Good advice is what it is- good.
Yet, I wonder, if the hardest and greatest lesson I’ve learnt in the past year, has been learning to discern “good advice” from God’s best.
Looking back at a year of bizarre and bewildering events, I can only marvel at how, even in my own folly, ignorance and blindness, amidst a thousand voices echoing each of their own well-intentioned opinions, God led us to where we are now, a place I would never imagine being in- living out of two suitcases, in a country 40 degrees colder than my own, with the wintry snow pouring outside, and a warm baby inside me.
In a world preoccupied with pursuing one’s dreams, following one’s heart and amassing the world’s topnotch advice to get to the top, I am learning, that perhaps the more important thing is to learn the restfulness of surrender, so we can seal off the cacophony of voices and in the quiet, wait and trust that God will reveal His best plans for us, far better than what we would have planned ourselves.
If I had planned my life in 2016 according to what I had deemed as good advice, what I knew and was sure of, things would be vastly different from what they are now.
For one, I would not be halfway across the globe, in my third trimester, preparing to deliver a baby and embark on further studies in yet another country. If I had planned my life according to what seemed safest and good at the time, based on our calculations, measurements and good judgment, we would still be where we were, no less than 3 weeks ago, running the same routine we had been running.
More importantly, we would not have had the privilege of being on a breathtaking roller coaster ride called Faith where His surprises keep surpassing one another at a breathtaking rate.
Don’t get me wrong- Good Advice is good. Ignoring it comes at the price of pride or folly. After all, it helps us prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally for what is to come. It helps us count the cost.
Yet I am learning, that if we allow it to lead us like a shepherd, if we follow it on a tightrope line on our tippy toes instead of moving into the radical step God calls us to take, we would find ourselves still on that tightrope, walking out the fulfilment of mass predictability, circumscribed by the opinions, thoughts and recommendations of what others and we ourselves thought was Good.
By the measures of Good Advice and our own reality, we should be financially strapped and stressed out from having stopped work, moved continents and homes in pregnancy, with a 5-figure debt of study fees to pay for and a baby on the way. Whatever we did should have been the stupidest thing we did, seeming last-minute, unprepared and haphazard. Every step we took was counterintuitive, grating Good Advice the wrong way. According to it, I should be having a mental breakdown right about now, if not some months ago.
But by God’s grace, His gentle hand nudged us out of our comfort zones.
Instead of holding desperately onto what was familiar, 2016 taught us to wait in the darkness, to be comfortable in the unknown and to embrace uncertainty. Because in that blank, dark space of restlessness, is the certainty of God needing to swoop in to take control. In that premise of uncertainty, is the opportunity to see His love take the shape of reality.
When we did, I discovered that God’s reality far surpasses our own.
God’s reality confounds human expectations, unceremoniously overturns human predictions, and leaves Good Advice looking at best, its worst.
People have commented that they’ve gone out of breath watching the pace at which things have moved in our lives in the past few months. After all, it was only in a few weeks span in 2016 that we found out we were expecting, accepted into Johns Hopkins, that we might then need to stay in Singapore, then may have to move to Canada and the States thereafter, that it wasn’t for sure my leave would be approved by the government so we don’t know anything for sure, and two, no three of our lives were in limbo, and seriously how were we going to pull this whole thing off?
Good Advice told us all the above was a cauldron for disaster, brewing a storm of mental, marital and familial stresses, depression, and a huge financial burden ahead of us. It exposed our limitations, pointed out a series of closed doors, overwhelmed us with “but”s and “maybe”s.
Discerning Good Advice from God’s plans was hardly a straightforward process. We waited, listened, made mistakes, went back, waited, and re-listened again. Yet, the journey was well worth the effort.
Yet, we know that the only reason why we were unrushed, uncrushed and unfrazzled was not because we outsmarted or outwitted Good Advice.
It was because in the eye of the storm of reality was a place of abundant grace, where God’s reality overturned what ours should have predicted.
God’s reality has the power to give birth to unimagined possibilities, spawn new resources, create life out of nothing.
The fact is- Good Advice is good. It could be lifesaving, even.
But do we believe that when we are called differently to a level of faith that calls for a risk greater than what our minds can conceive, that God’s reality surpasses our own, in ways beyond our imaginings?
Is it then unreasonable for Him to ask us to take the step of faith off the tightrope first, to lose our way that we may find His?
Who would have known nor imagined that He had divinely planned our baby’s birth in the same month as term would start, such that my application for an online Masters program could not only be deferred, but be converted to an on-site program which would then make it eligible for financial support through scholarships?
Who could have timed with such clockwork precision my application to Canada, such that baby would receive free healthcare just when we landed? Who else could have measured the announcement of the approval of my no-pay leave from the government with chronological precision before we had to fly, with just the right number of months needed for Cliff to fulfill his residential healthcare needs in Canada before we had to move again?
And with what almost seems like metronomic rhythm and consistency, He provided a perfect home, and people eager to bless us with everything we needed for Baby’s arrival when we arrived, making Good Advice blush.
I am learning, that a life of waiting in uncertainty and moving when Faith calls is unnerving, and can look haphazard, last-minute and irresponsible, even. We’ve had our fair share of are-you-out-of-your-minds looks.
But it is surely not chance when ripple chains of divine doors open with contagion.
When we are willing to take the risk to trust that an invisible God has plans ready to happen beyond what we can think or imagine, perhaps we may find that His script for our lives were written way before our birth, before we knew what we thought we knew about what we wanted.
Above all, when Good Advice comes our way telling us to slow down, to toe the line more carefully, to keep, save, store more, are we willing to pause to reflect and discern its source? Are we willing to take it in graciously, not bark at it with self-righteous pride or defensiveness, and use it to power our prayers to usher in breakthrough after breakthrough in our lives?
With a new baby, new homes, new countries, and a new professional endeavour to embark on in 2017, we know that it’ll be a great deal to take in. Yet, in this uncertainty, we can hold on to the assurance that as we wait in open expectation, God will never fail to provide, show up and surprise us with His reality.
What realities have Good Advice circumscribed for us in the past and new year?
I am learning, that Good Advice is good and should probably not be ignored… just up to the point where His reality surpasses our very own.