Friday, September 01, 2006

Some reflections on the summer

It has been quite a summer – interesting, thought-provoking, challenging. Mostly, it has been a summer of transition. I've had to say goodbye to my student days, although true closure will come when I attend my convocation at the end of this month. I've had to say goodbye to friends, and it's quite amazing to know that there are already, just barely three months on, all scattered around the globe, some in Hong Kong, some in Singapore, some back home in Malaysia, others here in various parts of the UK. I've said goodbye to the church that has taught me so much over 3 years, and it was really good to be able to say farewell to Vaughan on my last Sunday, and who only had kind words to say to me.

And I've said hello to a sister-in-law. I've said hello to a whole new world where responsibilities actually mean something, as I hunt for a job. I've said hello to a whole host of doubts as I now wonder where I fit in in this world, even as I marvel at the cultural melting pot that is London, where I'm currently living.

One thing I've really appreciated about this summer is that I have, for once, had the time to absorb quite a huge amount of books, and it's been really enriching to be able to tackle quite a lot of new books. Farish Noor's The Other Malaysia, for instance, for an academic book, was a rip-roaring read. I found much to chew on Lionel Shriver's award-winning novel We Need to Talk about Kevin and although it took me much longer to read, it was fun to re-immerse myself into the American South in Leif Enger's Peace Like a River. And there was so much more too, discovering Jumpha Lahiri and her wonderful short stories, being a teenager all over again in Curtis Sittenfield's Prep, etc. etc. The only thing, to my shame, is that I haven't fulfilled my aim at the beginning of the summer to finish off Stott's Cross of Christ, although I'm halfway through now. If I have time, I'll love to write up reviews of some of these books.

Job-hunting has been difficult, and I have to learn not to take each rejection personally. It's really competitive out there, and I find writing cover letters especially hard, because on the one hand, you lose out if you're being too modest – you've got to sell yourself – but at the same time, you shouldn't come across as being too cocky. Waiting has got to be the hardest part, and I especially hate it when companies don't tell you that you've not made it to the next stage, at least if they tell you, you know you can keep on looking and not be kept in limbo. And truly speaking, a degree, even from a well-respected institution, doesn't count for that much, at least not here. Having work experience on your CV is really helpful, as I've discovered.

Still, I've managed to do some volunteer work for a charity, which I've really enjoyed. Those of you who know me know that I've been really fascinated by cross-cultural issues and how they affect our identity, and also, I guess, our missiology, for the past year, and I've been involved in an Oral History Project that's looking at Chinese immigrants in Britain as well as British-born Chinese. I've enjoyed listening to some of the interviews I've been transcribing, and it's been really fun having been doing some editing and copy-writing work as well.

What's been really challenging about this summer though, it's that theory becomes real. As I struggled with the occasional bouts of existential angst, as I wonder if I'll ever get a job, as I try to balance my filial duty to my family without making the mistake of idolizing them (my parents are here in England till my graduation), it's been a first-class lesson in learning to trust God. And it's been really hard, and it's still hard! It's amazing how one still forgets to pray even when the circumstances are unfavourable. Even as I struggle with the way I've been moulded, how so much of my past has shaped me, yet I also find comfort in the truth that I am in the hands of the Master Potter.

I'd really prefer to begin working, and I still think that, after much reflection, that this is the still the best decision. (My contingency plan now includes possibly doing a Masters, but I am still hesitant, for various reasons.) Yet I know I must continually let my reflections be shaped by the priorities of God, not those of the world. I still remember the last study of 1 Corinthians. Coming after the magisterial chapter 15, which talks about the resurrection, one could easily dismiss chapter 16 as an add-on, an epilogue where he just extends the customary farewells. Yet upon closer inspection, we find Paul making sure that his travel decisions, where he takes his ministry, continually shaped by the message of the cross he carries – a theme that is there throughout the entire letter.

Summer's not over yet – who knows, maybe there'll still be a surprise or two in store!

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Blogger The Hedonese said...


I'm happy for you - completing the course is a milestone in life, savor it! Also empathise with the sadness of leaving frens and the closure of a chapter..

but it's the start of a brand new one! :)

Pray tat the Lord will guide you as you put him first and discern your calling in life. Do lemme know when ur back in Msia and perhaps you will find this iBridge camp on vocation discernment helpful? Always good to network with others on the same transitional stage


12:31 am  
Anonymous dave said...


I'm happy for you - completing the course is a milestone in life, savor it!

Also empathise with the sadness of leaving frens and the close of a chapter...

But a brand new chapter is waiting! I pray the Lord will guide you in discerning his will and your calling.

Perhaps u'd be home by oct for the ibridge camp on vocation discernment? always good to network with other pilgrims going thru that transition

Details here:

12:33 am  
Blogger mad_scientist said...

Hiya Brian ...

I see that you're busy indeed with all the flurry of activity and work going on ... Thus is how things normally are between the different stages of life - all packed and jumbled up!

Well, you've better read up all you can now; once you start working in earnest, you'll have precious little time left to do leisurely reading.

I hope and pray that you'll find a job which suits you and is within His will for you. And it's so difficult ... I've friends who're STILL looking for a job months, if not years, after graduating. Tough indeed.

Whatever you do, I pray that you'll continue to know our God more and more, and to grow in the knowledge of His grace.
May you desire Him above all else, for He is the only Spring of Life.
And continue to stay connected to a local Body of believers who love God and His Word.

Do keep us updated, k? Have a great time with your family. God bless!

p.s. when's ur graduation d?

4:09 pm  

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