Individualistic youths are anchored by family values
BY SUZEN SIEW
It’s not easy to be a Christian youth. Sometimes it seems as if the entire mechanism of modern society is against you. Religion is outdated, for the close-minded, and dare you defend it, you will be shamed as a blindfolded sheep, herded by archaic practices. Religion is discriminatory and hypocritical, and didn’t anyone ever teach you about science, the big bang, and evolution?
Even when not faced with such oppositional forces, living in this digital age, there are endless distractions. You know exactly what I’m talking about… swipe to the right, and the world is at your fingertip. On top of that, being confronted with more information daily than our ancestors ever had, we are slowly becoming more hardwired for small easily digestible chunks, often at the expense of the old diligence of combing literature for knowledge and the patient attention span fostered during the pre-search engine and social media era. Forget about Bible studies; many would barely finish reading a lengthy article like this.
So in the midst of all of these, how does one stay true to God? Well, there are no shortcuts. If you want to be good at something, you have to work at it. It’s common knowledge what needs to be done: know why you believe, regular Bible devotions, get involved in church life. Your pastor really isn’t lying when he/she stressed the importance of these spiritual exercises.
I have one saving grace – my family. My family has been my training wheels, the feared disciplinary teacher, and the net to catch me when I fall. With family, you can be completely honest. They’ll accept you as you are and encourage you to be the best you can be.
Unfortunately these days, family values are not held as tightly as before. We have become increasingly individualistic. In our youth, we tend to push limits and jump barriers while seeking to find ourselves, often pushing away from parental confines. Yet, we need to remind ourselves that our family will endure our trials and take pride in our triumphs. They are a blessing beyond compare and these are the relationships worth nurturing.
One exercise in my family that has been particularly helpful is Bible devotion. My “no Bible reading, no breakfast” father has been doing Bible study with us regularly since we were young. It may be considered spoon feeding, even force-feeding, but sometimes that is exactly the needed push when we’re feeling spiritually dull. Our spiritual habit is also nurtured by our passionate mother whose almost 20 years at Scripture Union has brought home her “prized trade” to us – prayer and Bible reading! So our home is armed with many different shapes and sizes of devotional materials.
Our devotions were usually done before breakfast or before dinner. Often, these were the only precious times we had to gather together. Like any good Chinese businessman, my father capitalised on these opportunities every time! And behind my father’s successful routine was my mother, who made certain that he did, prompting him should he overlook it. In fact, I can hardly recall a single dinner with all of us present where there wasn’t a short Scripture reading, or message and prayer. Even now, with our family spread out in four different countries, my father continues sharing precious and encouraging family devotional snippets through Whatsapp!
Through the years, family worship time has enabled us to be a Christ-centered family and to connect on a spiritual level. For example, just last year we held a family year-end celebration at home. We had a time of Bible reading, singing, sharing and prayer that lasted till four in the morning! Despite seeing my family on a daily basis during that holiday period, there were many aspirations and struggles that were unknown until a heartfelt sharing.
When we gather to pray for each other’s needs and share the Bible’s promises, we affirm one another that we care for and love them deeply, a feeling rarely expressed in Chinese culture.
We have grown to appreciate the beauty of family prayer and Bible reading. Besides establishing and rooting us in the Word of God (Colossians 2:7) and affirming that God is the centre of our household, it has served as an important conduit for our family interaction – a time to sit down together to listen, learn, share and express thanks. Mom also often reminds us not to forget to pass on the “family spiritual tradition” to the next generation, the way God instructed the Israelites in Deuteronomy 11:18-20:
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
If we do not read the Bible on our own, we may find we may find that starting with our families is easier. Even if we are already doing our own devotions, family quiet time is still equally important for spiritual growth. So maybe the next time you sit together with your family for a meal, before you Instagram your brunch, take some time to do a devotion together. Then, make it a priority in your daily lives; I can vouch for the difference it will make! It may help to set aside a regular time to conduct family devotions, or find a Bible reading plan. As for me, I will be looking forward to the day I can confidently lead the Bible study, either with this family or the next.
*ohana means family in Hawaiian culture. The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another. The term is similar in meaning and usage to the New Zealand Māori term whānau”.
Suzen is a dreamer, a believer, and a junior doctor working in a hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
NOTE: Article Below is by Lay Hua Siew (Suzen’s mother)
“A meeting with dear goldie”
In December 1975, after sitting for the Form five public exam I hitched a ride from Teluk Intan to Melaka to meet the person who wrote the “Dear Goldie” column in Asian Beacon magazine. (I had been reading old issues of the magazine given by a teacher.) I wanted to meet Goldie as I believed she would be able to advise me on my problems the way she answered the questions posed to her in the column. I had been suffering from constant nightmares, demonic attacks and severe parental objection to my new faith in Jesus.
The meeting with Goldie seemed so surreal. There was no prior arrangement or appointment. I just trusted that God would help me to find her in Melaka. I hitched a ride from a lorry driver and when he reached Melaka he dropped me on the main road. It happened to be outside the clinic of Dr. Chong Kwong Tek! Not only did I get to meet Goldie, I was invited to stay a night at their house. Both she and her husband Dr. Chong ministered to me. Subsequently I enrolled for theological training at a college (later known as Malaysian Bible seminary) where Dr. Chong was the chairman. Later I furthered my studies in Indonesia. Ten years after that my father became a Christian and took the unprecedented decision to close down the temple despite huge public outcry.
Looking back, undoubtedly my calling had its seed from the time I first met Goldie. To put it succinctly, through the work and ministry of Asian Beacon, my life was significantly changed.