that I would be a good husband and I was determined to be a father but I didn’t want to take anything for granted. Being a good 一家之主 requires planning, effort and sacrifice. I don’t need to be a father to know this.
Immediately I started to recall all the good father figures that God has graciously placed in my life to inspire me, and set an example on how a household should be led and how children should be brought up. I began to thank God for great men like Pastor Ronald Yow, Uncle Kheng Leong and Peter Lim, just to name the first few off the top of my head. With these wonderful examples, amongst many others, I nearly slipped into an unnecessary melancholy comparison due to my lack of a fatherly figure, but I decided to celebrate God’s faithfulness in these families instead.
My message tonight is simple.
If you are a father reading this, and have been consistently investing into your family – keep going! You’re doing a great job! And I am certain that your rewards will come when you still have communion with your grown-up children when you’re old and gray.
If you are a father who is distant, or have a desire to want to reconnect with your family – my brother, this is your time to redeem what was lost. Your career must never, ever be at the expense of your children and your wealth-accumulation must never be at the expense of your wife.
Fathers – never underestimate your role in your children’s lives!
If you are a son or daughter reading this – why don’t you just take a minute to walk to your father, hug him, and tell him that you love him and appreciate all that he is doing and has done for the family? I’m sure he’ll be shocked and may even think you’re nuts, but deep down inside, I’m also sure that it will swell his heart swell with warmth and pride. Go now!
And if you, like me, are disconnected from your father – why don’t you take this time to pray for him and thank God for the many good fathers that are around you?
Well, since we’re on the subject of encouraging dads to be dads for life, why don’t we use Facebook or our mobile phones to encourage a father right now? We don’t have to wait for Father’s Day since fathers play their roles as fathers, not just once a year, but everyday.
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)
“For the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)
“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24)
For all the geniuses who read my blog, you’d have already picked up the key words of the passages above. (If you haven’t, I’ve highlighted it for you.) I’m talking about serious scolding, not meaningless teasing. It seems clear to me that discipline is connected to love and vice-versa. However, in this day and age (and especially during the age of growing up), youths may struggle to understand this crucial link. I think it’s because they associate discipline with demerit. I don’t blame them – who enjoys being scolded?
I, for one, grew up getting scolded by a lot of people, left, right and centre; I was always punished in school, rebuked in church, nagged at at home and corrected by friends. It was frustrating of course, and I never saw the beauty of this until many years later. It took maturity to see beyond the unpleasantness of discipline. I’m quietly confident to think the people who looked after me bothered to discipline me simply because they loved me.
It’s actually a logical conclusion if you come to think about it. My mother has told me before that it pains her more to cane me than it literally pains me. PL and RY, the father-role models in my life, also concur – that it indeed inflicts more pain to the discipliner than the disciplined; after all, who enjoys chastising their own flesh and blood? Any normal parent would say the same thing too. Yet, it is imperative to discipline. I think parents discipline their children because they care and want the best for them; you’d hardly find a parent who scolds his or her child for his or her own personal gain.
So the next time you are confronted by your pastor, mentor, leader or teacher, or reprimanded by your parents, or chided by your friends, to sort out a particular issue in your life, know that you are being scolded because of this wonderful element called love. However, not everyone is an expert in discipline and thus may choose the wrong method even though they may have the right intentions. So, sometimes you will struggle to see this (tough) love. But I’d like to encourage you to remain positive every time you are disciplined.
But can you imagine the day where people stop disciplining you? I think it signals the end for you it tells you that they have given up on you. I always believe that one of the saddest things that could ever happen to you is when others to accept your shortcomings as part of God’s unchangeable plan for your life; in order words, they have lost all hope that you could change for the better and have decided to just embrace you as you are, without any desire to correct you anymore.
“Hey, don’t bother about him; he’s always like that.”
“Eh, forget it. There’s no use talking to him because he won’t listen.”
“Ignore him – you’re wasting your time if you think he’ll change.”
These are some of the words I will never want to hear in my life; it’s far worse than being disciplined by harsh words.
There’s a difference between good and godly advice. Everyone is able to offer their two-cents’ worth but not everyone makes sense. Therefore, it is important to surround yourself with counsellors who are able to expand your perspectives as well as to offer you solutions (or at least show you the possible consequences of any decision made). We should be cautious in selecting who we hang out with for it usually determines who we become eventually – surround yourself with cynics and you may just become one.
The way of the fool always seem right to him – they will hardly admit that they are wrong; don’t spend too much energy trying to convince them otherwise, but learn to just pray for them and commit them to the Lord. When I see how the advice that I dispense fall on deaf ears, it gives me an idea of how foolish I was when I was younger, and how I have refused and rejected advice. If you want to counsel others, it is important that you are rooted in the Word of God. Wisdom is knowing how to apply biblical principles to everyday situations. Hence, wise counsel and sound advice always comes from the Word.
It is also important that you are a Spirit-filled individual if you want to offer advice to others. I always tell my leaders to pray (silently) in the Spirit (in their hearts) when they talk to youths, and to be sensitive to what the Spirit might possibly prompt them to say instead. It’s imperative that we do not make up advice; for the lack of a better way to phrase it – let’s not bullshit others. There are days that I do not have the answer and when that happens, I will be honest and tell whoever I’m speaking to that I will get back to them a few days later. Don’t trust anyone who’s always got the answer. We must stop whenever and however the Spirit leads and prompts us to, and seek God for an answer first. I remember BH’s advice regarding advice-giving – “If people run to you, you better run to God, otherwise they might think that you are God!”
I try to surround myself with people who know what people are like – basically older and more mature individuals who have seen more people than I have. They give great insight to people and how to deal with those who are more challenging to manage. They teach me how to discern and share their experiences with me. Hence, regardless of how high-up I may rise in a leadership role, it is important that I do not isolate myself, but to surround myself with people who are involved in the right kind of attitude, and those who are like-minded. Having RY and PL to share with me their journey on being a ministry-man and a family-man gives me great leverage to know what to do when I’m faced with similar situations. However, after I receive their advice, I will still consult the Lord first for obeying what the He has set upon my heart to do is of utmost importance.
And then of course, there are those whom you simply trust with your life because you know that they always have your interests at heart. These are people whom have gone through seasons with you and the ones who have proved their consistency and availability in your life – basically, those whom have stood the test of time. He or she could be a best friend, parent, sibling, mentor or partner. Always treasure the value of their opinions simply because they love you without agenda and want the best for you.
In conclusion, in the area of giving and receiving advice, here are the four categories of people whom you should seek and aspire to become:
- Word people
- Spirit people
- People people
- Trustworthy people
These are the people whom you know will dispense good advice and godly counsel.
The highlight of this long and tiring day would be the feet-washing session that took place in the early evening. I didn’t expect myself to respond so emotionally to an event that I had initially approached in a casual manner. I will only publish what I’ve written for the last hour when it’s ready – a tardy article does not do justice to a moment in my life as poignant as this, and more specifically between PL and I – I was truly humbled today.
So as the clock reveals 1:30am, and when I have little else to write about or expand, I have decided to reuse and republish old material. I hope I need not do this too often, because my writing style has evolved over the years and the only incentive that I get from reading a former entry is to see my progress and growth as a writer and thinker.
*** This following was inked on 19th March 2006. ***
I’ve always pondered on what good is. Can anyone define good or goodness? No, it is cognitively impossible because our yardstick of good has been marred by imperfection and by the sin that exists in our flesh. Therefore, I come to the conclusion that the only way to define good is by way of God – only God is good – and everything else that is not of God is not good. Ponder upon that and you may realise the truth beneath it.
The absence of good permits the presence of evil. When creation took place, everything was good until God allowed the serpent, and subsequently Man, to contaminate the world, thereby allowing sin to make its debut, under the permissive boundaries of God. I opine that God allowed this to happen for He could have simply prevented Satan from doing so. At least that’s how I perceive it.
This dichotomy of good and evil can only bring to light one issue – that God has bestowed Man with choice. If I were to paraphrase Genesis 2:16-17, it’d read something like, “Adam, your destiny is in your hands”. Now, God allows evil to still exist because He is in absolute control of the situation. A lot of people have this terrible misconception that Satan rules hell. No! God rules it and hell was created for Satan to reside in it. Eventually, Satan, his fallen angels and all the unsaved souls will perish in the eternal flame!
Therefore, with opposing forces aggressively working against each other, the struggle between good and evil becomes a perpetual and daily battle for Man until he leaves his body (i.e. he physically dies). There is evil in this world because of Man(‘s choice), but the redeeming love of God draws Man back to Him; the death and resurrection power of Jesus Christ actually makes redemption a reality and gives Man access to God once again.
God will remove evil eventually – that’s for sure – and He will do a perfect job. He even created six different hells for sin (and evil) and its partakers. I shall trust God and do what I humanly can in the spiritual realm (irony alert), by the grace of God, to find my way to heaven. There is a difference – finding your way to heaven and getting out of hell.
So, like darkness is the absence of light and cold is the absence of heat, allow me once again reiterate that evil is the absence of good, or in this case, God, since only God is good. In conclusion, God the Creator is good, and He will remove evil ultimately, but perhaps not now, for He permits it to exist in this world for His own reason.
I’ll say this very loosely and irresponsibly; I am convinced that our behaviour today should give us an indication of our behaviour in the future. Of course, we all desire and hope that we will mature and grow beyond our weaknesses, and perhaps with wisdom and more experience we’ll see improvements.
My mentor PL once told me, after witnessing for himself my poor reaction to a family situation around five years ago:
“Joey, remember that whatever you are capable of doing to your family now, you will likely do it to your family in the future.”
That completely snapped me into place. And I’ve held those golden words dear to my heart ever since.
I’ve always seen myself as a family person; as my colleague and buddy in Shanghai SS would put it, “Joey is 26 (then) going 40”. He found it astonishing that a bachelor in the prime of his career in the wine industry, would have little or no affinity for partying, drinking, gambling, smoking or womanising (the vices, basically). Instead, he was (pleasantly) surprised (I hope!) that I found enjoyment in chilling out over coffee or hanging out at a friend’s place, engaging in a meaningful conversation and a hearty laugh. There’s a part of me that simply can’t wait to hang out with my own family nucleus in the future – playing with my kids, dancing with my wife and loitering in my house.
When RY came over to my place today, he said the same thing, “Joey, I notice you seem to… How do I put it… Have a thing about building a family, wherever you’re at”. I thought about it for a split minute and realised that his observation hit the nail on its head. I enjoyed building a family unit when I was with the Archer Company Tank Platoon, Wine Mall Marketing Team, Precious Thirds, TeamR-AGE and now, a work-in-progress, DoYouLoveMe. I’d like to think that this is a positive quality and it has to be God who ingrained it in me because I do not have an example in my own single-parent family unit to model after.
I know I have digressed, so here’s what I really wanted to say:
- If you currently demonstrate a hot streak of temper at home and are constantly fuming and throwing your tantrum whenever you get mildly pissed off, then it is likely you’d do it to your own wife and children in the future.
- If you currently enter a recluse whenever there’s a conflict between your loved ones and stubbornly refuse to communicate with anyone by shutting yourself off, then it is likely that you’d do that with your spouse in the future.
- If you currently like to run away when things don’t go your way and escape from confrontations and avoid dealing with pressing moral, ethical, values or principles-related issues, then it is likely you’d abscond too from your family in the future.
- If you currently show an irate face whenever you’ve had a bad day and behave in an antisocial manner that prevents people from approaching you, then it is likely you will exhibit this behaviour to your kids in the future.
The analogies given above are just a tip of the ice-berg. I am sure you are smart enough to know what I am talking about. This applies to any relationship, even outside of the family unit. So consider it carefully whenever you are about to do or say something that may jeopardise the harmony amongst your family (and friends). Remember that whatever that you do in the present has a chance of relapse in the future. Hence, build good and positive habits today if you want to establish a good and positive culture for tomorrow.