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Truths I Wish to Share with My 20-Year-Old Self

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

In my early twenties, I hated being single. I thought it meant that I was unattractive and unwanted.

I had a secret crush on someone in university. When I was studying with my best friend between classes, he would often walk up to greet us and would offer help whenever we needed. I thought he was a friendly and helpful guy, and started to secretly admire him. Then one day, I realized he was doing all this to woo my best friend, and my world crumbled.

Am I not attractive enough? Why don’t I have a guy who is willing to do so much for me? Why doesn’t he woo me?

It affected my self-confidence and left me broken.

Growing up with eczema, I always felt inferior. I was short and had ordinary looks, and it didn’t help that my figure was just a rectangle. I hated my looks, and felt embarrassed at never having dated when most of my friends had boyfriends. I thought having dated meant that a woman was attractive. Many older people also told me it was very important for girls to be married, because being unmarried by a certain age meant that I would be out of the norm, incomplete, and left on the shelf.

Now that I’ve survived that painful period, I can see how wrong I was to think those thoughts. If I ever had a chance to talk to my 20-year-old self, I would refute the lies that I had been telling myself: that I am not attractive and that I am abnormal if I am single.

I would tell myself that my attractiveness does not come from the fleeting beauty of physical appearance—but from a heart that is at rest in Christ.

Our height, body shape or size, what jewels we wear, how expensive our clothes are or how fashionably we do our hair—none of these matters. Unfading beauty comes from a quiet and gentle spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:3-4), and one who fears the Lord is praiseworthy regardless of how she looks (Proverbs 31:30). Our confidence should therefore come not from our physical appearance, but rather from God—who knew us even before we were born.

Instead of focusing on my appearance, I would tell myself to take captive my thoughts and focus on the One who created me, knows me and loves me, and who willingly redeemed me with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Now when I find myself stressing over my outward appearance, I constantly remind myself of the truth in God’s Word. The unchanging Word comforts me and gives me confidence when I am with people whom I find more beautiful than myself. Because I know that God looks at our hearts rather than our outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).

I also realized that if we place our confidence in our physical beauty, we become easily upset with any blemish and wrinkle or any extra pound gained—because we would be chasing after fading beauty. We can never find contentment with our looks until we place our confidence in God’s standard of beauty. Knowing that God knows us and loves us, we can find an unshakable confidence in our God-given identities, even when our physical beauty fades.

I would tell myself that not being married by a certain age does NOT mean I am unwanted—but that I can trust God’s perfect plan for my life.

We are never left unwanted, because our heavenly Father already loves us. We are precious to Him.

As God’s beloved, we must not conform to the patterns of this world, but rather we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds in God that we may discern His good and perfect will for us (Romans 12:2). Committing ourselves to the ways of God and obeying His will for us is more important than finding a boyfriend or husband. God’s plan for each of us is different.

Paul tells us that a single life is God’s gift to some, and a married life His gift to others (2 Corinthians 7:7). We know that earthly marriage mimics and reminds us of the heavenly marriage that is to come (Luke 20:34-36), while a single life allows us more time and energy to serve God. Whatever the case, we know that His plans for us are always good.

God created us for His glory, and so we do not live our lives for ourselves. If God’s plans for us is to be married, let us glorify Him in our marriage. If His plans are for us to be single, let us glorify Him in our singleness.

If I could go back and talk to 20-year-old me, I would urge her to find joy by surrendering her singleness to Christ and seeing her worth in Him alone. There is value in surrendering this season of our lives to Him because in our singleness, God can show us that we are not alone. He is with us. As we give Him our insecurities and fears, He can turn our ashes into beauty. As we spend our quiet moments with Him, He can help us use His gifts in unique and beautiful ways.

When we anchor ourselves in Christ, we can be secure in Him. The more we see ourselves as living servants of Christ, the more we are freed from the need to conform to the standards of the world.

To my 20-year-old self: know that you are fully accepted and loved in Christ.

That is the unchanging truth that liberates us. May we be content with what God has given us, and in any situation—single or married—focus instead on becoming the person Christ is shaping us to become.

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).

X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Our Desire to Belong

Screenshot taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 3/5 stars

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) is the first in the X-Men franchise to feature a female lead, hot off the heels of successes like Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman. This time, fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones will be thrilled to see Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, a mutant with telekinetic superpowers who joins Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters at the tender age of eight.

It’s been 19 years since the first X-Men was released in 2000, and in this 12th installment of the film series, we go back to 1992, with the X-Men on a rescue mission of a space shuttle. It is here in outer space that Jean accidentally absorbs the Phoenix Force—mistaken for a solar flare—and transforms into the powerful Dark Phoenix.

 

A force for good or evil

Jean Grey’s story is one of family and belonging. Orphaned as a child and sent to the X-Mansion, she quickly becomes an important part of the X-Men family. Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) becomes a father figure, Raven Darkhölme/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) like an older sister and Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) her lover.

But all that is threatened after the “solar flare” accident, when her telekinetic powers are heightened and she’s soon unable to control them. Her fear of hurting the very people she loves drives her away from the X-Mansion, and she leaves behind a trail of catastrophic damages while out and about in New York.

It is here that she meets Vuk (Jessica Chastain), the leader of a shape-shifting alien race called the D’Bari. Vuk explains that the Phoenix Force had wiped out their home planet years ago, and invites Jean to join them in shaping new worlds together. Here, Jean is torn between using her force for good or evil—evil because the D’Bari plan to conquer other planets, including Earth, with the Phoenix Force.

And so the struggle ensues—between mutants and humans (previously allies of the US government, the X-Men are now being hunted down thanks to Jean’s actions), between mutants and aliens (the D’Bari are out to get Jean and the Phoenix Force trapped within her at all costs should she not cooperate), and within the X-Men themselves (jealousy, in-fighting, and Charles’s leadership is questioned).

 

Belonging to a family

But most central of all to the film is the struggle within Jean herself as she deals with a fragile past and a family secret kept hidden from her by Charles, for what she believes about herself will come to define her choices.

Dark Phoenix is an emotional film with plenty of drama and vengeful characters, layered with a haunting and beautiful score by Hans Zimmer. Though its CGI is lacklustre compared to its contemporaries and the storyline predictable, the powerful performances by Sophie Turner and James McAvoy more than make up for it. In my opinion, the winner in this film is Jessica Chastain, what with her silver blonde hair and nude makeup that make her look eerily alien and evil without much effort.

At the heart of Dark Phoenix is the message that Jean is, and always will be, part of the X-Men family—no matter what she has done or thinks she has become. In the film, Charles and Raven’s characters embody God, our Heavenly Father, who believes the best in us, never gives up on us, and accepts us into His family even when no one else will. The Bible says that He “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6), “predestined us for adoption” (Ephesians 1:5), and that He will “never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Isn’t it comforting to know that there is someone who will readily accept us despite our past mistakes? Someone who patiently waits for us to turn back to Him so we can begin to live our true identities—as children of God who walk in His ways.

It is Raven who says to Jean: “I’m not giving up on you, Jean. You’re my family, no matter what.” Jean eventually resolves her inner conflict, realizing that the very people she was running away from were always there for her and weren’t afraid of her powers. It’s when she makes amends for the wrongs that she has done in the course of the film that Jean finds redemption and true belonging.

If you’re struggling with self-doubt, guilt, or feeling out of place, why not turn to God? Just as Jean and the other X-men were adopted into the X-men family, we, too, can find redemption and a sense of belonging in the Kingdom of God, one that will last for all eternity.

3 Questions to Ask When You’re Dating

Dating can be such a thrilling adventure, especially since it might possibly lead to marriage! However, before we even step into a relationship, there may be many questions in our minds. For instance, how can I know that I’m ready for a relationship?

While I don’t claim to be an expert, here are three qualities that I have found to be foundational in my own relationship, and I hope they will point you in the right direction.

 

 1. Are They Good-Looking or Looking at God?

What attracts you to someone? Is it their physical appearance? Character? Personality? Career?  I’m sure you can add a few more items to the long list of traits that might attract us to another person. But if we dig deeper, we know that none of these things on their own can sustain a relationship in the long-term. As Christians, we must look for something much more important: whether Christ is the director of their life.

When I first met my fiancé Brian, I wasn’t entirely attracted to him. I thought he looked kinda cute, but hardly gave him a second thought after our first encounter. However, over the next few weeks of working in the church office (we were both interns at the time), sharing break time together, and sneaking conversations over work tasks, I began to see his passion for the gospel and his desire to spread it wherever he went. This was very much in line with my own desire and calling in life—I have felt a burden for foreign missions for the past several years.

As the months went on, I came to develop a deep admiration for Brian—for his dedication and loyalty to Jesus. Since then, my romantic interest in him also started building, and I became deeply attracted to him. Safe to say, I was falling in love. As it turns out, he was too.

So, my relationship with Brian didn’t happen the way most people expect. Instead of being brought together by a physical or personality attraction, it was his dependency on Christ as the author of his life that drew me to him. I found that attraction to the other traits followed close after.

 

2. Are There Opportunities for Healthy Growth?

We’ve all probably heard the words “love is a not a fairytale.” Which is true, because for any relationship to succeed, it takes work, effort, and sacrifice. Feelings are not strong enough to get a couple through all of that. No matter how strongly in love or “mushy” a couple is . . . feelings change.

There are days when we have arguments, disagreements, or opposing views, and it can cause both of us to question whether God really did mean for us to be together. In those times, it is especially important to be on guard against frustration, anger, impatience, and even self-righteousness.

As we worked through these challenges, we’ve learned to make room for God to mold and shape our hearts. We’ve learned to allow these circumstances to catapult us toward prayer and seeking counsel in the Word, as well as from seasoned believers. It’s now our prayer that we will have the humility to accept the Spirit’s conviction and to obey whatever the Lord places on our hearts.

The inevitable difficulties and trials in a relationship demand more than simply being head-over-heels for each other. Ultimately, we need our common foundation in Christ to help us see how we can become a good team, complement each other, and most importantly, become more Christ-like through the entire process.

When we are both drawn to Christ and to helping each other be more like Him, we don’t need to fear attacks—for we know that even during  periods of trial and testing, God is working to sanctify us and make us holy (Philippians 1:6).

 

3. Do Your Differences Divide or Complement?

Brian and I could not be any more different. I am an outspoken, strong-willed, at times fierce, free-spirited woman from the jungle in central Mexico. He is a reserved, thoughtful, strong, silent man from metropolitan Hong Kong. The comments about how different we seem never cease, and we laugh because others don’t even know the half of it.

Of course, sometimes these comments can be discouraging, especially when we hear others tell us that we won’t be a good fit, or would mostly likely end up having a catastrophic relationship because of our differences.

For Brian and I, we are reminded that in the early times of the Apostles, the Spirit of God brought together multiple nationalities and people of different cultures and languages in birthing the Church (Acts 2). And we know that at the end of the day, it is not culture and traditions that would carry on into eternity, but what we do in obedience to the Lord.

Just as diversity in the body of Christ allows it to work so effectively (1 Corinthians 12:12-14), we believe the same applies to marriage. Together, Brian and I have discovered that we complement each other with our strengths and weaknesses, and are able to reach a wider range of people in our international surroundings because of this multicultural relationship we have been given.

Having said that, we also believe it’s important to be humble and seek God with an open mind, especially if trusted friends or family raise concerns about a relationship. Sometimes these concerns are unfounded, while other times people outside of the relationship may have a clearer perspective.

One instance where having outside input was helpful was when one of my spiritual mothers gently shared that I needed to be more patient and understanding of Brian’s Chinese upbringing and less stubborn about only doing things according to my culture. Another time was when one of Brian’s close friends helped him realise how he needed to grow in boldness as the leader of our relationship, especially when times get hard. These insights have helped the both of us see our own blind spots, and enabled us to grow in the way we relate to and love each other.

It is important for us to always examine the differences we have with our partner, and seek God to understand whether these help us sharpen one another, or whether they will create a division in the relationship.

 

It is often easy to seek fulfilment and purpose in a significant other. But we know that ultimately, nobody can meet our needs the way God can. Whatever our circumstances, we belong first and foremost to God. He loves us like no one else will, and values us like no other (Matthew 10:29-31). In every step of our relationships, let us not chase after what the world values, but instead seek to please God.

As you consider dating or entering a relationship, don’t panic or worry over how you’ll handle it. Pray about it, and ask God to bless you with wisdom, strength, and guidance. Surround yourself with godly counsel and couples who will be able to help you navigate the challenges you might face. Take this opportunity to trust in Him more, know Him better, and He will show you the way you are to walk in because He is a faithful God.

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a two-part series on dating and marriage. If you’re considering taking your relationship to the next level and wondering if you’re ready for marriage, read the second part of the series here