Sometimes, life gets tough. Perhaps not sometimes. For some people, maybe life gets tough pretty often. When life gets tough, it's quite normal for one to take a look around themselves and feel down about the way things have shaped out. That's totally fine, and I'm not suggesting that everyone should keep an infinitely positive attitude twenty-four-seven. There are sad feelings for sad times, and sad words for sad occasions. But one of the important factors that determines which direction our lives go after that, is what we choose to do after that.
Let me explain with a story.
I still remember the most common mistake I made after I passed my driving test. Back in the driving school, we always drove Kancils, really small cars which I had a little trouble getting comfortable in, because of my height. Because of the car's small size, I was never really worried about the car going off the lane and into the middle of the road. But after I passed, I didn't drive small cars anymore. I drove my sister's Proton Saga. The first few times driving it on the road - with my mom in the passenger seat, of course - I kept getting worried that my totally "big" car would veer a little to either side, and would either go off the road or scrape against the side of an oncoming car. So I was always checking both side mirrors so that I could get a view of my back wheel and whether it was too close to the white lines. The result of this is that my hands kept twitching the steering wheel to the left and right as I made constant minute adjustments to my car's position. If I felt the car was a little too close to the white line on the left, I would twitch the steering wheel right to get back in the middle. But whoops, now the car's too close to the right side! Twitch again. I kept fretting over the side mirrors. Eventually, my mom got tired of the zig-zaggy ride, and she told me that to stay in the middle of my lane, I just had to keep my eyes on the road ahead.
I don't know if this makes a whole lot of sense to other people, if they didn't experience the same problem I did when learning to drive. But now I just keep my eyes on the road ahead, and I don't have to actually check the distance between the lines on the road and my car. I just look ahead, drive, and I intuitively know that my car is, somehow, staying near the middle of my lane.
Now, I'm not much good at coming up with philosophies, and I can't immediately link this to any Bible verses, but my point is this: If you fret yourself over every minute detail of your life as it is, it's going to get in the way of you having a smooth journey, because you'll just be worrying too much, more than you need to. But if you have a clear idea on where you want to go with your life, and what you want to become, keeping your eyes on that goal will help to keep you positive in the face of life's troubles, and it might even help you to figure the way out of the problem. Maybe - just maybe - when the problems of life start coming your way, they are a lot more easier to overcome when you have a goal to fight for.
Pastor Mark Driscoll put it this way: "The 'want to' precedes the 'how to'." Or as other people would say, "Where there's a will, there's a way." Naturally, I prefer Pastor Mark's version. Here's what it means. Nobody is perfect. That's a given. Some people want to improve themselves from where they are, and that's a good thing. These are the good people. But sometimes they're not sure how. "How can I become a better student?" "How can I be a better friend?" "How can I become a better child to my parents?" Well, the "want to" precedes the "how to". If you really want to change, then invest some energy and emotion not into the method of changing, but into the desire to change. When someone wants something really really badly, they'll naturally figure out some way to get it, right? My whole point here is that perhaps if you dare yourself invest the emotion to want to change, and set that as your goal, your journey towards your goal will go more smoothly, and the solutions to the obstacles will come intuitively.
Let me use an example from my own life. I tell people this all the time, although I don't think any of them ever listen, but I used to be quite a loner in secondary school. Any of my secondary school friends reading this will be saying, "Ha ha, ya think?" But what happened was, after secondary school, when I went to Jeremiah School, I decided that I didn't want to be a loner anymore. I decided that I wanted to be a friendlier person. At first, I really fretted over the "how to". Apparently that's a big thing with me. So I constantly bugged my friends and mentors there with questions like, "How do you know what to talk about with people?" "How do you start a conversation?" "How come you're so friendly all the time?" They were all very patient with my answers, and gave me some pointers. But they all said that mostly, I would just learn from talking with people more. And from there it unfolded. I wanted to be friendlier, and step by step I just started knowing intuitively what to do. Standing next to someone while doing laundry together? Walking next to someone on the way to the cafeteria? Strike up a conversation with them, don't sweat the small stuff, just throw yourself in there. And it worked. Learning what to say, how to say it, and everything else came over time.
One of my mentors back in JS and another friend in college (Giap Min) both shared with me that they used to be loners as well. But then they just ultimately made the decision that they didn't want to be loners anymore, and that they wanted to make more friends. So they just got out there and started talking to people, and today they're both really cool people, with the coolest stories of recovering from loneliness that I know. I'll bet they didn't need any step-by-step pointers, and they didn't Google "how to make more friends". They just set a goal - making more friends - and kept their eyes on it, and that's how they got out of their shell.
These stories are about people who became friendlier people. But if they had never determined a goal for themselves, would they ever have arrived at their destination? I think that all this is still as applicable to any other situation. If it doesn't actually provide a solution for the problem, having a goal will at least give us a reason not to give up. The value of hope is not to be underestimated. Writing a good closing is always difficult, so I'll just say this: No matter where you find yourself now, whether up against a wall or at the bottom of a well, things can and will get better, if you make it your goal to get better, and set your eyes on that goal. I'm not talking about effort here. Effort is good, but what a person needs to fuel that effort is hope. So, yeah, keep your eyes on the road ahead, and hopefully your journey will go smoother.
I hope you don't mind the little shout-out here, Giap Min, if you're reading this, but I wrote this with you in mind. I don't know if any of this helps, but even if all this is to you just another generic encouragement speech that doesn't actually improve anything, then know that I'm still a friend who wants to be a part of your life, and maybe then I can help. You can always talk to me about anything. :)
Well, at any rate, I'm glad I managed to keep to the Sunday blog post deadline, so yeah. Maybe more to come next week. See ya guys, thanks for tolerating me.