By Lai Cheng See
Some years ago, in preparation for the change of our domestic helper, I decided to arm the house with new sets of mops and brooms – for the porch, garden, kitchen, rooms – various designs, each to fit the needs of the function of the area. As I asked my regular grocery storekeeper, there was a sense of hesitation in him as he brought out a broom; then I detected greater discomfort in the air as I asked for more selections.
A customer, keenly observing the whole scenario, had enough when I meticulously added on to my collection. She took me aside and gently advised me, “Err, miss, it is imprudent of you to purchase such items during this auspicious time, you know. It is after all Chinese New Year. You will only bring harm to yourself, and much more since you are getting so many!”
I was stumped for a second before politely replying, ‘Oh, thank you for your concern but it is fine with me. I am a Christian so I don’t observe these practices’. There was a dismayed silence between the two faces, etched with a resigned and uneasy look of, “Have it your own way. Don’t tell me you have not been warned.” I was like an errant child who had just tarnished the family name.
I must had been a spectacle along the street as I walked to the car. I was like a rebel who had defied traditions. I sensed frowning pairs of eyes from every shop lamenting “Woe behold this silly ignorant woman!”
Yet again, what hit me instantaneously then was, “Am I glad I am no longer bound by man’s superstitions”, and a quick short prayer, thanking God for having set me free, followed.
Many a times I have taken the privileges of being a child of God for granted. That day’s experience regularly reminds me – from the many blessings we have in Christ – of this invaluable gift you and I undeservedly enjoy: free direct line to God.
There is no specific timing or protocols for me to reach out to Him. I can pray and have private monologues with Him at anytime and anywhere. There are no appointments needed, no waiting list and no sudden notification to try another day. It does not matter if it is in the early hours of the morning or wee hours into the night. There is no lunch break. He is never on leave. There is the assurance from the Lord, “And call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me” (Psalms 50:15, NASB). Our omnipresent Lord is always there to listen.
Nothing is too small or insignificant. I can say an impromptu prayer of gratitude for a pleasant unexpected outcome; a short and simple thank you for an encouragement just received; a prayer of appreciation of His wonderful creations or a sombre prayer of supplication in times of challenges. There’s no time limit nor daily quota. I do not need to present a detailed explanation before going into the crux of the matter. I am not required to give a background history; I need not prepare analysis with data as evidence. As pointed out in Matthew 6: 8, “…your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.”(NASB). Our omniscient Lord knows and understands.
There is always this assurance of His guiding hand and care. I know He has listened and He would know what I need. Things might not turn out exactly as how I want them to be but no matter what the circumstances and outcomes are, He is always there to sustain me. It is very comforting to know that He has promised, “Even to your old age, I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I shall bear you and I shall deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:4, NASB). Our omnipotent Lord’s immeasurable power will always protect us and see us through the storms. “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14, NASB)
Are we then not the most privileged lot, to be given such attention and care even when we do not deserve it?
With this immense privilege though comes responsibility. The responsibility, as reminded in Romans 12: 2, to “… not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (NASB).
This gives me the confidence and strength, to neither waver “nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:4, NKJV), whilst living in an Asian society richly entwined with superstitious practices and taboos (which incidentally, are regularly modified to suit the needs and convenience of the times!).
I definitely do not want to be cheated of my reward by ignoring Paul’s admonishment on succumbing to man-made rules, “20Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations –21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? (Colossians 2: 20-22, NKJV).
I did not manage to complete my collection of cleaning tools that day. The kind lady meant well for me and the shopkeeper was torn between his conscience and service to me. Being arrogant about my stance would not have done them any justice nor me any good. Any chance of them one day softening their hearts might be squashed by my lack of gentleness and wisdom. Out of respect for them, project housekeeping came to a halt but holder of the project revived; “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;” (Hebrews 12:28, NASB).
After all, a broom is just a broom.