Sunday 9 August 2015

on Penang, calling, and relationships

At the end of my college years in Kuala Lumpur, my Christian Fellowship friends asked me what would make me stay and work there instead of heading back to Penang. A good job? A boyfriend, maybe? My answer then was that I felt called to Penang, because if everyone else left, who would stay and build?
Someone, Solomon or Rowen probably, asked, but what if you found a guy in KL? I shrugged and said that I guess he would have to move to Penang then. 
So I went home. And nine years on, it seems like the question still stands. 

What if you found someone but he's not in Penang? Would you move for him?
Maybe it's the remnants of my Asianness that whispers to me that the wife follows the husband. Or maybe it's the conservatism and tradition in me. It's just what's done. So I blame myself for being single because I would require my future spouse to move to Penang for me and take that as a proof of love. And if that were it, I would never get married because all the guys I click with really well are not in Penang, and all the guys in Penang are well... let's just say there's not much connection. 

I talked a little about this in this medium post, and recently, I've been thinking about it more and this struck me: if he moves to Penang it will be his sacrifice for God, not for me.

It's not a major revelation. I figure I knew it somewhere in my heart all this while, just that it was buried underneath the reams of self-pity that tend to bubble up. But that's the thing. If a marriage is going to work, there has to be an underlying alignment (which I have been praying for), and that alignment, for me, is going to have to be this mutual call to Penang. It's not an easy call. It's not the easiest place to live in, it isn't the best of many worlds (though apparently it's in the top 10 places to retire to), and half the people I know seem to think that I would be happier somewhere else, or at least find more marriageable people if I were to move away. Heck, most of them would ask why I don't just get a transfer to San Jose. It's tempting. The people here are lovely :)


I don't really know why I am blogging this, other than to get it out of my head where it's been for the past few days. To quote, "if a relationship does not serve my faith, then it's the wrong relationship." 
I think that makes sense.


I ended the post there, but it felt like there was more to say; I am not sure exactly what.

Give me Penang, I once prayed. Give me the arts in Penang. 
In the same breath, I tell God I'm not enough. My hands are too weak to hold 
So there is this calling, and there is this tension, and there is this vision too big to comprehend. And the same heart that is stepping out in faith for this vision, for this calling, also stands in disbelief at the goodness of God regarding relationships.

I don't know how to reconcile myself to myself. I waver between hopeful belief and bitter disbelief, trying to apply my faith in the goodness of God in some areas of my life to the faithless areas that still exist. It feels like I have faith in His provision for my career, for my future, for His dreams (not totally mine! I'm too chicken), but I have no faith for my relationships or for healing. Some days, I'm filled with faith and the glory of God. On others, I question what I really believe and why.

And the problem of knowing God as a person is that I'm bad at relationships. I think I know someone well enough, but find out sooner or later that I don't. Discussions about thoughts and opinions seem to carry more weight to me than simple things like knowing someone's favourite colour. I dive into depths without exploring the shallows and I don't know if that's very relationally healthy. I feel emotional connections that are one-sided, and I have a terrible track record at maintaining, much less growing, friendships. I know God loves me more than I can love Him back but sometimes I don't know that. Then there are the days I get so peopled out that I don't even want to be with myself.


Sidetrack edit: relationship thought - I wonder if I don't treat God like a human friend, where I sometimes feel so frustrated/annoyed/tired that I decide not to talk to anyone, including God. He's probably listening in to my thoughts anyway, so I don't know why I think that would make any difference, but this tendency to want to shut people out - or to head for exclusivity - is not very balanced. And where people would probably get upset (sorry, I know I have been ignoring/avoiding some people; if you read this... well. um.) God would... I don't know... shake His head and facepalm and say "again, really?"
Or really, He would just say I love you anyway. 


My thoughts are straying, and I don't know how this post is to end. I suppose I ended it once before, so I should be able to do so again.

My heart's cry is really to love and to be loved in return. I don't know why it's so difficult, but it is. Maybe it's because I discover every day that I still don't know how to love enough; my feeble efforts at caring leave me dissatisfied with who I am because I see how much more people love, and how much more people care, and how much more God loves. I suppose this is good. And yet it is also discouraging. I have a fuzzy notion of how love works. But sometimes I don't think I really know.

And so I pray for alignment. Not alignment of the stars, as if some grand story foretold will take place; just the alignment of our wills with God's, the alignment of our desires to build in the same place, even if it's not in the same ministry, and the alignment of our purposes so that we may walk the same way together for this span.

It seems so small, but it is a big thing to ask. 


  1. I suppose this is good. And yet it is also discouraging. I have a fuzzy notion of how love works. But sometimes I don't think I really know.

    No one really knows, even those who have 'found' love.

    The best we can do is stay open, compassionate, and send out our hopes into the universe, the way you're doing.

    All the best, Anna. If wishes have power, mine are for you to get yours.