Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are

This quote "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you" is another of my favourite friendship quotes.

Some months back, when I was very manic, I wrote very long emails to share with my friends in church about God's goodness and mercies to me. I also developed my website and put up my emails there for others to read. As I developed my blog, I dedicated one section to the experiences that I had with my counsellor, Sarah, at the Counselling and Care Centre, Singapore. In that section, I shared of my correspondences with Sarah. Sarah was a trainee at the Centre and she helped and counseled me from Jan 2007 to Apr 2007. Sarah was trained to use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which is a form of therapy that helps us to identify our unhelpful or unrealistic thinking patterns and to change them to more appropriate or realistic ones.

After my last session with Sarah, I was very moved by God's goodness and mercies to me in answering my prayers and provided such a gentle, kind, compassionate and godly counselor in Sarah. The nine sessions I spent with Sarah were life changing experiences for me. Through my time with her, I was led to embark on a new journey. It was a journey of self-discovery, of knowing God, others and myself better.

What I benefitted most from my sessions with Sarah was the way she helps me to understand God's love and that I am precious in His sight. This phrase "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you" best describe my short acquaintance with Sarah and the tremendous and blessed effect her friendship and kindness has on my life.

Sarah helps me to realize once again that God loves me despite my failures and weaknesses. She helps me to appreciate the wonderful truth that God is with me through all the changing scenes of life and He is working all things for my good and His glory. When I looked back on my life, many times I felt sad and regretted the many wrong decisions I have made in my life, or the things I wished I had done. My life is filled with regret and I could not appreciate any good that I have done in the past.

But my sessions with Sarah changed my life. I have had some 10 severe depression episodes over the last 20 years, each episode lasting between 3 to 6 months, sometimes more. During some depressive episodes, there were times when some friends told me that I am very emotional, and that I was not putting my faith and trust in God. If I could stop doing so, perhaps I will get well. And I believed them. So I hated myself in the past for being so emotional and for being unable to put my faith and trust in God, and unable to get well. But no matter how hard I tried, I do not get well. It is usually about 3 to 6 months later, or sometimes longer, that I began to get better and more functional.

During one counseling session, Sarah took out a very big piece of paper and markers of different colours. She asked me to chart the major events in my life in a graph. For major event in my life, I was to use a black marker to chart the time/year it happened. For every happy and wonderful event, I was to use a green marker to chart the time/year it happened. I was then to use a red marker to mark out those periods of time when I went through severe depression. As I use these different markers to chart the different event over the last 20 years, there are often some overlappings.

Before I met Sarah, I used to look at my life as a total failure (this is one of the faulty or unhelpful thinking pattern Sarah helped me to recognize and try to change). Sarah helped me to see that in my life there were not just the black timeline, there were the green ones as well though also intertwined with the red ones. And by the mercies of God, I began to see that the green timelines scattered throughout my life, and they were not few. I began to see God's goodness and mercies in my life in a different way! Sarah helps me to see that in life we do experience up and down throughout different periods of time. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we are well, sometimes we are sick. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we failed. But none of these experiences represent us as a person. They are just events in our life, and everyone go through it. My past and present failures does not make me a failure. I can seek God's forgiveness and help to learn from my mistakes and to do better the next time, by His grace. I can become a better person and grow through each experiences, though they are painful and difficult.

I wrote a tribute to Sarah after my last meeting with her, which expresses my deep heart-felt thankfulness to God for using her to be such a blessing to me. It was through my sessions with her that I am able to embark on a new journey that is changing my life in many wonderful ways, a journey that I am still pressing on now, by God's grace. In my tribute to Sarah, I also expressed my sincere appreciation to Sarah for her kindness, her friendship, her counsels and her willingness to walk that difficult journey with her. She has made such a difference in my life and I wanted her to know it, though I know she may never get to read that tribute as professionally she cannot keep in contact with me after my last session with her.

One of my church friends who read my tribute to Sarah told me that she thinks I am a very emotional person and that I value friendship a lot, and that is why I can be disappointed easily when others let me down or do not reciprocate my friendship.

I think my church friend is right. I am someone who feels very deeply. And when I loved, I loved completely. I do not know how to withhold myself. I give of myself whole heartedly. But with such love, I often suffered tremendously. I went through much rejections and pains over the years when friends let me down. Some got married and could never be my close friend anymore as now their spouses are their closest friend on earth, and they have to attend to their family needs which are more important than my friendship.

But why after suffering so much pain and disappointments in human friendship that I still do not learn from my mistakes? Why do I keep loving and keep being hurt, and yet continue to love. I thank God that He sets the best example of love for me and He is the one enabling me to love others with His love. When I was deeply hurt, I found consolation in God's love which is enduring and unchanging. It never fails to amazed me that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for us and redeemed us from eternal condemnation, reconciled us to Himself so that we can enjoy eternal life in Him one day. No matter how I failed Him, after I became a Christian, God's love remains unchanging for me. He still showers His goodness and mercies upon me each day. His love far surpasses that of any human love I have ever experienced. In Him, I found that I can cast myself wholely upon, love Him with all my heart and will never be rejected or let down.

It is hard to fathom this love of God, that our Lord Jesus Christ loved me enough to lay down His life for me. Who will lay down his life for a friend? Maybe some might. But what is that compared to the Son of God laying down His life for sinful and ungrateful creatures of dust like us? Yet God demonstrated His love for us through such a sacrifice.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

To be honest, if we have experienced such rich and enduring love of God, it is quite hard to keep this love to ourselves :-) I found my heart overflowing with God's love which I cannot contain in my heart! I have to give it away :-)

So I began once again to love, but this time with God's love. I prayed for my friends and I seek with God's grace to love them like the way He loved me. No doubt, I still experienced rejection and disappointments from time to time, and it still hurts. But I am no longer in bondage to love. The Lord enables me after a period of hurting (it is normal and healthy to go through the healing process), to let go, and move on with my life and to continue to seek out others who can benefit from God's love through me. I thank God for the many wonderful friends He places along the various paths of my life. I thank God for their love and kindness, which are tokens of God's love for me. I thank God too for enabling me to love them with His love which endures forever.

So my dear friends, I may not say this very often, but this phrase "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you", is for you too, for the difference you have made in my life and the way your friendship is helping me to change and grow in many wonderful ways. "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you"

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