- Aaron Chong
A Refreshed Spirit...
TRL is an ecosystem of individuals seeking to live true, well and free. We are energised by stories of growth, change and transformation. This post features Aaron's gift of reflection on his experience of growing his inner man.
An Unwelcome Change
I felt a major sense of dread at the news of my secondment in March to the company’s headquarters in Toulouse, France. I was happy being home in Singapore – where friends and family are, where my comfort zone lies.
“Boss, how long are we looking at?”
“Three months,” he replied. “It’ll be good for your career.”
While everyone was happy for me, I really couldn’t see any benefits in being away for so long. Thankfully, my bargain to have it shortened to two months was approved.
Well-meaning and possibly envious friends ribbed me about how a culinary adventure awaits me as I feast on all the wine, pastries and French food my appetite could hold. I was not excited one bit. Nonetheless, I prepared for the trip as best as I could.
Yet deep down, I knew I needed this assignment - not for my career’s sake. But to be alone, to reconnect with God and be spiritually refreshed. For months (perhaps even years) I was cruising along in my Christian walk, while tensions on the home front were being stretched.
Soon June came around and I was off - away to a country where I could not speak the language. As I settled into my accommodation and unpacked my luggage, I unwrapped a parting gift from a loved one of two pictures that formed the verses from Lamentations 3:22-23.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;”
“They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
I placed them in the living area as a daily reminder to be thankful – not an easy task, as I am a whiner.
During the first few weeks, I whined and lamented about almost everything under the sun (including the blistering 40°C heatwave, public transport strikes, and a lack of proper Asian food).
Joy and Trust
But the words, “His mercies… are new every morning…” slowly softened me as my mind turned towards the many blessings God provided daily: coming back to an airconditioned apartment after work; having a flexible working culture that does not time-keep; enjoying a bowl of Prima Taste laksa with ingredients brought from home; having enough resources to live comfortably; and the good health and safety of loved ones back home.
All by myself, I also decided to acknowledge that what a friend pointed out to me earlier in the year was true: I lacked joy and trust. The days began to fill with an intentionality to grow in these.
As someone who (still) holds tightly to control, in particular to situations around me, the Holy Spirit enabled me to see the good in each day and joyfully release all burdens (both big and small), submitting them to the Lord and trusting in His almighty providence.
I realised that if I am assured that God is working in my life I can be certain of His involvement. This means that as I transition from anxiety to trust, a path will emerge and the mission and strategy for my season will be clearer.
The certainty that God is directing my future makes my anxiety dissipate and this allows joy to emerge. This will lead me to experience the joy of the Lord.
Solitude and Silence
Being alone in a foreign land means plenty of personal time, but also fighting bouts of loneliness (more on that in another article). Much of this time was spent catching up on reading and one of my goals was to complete Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.
In one of the chapters, he expounds on the importance of finding our Sabbath and keeping it. Only then, can we find the rest in Christ and truly be restored in His Spirit.
The secondment to France was my Sabbath, where I was refreshed and renewed in the Lord. Despite having solitude and silence as my closest (post-work) companions, they revealed their importance in building my spiritual life.
I’ve learned that these two S’s may not be bad things after all…
Through solitude, I was able to practise being absent from people and things to attend to God. Meanwhile, silence helped me practise quieting every inner and outer voice to attend to God.
Without solitude and silence, it is almost impossible to live a spiritual life.
How heartening to know that God speaks in the stillness. 1 Kings 19:12 says that after an earthquake and fire, God revealed himself to Elijah in “a still small voice”. Indeed, silence after the chaos is full of the presence of God.
Personally, this is how God has always affirmed me. What comfort to know that the still small voice is not only there when making big life decisions, but in my daily living.
A powerful moment for me was during a time of personal prayer. It was the 17th of July and I was led to what is possibly my new life verse - Deuteronomy 2:7:
The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.
Indeed I have not lacked anything. Conversely, I’ve gained a renewed spirit.
Below is an excerpt from my 17 July journal entry…
Lord, you are a faithful God. And though I've committed to following You, I confess I still wander off even without considering where you are leading me. When I wander off, remind me and draw me back and put me back on the path which You have marked out for me. Help me trust in Your direction even when I can't see or understand.
Thank you God for using this experience of being away to grow my inner man. These long, lonely nights are have been a blessing.