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Dear #SongSongCouple: Why Has Your LoveSONG Ended?

Image taken from Song Hye-kyo’s Instagram

 

Dear #SongSongCouple,

It wasn’t too long ago that you announced your marriage to the world, after a whirlwind romance following the success of your 2016 monster hit Korean drama, “Descendants of the Sun” (DOTS)—where both of you played a sizzling onscreen couple.

How is it that just after one and a half years of marriage, you’ve decided to go separate ways?

Now I don’t consider myself a Korean drama fan, but I was one of the millions of viewers who found myself hooked to the military romance when it started airing in February 2016. In three months, I had finished watching the 16-episode drama (even re-watching some episodes numerous times), played the original soundtrack on repeat, learned how to play the drama’s iconic song “You Are My Everything” on the piano, and even wrote an article about relationship hacks based on the drama.

Image taken from Korean Times

 

Imagine the elation I felt (as millions of other DOTS fans did) when news broke that your reel love story had turned into a real love story. It seemed as though for once, the sacrificial, romantic, and pure love that Korean dramas have been renowned for could actually become a reality. So like many, I followed the news of your wedding closely, eagerly cheering you both on when you tied the knot in October 2017. My friends and I even contemplated throwing a celebration party to mark your fairy tale ending.

Or at least, that’s how we thought things would end.

But rumors began to surface at the beginning of the year that your marriage was on the rocks when Song Hye-kyo was spotted without her wedding ring. And despite Song Joong-ki allaying fears by saying he had become more “emotionally stable” after marriage just one month ago, that wasn’t enough to keep your marriage together.

Image taken from Business Insider

 

Turns out, even the perfect love story doesn’t guarantee a perfect marriage. I had already learned that from the Brangelina episode. But I guess what really stunned me about the announcement of your split was how short your marriage was.

Your agencies have attributed it to “differences in personality” and have urged the media and public to “refrain from writing sensational or speculative articles and comments”. But speculations have been rife; even among my friends, some have called your marriage and divorce a publicity stunt, while others have attributed your break-up to infidelity.

As a fan, I wish both of you had given your marriage another shot, or at least tried to work things out for a longer period. Perhaps if you had learned how to give and take a little more like your onscreen characters, things might have ended differently?

You must be thinking: What do you know? And you’re absolutely right; all I know is what the media tells me. At the end of the day, only the both of you know the real reason for the breakdown in your marriage and why you’ve opted to throw in the towel instead of trying to work things out. And being individuals who have lived your entire lives under the spotlight, I know the days ahead cannot be easy.

But one day the media storm will blow over, and the world’s attention will be turned to the next golden couple who finds themselves in the same situation as you, lamenting once again, that “love is dead”.

So if not for anything, here’s one thing I think we all can learn: nobody—top Hallyu or Hollywood star or not—is immune to failed relationships and being let down by others. By our own strength, we will never be able to guarantee that  our love for our partners will remain consistent and permanent. That’s just human nature.

Should we then just give up desiring “true love” altogether? Definitely not. Because love is far from dead, as long as we turn to the right source—not to ourselves or any other human being. And His name is Jesus. He is the ultimate bridegroom, and showed how much He loved His bride (us), to the extent of dying on the cross for our sake (Ephesians 5:25).

As you lead your separate lives from this point onwards, I hope this truth encourages you. Love is still very much alive, in the person of Jesus Christ. And because of His love, we can now love others (1 John 4:19).

4 Signs That God Isn’t Your First Love

I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but one truth I’ve learned is that life doesn’t get easier and I’m still self-centered and proud. At times, even more than I realize. Some days, this truth grips my heart with guilt and remorse. But most times, I simply pat myself on the back and reassure myself that “I’m not that bad”.

I hate to admit it, but I struggle daily to put God first in my life even after knowing how much He loves me (Romans 8:31-39), how faithful He is despite my sin (Hosea 2:14-15), and how He has made me His child (John 1:12-13).

Of course, there have been moments when I’ve tried to make my life “more about God and less about me” after being convicted by a Bible study or teaching. But those moments are usually fleeting; I settle back in the driving seat not long after and relegate the boot (yes, not even the backseat) to God.

So these four signs come from a place of “experience”—one that I’m not proud of. And I invite you to join me in critically evaluating whether you’ve knowingly (or unknowingly) done the same.

 

1. You care about following the Bible . . . but more about following societal norms

Every day, we’re faced with hundreds of decisions—from minor ones like what outfit to wear to work, to life-changing ones like who to tie the knot with. Though we know at the back of our minds that we ought to do all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), we allow our lives to be governed by the same considerations society has: Will this major land me a good job? Will marrying this person give me financial security? Will aligning myself with this person improve my job prospects? Because of the questions we ask, we gravitate towards the same self-actualizing decisions the rest of the world makes.

But if we truly understand the gospel, we see a completely different picture of what and whom God deems as important. The world glorifies the rich, the famous, the powerful, the proud, and those who come first. But God blesses the poor, includes the outcast, cares for the weak, exalts the humble, and recognizes those who are last. The gospel turns everything we know on its head.

If we truly believe in Jesus’ upside-down kingdom, the way we live must necessarily be different from the rest of the world. Will we make decisions according to what God values? Will we give generously to the poor, reach out to the marginalized, help the needy and sick, shine the spotlight on the humble, and affirm the last—even if it sets us back financially, emotionally, and physically?

 

2. You care about what God thinks . . . but not as much as what others think

 The first few years into my job, I worked hard, and felt good whenever my work was recognized by my boss or colleagues. I didn’t mind the long hours, but got extremely affected if my work was not recognized or if my boss was unhappy with me. Frustration and self-doubt occupied my mind even after working hours and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

Though I knew in my mind that I should be working for the Lord (Colossians 3:22-25), my heart was far more concerned about gaining the approval of my earthly master. For some of us, it may not be our bosses we’re trying to please, but our partners, spouses, or even friends. Whoever our “earthly master” may be, let us remember that ultimately, it is God’s opinion—not theirs—that matters. After all, He is the one who owns every one of us: He made us, loved us, saved us, and finally, will judge us.

Recently, I’ve been reading a book called Not Yet Married by writer and managing editor at DesiringGod.org, Marshall Segal, which has challenged me to reframe my perspective about work. In his suggested “Eight Aims for Every Job”, his very first point is that we should “aspire to make God look great”. Instead of seeking the affirmation and approval of our earthly masters, we should be more concerned about God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31, Matthew 5:16).

And that means rethinking what work (or life in general) is all about and what constitutes success. So what if we didn’t get the recognition or response we wanted from our hard labor? If we had the opportunity to lead another person to Christ in the course of our daily activity, we have achieved something of far greater value and eternal worth.

 

3. You care about others . . . but more about your personal time and space

After a long hard day at work, the tendency to be fiercely protective of our “me-time” is a real one. Because I’ve worked so hard today, I deserve to pamper myself. For some of us, this could be binge-watching the latest Netflix show, hitting the gym to keep our bodies trim and fit, or simply sitting on our couch scrolling through our social media feeds.

We know that reading the Bible is the key to helping us know God intimately and that we are called to serve the church and care for the needy (Matthew 25:31-40). But we tell ourselves that those things can come after we’ve tended to our own needs. Our hearts are grieved not because of the social injustice in the world, but because someone has infringed our personal space and inconvenienced us.

I have been guilty of pushing back or rescheduling appointments with friends who are going through difficult patches because I knew it would be time-consuming and emotionally-draining to meet them, and I just didn’t feel like going through it at that moment.

But Jesus clearly demonstrates through His action and words that this life we live is not about us. One of the key evidences of a follower of Christ is that he would be willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24-26). We are called to live sacrificially, valuing others above ourselves, not looking to our own interests but to the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4). After all, God’s love for us empowers us to love others (1 John 4:7). And if we all lived by that truth, I daresay that we will never need to worry about our own needs.

 

4. You care about many sins . . . but not your own sin

Since the start of this year, my Bible study class has been studying the book of Hosea together and learning that our disobedience towards God is equivalent to adultery. But if we’re being honest, we usually don’t think of ourselves as that bad. I mean, how can covetousness be as bad as infidelity? What’s a white lie in comparison to sleeping with someone else’s spouse? One of the biggest dangers we as Christians face, is to think of ourselves as more righteous or more worthy of salvation than some of our non-Christian friends.

There have been countless times that I’ve frowned upon someone’s actions, or felt shock and anger about a crime I’ve read in the papers or even written off someone else as “hopeless”. In those moments, I had put myself on a pedestal and evaluated another person based on my own standards, forgetting that I’m equally sinful and equally in need of grace and mercy. I forget that God is the ultimate judge and every one of us is directly accountable to Him for our own lives—not the lives of others.

And because of that, I appreciate it when well-intentioned and close family and friends take time to point out the inconsistencies and sins in my life. Though painful, they remind me of how much I need a Savior, and how gracious and merciful God is to send His son for someone like me.

 

Penning the above points has helped me realize that the solution to my problem is not to try and get better by my own strength. If not for anything, I’m even more convicted now by the need to pray and ask God to help me grow in comprehending the full magnitude of His beauty, grace, and truth. It is God that gives me sight (John 6:65) and only when I see how glorious He is, that everything else around me will fade in comparison. I pray the same for you too.

BTS: Is True Love About Loving Yourself?

Screenshot taken from YouTube Video

“True love first begins with loving myself,” began BTS’ leader Kim Nam-jun, better known as RM, in his impassioned six-minute speech, which ended with resounding applause from the packed crowd at the launch of a UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) youth campaign yesterday (24 Sep).

As I watched and listened to RM’s personal story of how he himself struggled with meeting the expectations of others and broke free of it, and his eventual call to stop “trying to fit ourselves into a mold”, I was moved. Of course, it helped that the leader of the world’s biggest boy band spoke articulately and fluently in English, and that he, along with the rest of his team mates who stood behind him in solidarity, was dressed impeccably.

I was also impressed, because this was the first time a K-pop band had been given the privilege of addressing the United Nations, as a result of their partnership with UNICEF’s global initiative, Generation Unlimited, which is aimed at empowering young people by increasing opportunities and investments for them.

But at the same time, I couldn’t help but find his message a little ironic, as I recalled the many reports I had read of the extremely competitive, stressful, and controlled conditions members of K-pop bands are put through in order to fit into the industry’s mold. It has been reported that trainees are often required to forgo their personal lives, which includes their friendships and hobbies, in order to devote time to perfecting their vocal and dance skills.

This was recently debated about and cast into the spotlight again following the tragic suicide of SHINee’s Jonghyun last December, who had left a harrowing note highlighting the pressures young stars face in South Korea’s highly competitive entertainment industry.

But beyond the irony of his sharing, it was his emphatic pronouncement of “loving myself” as the mark of true love which I found myself struggling to agree with. There is no denying that it’s a popular idea which stems from good intentions. Resist the pressure to conform. Be true to yourself. Express your conviction. These catchphrases definitely sound inspiring and empowering—but they can be dangerous if these ideas are separated from God’s blueprint for our lives.

As believers, we’re called to something else. Self-fulfilment or self-actualization cannot and must not be our end goal. Instead, the greatest commandment Jesus gives to his believers is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And he immediately follows that with a call to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40).

The Bible is emphatic and consistent about where true love stems from and who we should love: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God” (1 John 4:7a). Self-love, as the Bible puts it, is a natural posture we all already gravitate towards. Loving God and loving others, on the other hand, is not.

In fact, one of the most notable references to “loving ourselves” is highlighted as one of the characteristics of what it would be like in the “last days”, as it says in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (Emphasis mine)

It can even be argued that the Bible seems to speak strongly against “self-love”, such as in Philippians 2:3-11, where it is written that we are always to value others above ourselves and consider the interests of others more than our own.

To be sure, BTS has done a lot of good for others, such as raising 1 million USD for UNICEF to help in ending violence against children and young people—and they certainly should be lauded for that. But perhaps we as believers, particularly for those of us who are fans, need to take a step back and evaluate what we hear—especially when it comes from those we esteem in high regard.

As believers, whose voice will we listen to? Who do we love the most? Are we prepared to be break out of society’s mold and definition of true love?

Crazy Rich Asians: The One Struggle We All Have in Common

Screenshot taken from Official Trailer

 

Rating: 4 out of 5

“Why are you watching that bimbo show?” A friend of mine asked incredulously, when I told her that I was going to catch the sneak preview of Crazy Rich Asians, which had finally opened in my country, Singapore, earlier this week after much hype.

“Well, I like bimbo shows,” I replied with a grin. Of course, I could have argued that this was no “bimbo” movie, but a “movement”—in the words of the movie’s director, Jon M. Chu. Even before the show was officially released, much was written and said about how Crazy Rich Asians is a watershed moment for Asian representation on the big screen: it is the first Hollywood movie to feature an all-Asian cast 25 years after Joy Luck Club.

Or I could have expounded on the need for us as proud Singaporeans to throw our weight behind a show that featured our little red dot in all its splendor and glory. After all, how many movies are there in Hollywood that mention our city-state, much less, choose Singapore as their main film location?

I could have also highlighted how well the movie had performed at the US box office over its opening weekend, raking in over US$35 million and coming in at number one.

But the truth was, I had simply read Kevin Kwan’s book earlier this year and was excited to see how the rom-com would play out on the big screen against sights and sounds I was familiar with.

It is a tale as old as time, albeit with an all-Asian cast twist: a guy falls in love with a girl and brings her home to meet his parents. The only catch is that Singaporean Nick Young (played by Henry Golding) is from one of the richest families in the island-city and his Asian-American Economics professor girlfriend, Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu) doesn’t have a clue about it. Unsurprisingly, drama ensues the moment they set foot in the Young household and our female protagonist finds herself the target of almost everyone in the Young family—especially Nick’s mother, Eleanor Young (played by Michelle Yeoh)—who thinks she’s not good enough for her son.

As my friends and I took our seats in the cinema, it was apparent that we were not the only ones ready to be entertained. Around us, young and old, Singaporean and non-Singaporeans, Asians and non-Asians, filled the packed theater and had come with food and drinks as well. The excitement in the theater was palpable and the atmosphere boisterous. It was as though everyone knew this was a movie of significance to Singapore (not only was it shot in Singapore, it involved 297 Singaporeans or permanent residents as production crew members, and 12 home-grown names in the cast itself), and we all really wanted to like it.

True enough, the movie did entertain. People laughed, cried, and even gasped at all the right junctures. And as the credits rolled, a round of applause resounded in the theater; the movie had lived up to expectation. Though most (if not all) of us were neither crazy nor rich, something in the movie had definitely struck a chord. And I suspect it wasn’t just the Singlish, nailed effortlessly by Singaporean actress Koh Chieng Mun (who plays the mother of Peik Lin, Rachel’s good friend).

Beyond the perfectly coiffed hair, impeccable make-up, gorgeous landscapes and outfits, the show surfaced an inherent human trait in its main characters that transcends socioeconomic status, lineage, and cultures: self-worth. Yes, apparently even the crazy rich struggle with it (some spoilers ahead).

For female lead Rachel, you could even say that her bigger story is about finding where her worth really lies, as she grapples with gaining acceptance in the ridiculously rich Young family, especially from Nick’s steely and imposing mother who tells her to her face that she will “never be enough”.

Or you might feel sympathy or chagrin towards Michael Teo (played by Singaporean actor Pierre Png), the hot-and-cold husband of Nick’s cousin, Astrid Leong (played by Gemma Chan),  who can’t seem to break out of feeling second class among the Young family despite his dashing good looks and impressive military achievements (which are elaborated on in the book).

Even the doyenne herself, Eleanor, reveals to Rachel at one point that she herself hadn’t been the first or even second choice of Nick’s grandmother, who jumps on every opportunity to remind her that everything she does isn’t good enough. And so she tries to establish her worth through Nick, by letting him stay with his grandmother so that he can gain her affection.

If there’s one thing that the movie does a great job portraying, it’s that rich or poor, handsome or plain-looking, clever or mediocre, we all have moments where we doubt our worth. Yet even as we struggle within, like Eleanor Young, we seem to use these very same characteristics to lord it over others and say or do things (whether intentionally or not) that make others question their worth as well.

But beauty is fleeting, and so is our wealth and intellect. If we anchor our self-worth in these things, we will ultimately become highly insecure and judgmental beings, our confidence tossed to and fro by the changing standards of the world.

That’s where the beauty of the gospel comes in. In the eyes of God, we are all truly “not good enough”, but not because we’re not from a good family, don’t have a good job or the perfect features. It’s because we have rejected God and chosen to live our lives our own way. Yet, while we were still rebelling against Him, God sent His son, Jesus, to die for us—to make us “good enough” out of His love for us (John 3:16).

Now that is a game changer. Because our worth, regardless of our lineage or achievements, is fully intact as a result of Christ’s finished work on the cross. This means that as children of God and co-heirs with Christ, we should no longer worry about establishing our worth or judging others, but focus on living for the One who gave it to us (Romans 8:14-17).

And what that looks like practically is summed up succinctly in the passage Eleanor reads out from Colossians 3 in that especially ironic scene where she is having a bible study with her sisters:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Will we shake off the baggage in our lives—opulent or not—and turn our eyes to things that truly matter, and last?