Today marks the start of the second week of school.
How was your first week? 

Some of you may be relieved that you are no longer stuck at home and super excited to see all your friends again. Some of you might still feel nervous about making new friends in your new class (or new school!) and adjusting with new timetables and meeting all the school requirements. We all (including adults and kids) are also cautious, waiting to see this pandemic’s development praying this year will be better than the last. 

Personally, I’m just thankful that school has gone back to how we know it before quarantine although I am still sad that I am no longer in the same class as my small group of friends from last year. My inbox is also currently filling up with emails from school teachers, listing down their expectations and requirements needed from the students. Not to mention all the information regarding extracurricular activities and competitions to choose from such as Debating, Dance, Da Vinci Decathlon to name a few. 

As we venture into the new school year, I have a few things in mind to share; things that I learnt from weekly sermons and the retreat that I find useful. I hope that they can help us to sail through the year better as growing Christian teens. 

  1. Know yourself

Last year, for one of my art school assignments, we were asked to write a reflective paragraph about who we are using creative text sizes, colours and fonts. We were then asked to tear it down, only to rearrange it in a different way. Before I knew and without my permission, ‘Ms. Perfectionist’ (or let’s call her Ms P) who lived in me, decided to take charge of the task. She started to measure and draw lines on the paper and took the scissors to cut it nicely into identical-sized squares when most of my other friends just casually and randomly tore theirs. Ms P went to the extent and planned for me to rearrange those pieces into specific arrangements, rainbow colour coded! Perfect! 

Do you know yourself? Most of your answers would be YES. But do you really
I learnt that one of the biggest human problems is that we don’t really know ourselves! 

Are you aware that your ‘personality’ will significantly impact your thoughts, how you process things and how you perceive things; it will then affect your emotions, how you react to certain things and flow into your actions, how you deal with these things. So it is vital to really know yourself.

We are all created uniquely by God, with different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. 

For me, I like to do things in a structured manner, and I like to prepare things in advance. I don’t like failure, thus always trying hard to achieve the best results. Being an introvert who doesn’t talk that much and is not so good with meeting new people, I always try to stick with familiar faces (friends) and unconsciously try to make them feel comfortable. 

I remember the lesson I learnt from the retreat. “SIN takes healthy desires meant to serve us, and turns them into unhealthy obsessions that make us slaves.” I need to acknowledge this in order to understand the pitfall it creates for me. I am prone to the obsession with study and competition to serve my desire to achieve the best results, also trying to be someone everyone likes, to ‘please’ my friends so that they stick with me. Do you see it now? Be it your strengths or weaknesses can ‘turn on you and destroy you’ if you fail to recognise and acknowledge your sinful nature.

My personality, worries and struggles might be different from yours. But the same God that created us and loved us has given all these for our good. He wants the best for us, that is, to be more and more like Him and fulfil His purpose to bring Him glory. So take time to really know yourself as the very first step of growing. 

  1. The BIG W

Recently, I have found myself in a pool of choices to make and school requirements and responsibilities to meet. What language class to choose, what extracurricular activities I should join, what to do with the super long ‘to-do list’, etc.

These are choices you’ll have, often difficult to make. It is not about which one is right and which is wrong, but it is more about choosing the best option out of the ‘right’ ones.
HOW do we choose then? 

WISDOM. 

This was a topic discussed in Morning Devotions during our Teens retreat. 

So what exactly is wisdom?
Wisdom is knowing what the greatest goal is in any situation and the best way to achieve it. Unlike knowledge, wisdom cannot be learned and can only be given by God. But you need knowledge to exercise wisdom. In other words it's knowing the right and best things to do with the knowledge you have.

How can I get it then? The only way is to receive it from GOD- keep praying to Him to give you wisdom, and for adequate knowledge to be able to exercise it. 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5 - NIV)

To get the knowledge needed, we need to actively train ourselves to meditate and learn from the word of God daily (as written in the devotion on Jan. 28). So that when you are facing life’s many choices, you will be able to choose wisely according to the true knowledge. 

  1.  Love and Grace

Let me tell you the ending story of Ms P, who took charge of my school Art project.

The moment I was about to finish doing what she told me, I realised that her plan didn’t work as it should have! I had a few pieces left in my hand that could not match the colour code she requested and still had a few empty spots to fill in! IT WAS NOT PERFECT!

I’m sure it has also happened to most of us from time to time. We plan, we try our best, yet, the result is not what we wanted it to be. 

Now, we are all learning to fix our eyes on God and be more like Him. Is this benchmark rather impossible to reach? He is the ultimate PERFECTION!

Do not fret! His grace alone is enough for us.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9 - ESV)

There is no such thing as a life without problems. Our lives are full of ups and downs, and sometimes it can get too overwhelming for us, be it in our daily life and our spiritual life. The cause for this feeling does not lie in the problems of life itself, but with how we choose to deal with them. 

Naturally, we feel good when we have our lives ‘under control’, but sometimes, it is beyond our capabilities. It is actually part of God’s providence for us, to allow us to experience downfalls in our lives so that we may come to HIM again, learning once again to rely on HIM. It is HIS way to make us get closer to HIM so that we can become more like HIM. It is a blessing given to us as a fruit of HIS love for us, the same love as a father who delights in his son. 

The definition of ‘blessing’ for God is totally different from ours. For us, we think that a blessing from God means receiving what we desire when we desire it. But for God, He focuses more on the long-term than short-term. His providence is according to His pre-set plan for us. In His time, He will mould our temporal (physical) wellbeing to ensure we receive eternal and spiritual wellbeing. 

So, next time there is something in your life that doesn’t turn out how you want it to, remember that this may be God’s blessing- even though it might not seem like it. 

Let us ask the Lord to hold our hand while we walk in the path of discovering ourselves, and to know HIM more as our Creator. Ask for the wisdom to enable us to make the best decision in all the choices we face, and set our eyes on HIM throughout this year. Ask HIM to open our spiritual eyes to HIS providence throughout all areas of our lives and to grow more as Christian teens.