In the last couple of years, this particular passage from Philippians 4 continues to speak to me – these are Paul’s words to the Philippians, “How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (verses 10-13).
I’ve had my life as an ambitious yuppie who stayed in five-star hotels and flew business class, and yet I’ve also experienced the heartwarming feeling when my students’ eyes lit up when they understand the material that I teach. In the last couple of weeks, I found other reasons to be thankful to God. I am thankful to have been born in my far-from-perfect family – but they have shaped me into the man that I am now and have equipped me with skills to face my challenges.
I finished my dinner a while ago – having a plateful of rice with fried chorizos only. I opted to head home directly after church rather than going with the rest of my friends to Chinatown. The main reason is that I’m still battling my cold so I don’t want it to get worse again. Another reason is that I’m quite broke and payday is still four days away … So yeah, I’m lonely, weak, sick, and broke – at home with an ever loyal and wet-nosed companion. Am I down, though? No way, José! Our family came from a humble beginning – I remember that when I was a wee lad, it was a big event when Dad brought home a tin of cookies that had to be shared among the children. I also used to have a food game with my younger brother with who could leave a bigger chunk of sambal egg or a bigger piece of meat on the plate, having finished all of the rice. We would chip away the meat or the egg little by little with the biggest spoonful of rice that we could fit into our tiny mouth. Little did I know that the skill would come in handy years later. 🙂
There are also other reasons why I’m thankful with my family …
I am thankful that in the moment of crisis, our family of stubborn children would butt heads and clash until a solution can be made. At least we wouldn’t run around like headless chicken – somebody is bound to come up with a great solution. I take this for granted but I realise that it may not be the case elsewhere – some families would continue to panic, go around in circle and waste precious time. I have shared about my siblings once or twice in my blog – but I thought I should let you know more about them. Let’s start with my eldest sister Erly – an entrepreneurial strong-headed lady who used to scare me with her foul mouth when I was just a boy. Age has tempered her down and although she is still the same stubborn sister, she has a heart of gold, wanting the best for her family and her siblings. I remember her taking me along in her motorbike to my drawing contests and English courses. My second sister Lina is also another strong-headed person in the family (well, this is almost like our family trait! We know that we’re our Dad’s children because we inherit his stubbornness!). She is calculated, analytical and intelligent, and yet selflessly help any of us who are in need. If you are indecisive you should stay away from her. She wants your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be ‘No’. 🙂 Now before I continue with my sister Juli, let me tell you more about the children – some of us are driven by reason and the others by emotion. So you have a choice whether you want to deal with a child who is stubborn and nitpicky or stubborn and temperamental. Ahhh … it must have been fun for Mum and Dad!
My sister Juli is one of the few who has a good balance of reason and emotion – she often ends up being the peacemaker or the one who helps us find the best solution from the many suggestions and opinions. She is also the proof that God rewards faith and answers prayers – I remember the days when I stayed with her family when I worked in Jakarta from 1996 to 2000 and she had to make do with whatever budget that she had for meals. We were never hungry then – even when she had little money to manage. My fourth sister Tjoetjoe also has that fine balance of reason and emotion. Another phlegmatic in the family, she is one of the very few people who can continue to smile in the heart of the storm. She is also calculated and likes to make measured decisions, but she’s not too hang up on the rationality so much – she still considers our feelings. My fifth sister Suzan is a daughter who is bestowed with my my Mum’s creativity and my Dad’s artistry. She’s one of the stubborn-and-temperamentals in our family but they say that artists and creative people tend to have this quality as well! I grew up with her cookies and cakes which got me to appreciate good dessert as I grow up. I remember ever driving her to tears in frustration when I used her report card for my drawings. I must have been around five or so. Even at that young age, I could talk back with incisive answers for whatever scolding that she threw at me. She was tempted to claw me if Mum didn’t stop her. 🙂
My older brother Irwan or fondly called by Asep in our family – is another stubborn-and-temperamental. Funny enough, he also inherits Dad’s artistic nature whilst also has Mum’s ‘craftiness’. I heard stories that when Dad forbade him from buying his first camera, he approached Mum and got what he wanted at the end. He is good with the camera and ever the smooth-talker with his friends and acquaintances. My late younger brother Handy was blessed with a selfless character; although he could be short-tempered at times, he always meant well. A hot-headed boy when he was young, he turned into a mellow phlegmatic man of God with a caring heart before he passed away at the age of 34.
I love them all to bits, even when they drive me crazy at times with their idiosyncrasies. Well then again, I’m sure I drive them crazy as well with my rational nit-picking self … 🙂
There are a lot of things that we can be thankful about, even when we have little materially. I know that I have been richly blessed.