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As we continue in our sermon series, BROKEN, we learn about broken relationships today. Here’s the sermon transcript, with an interesting Buddhist tale towards the end.
We welcome you to join us in the reflection of this simple yet profound story.
Song: Broken (Sezairi)
Think about any broken relationships you have – with
Ten years ago, in 2009, my relationship of 14 years collapsed and I got divorced. Some of you may remember. When that happened, out of the blue for me, I was devastated. I could not understand why. I was so comfortable in being a couple. We had celebrated that big wedding. All our friends were rooting for us. And still. We broke up. I moved out of the house and we started divorce proceedings. For quite a while after the breakup I was wrecking my brain trying to figure out what went wrong: What had I done? Was I not good enough? Should I have done more, invested more time, made more of an effort? My relationship was broken and I blamed myself.
We often don’t love ourselves enough. I created some examples to show how the different kind of broken relationships can happen and affect us.
Let’s look at Ayu. She is Malay, 16, from Bedok. Her name means beautiful but she doesn’t feel like that. For as long as she can remember she’s been fat. Yes, fat. It started when her nenek died. She loved grandma so much. And after her sudden death from cancer Ayu remembers the countless times she stood in nenek’s kitchen and watched her cook. She loved to smell the spices. So she starts to cook Nenek’s old recipes. That is her best way to remember her. Then she eats all the food she cooked because mum and dad are coming home late, and her brother prefers McDonalds (which is also not doing his waistline any favours).
At school they just call her Fatty. Or blob. Or they have fake conversations near her like:
Oh, Shenelle, are you hungry?
Yes, are you? What shall we eat?
Oh I know! How about some…
She has no friends. Which makes her sad but at the same time she understands. Who would want to be friends with a fat blob like her? All her friendships are broken.
It’s true – we often make the judgments by others our own. Or look for ways to compensate for being unloved or even unlovable. There are many ways to do that. One of them is taking drugs.
An acquaintance of mine from outside church was deeply addicted to meth. He used it mainly during sex, at first, but then at other times of the day. When he was high he felt alive and lovable. He’d text all his friends to ask for sex. Many rejected, some did not reply, others blocked him. He broke quite a few relationships during that time which now that he is clean he is trying to fix by approaching people to explain and apologize.
Let’s look at Yu Yan. Despite her beautiful smile she’s always been a rebel. It started in JC when she had the first crush on a girl and secretly had the girl’s name tattooed on her arm. Her mum almost fainted when she saw the tattoo some time in the bathroom, and her dad forbid her to see that girl again. True, the relationship didn’t last, but Yu Yan started hanging out with a bad crowd after school, going to parties, drinking at the void deck (not her own), coming home late or not at all. Her parents tried everything they could – from grounding to counseling, long talks to taking away her hand phone. (She got another one from her friends.) They even got one of the pastors of their mega church to intervene. He sat Yu Yan down and explained how she is not only rebellious against her parents but also against God because God says you must obey your parents. “You sure or not?”, asked Yu Yen. “Maybe not God but Confucius ma?” She’s not dumb. But the relationship with her parents is completely broken.
Silvia is a bright Indian student at a local university. She studies hard, helps out at home like the filial daughter she is. She also has a boyfriend, Bon. He is half Thai, half German, 6 foot, a school athlete. They have been going out for one year and everything is good. Well, almost. Recently there have been some unsettling signs. Like his responsiveness on WhatsApp. He reads her messages but doesn’t respond. At least not immediately. And when he does, his responses are quick, cold. “Looking forward to tomorrow!” she texts. “Thank you”, he replies, after a while. Thank you?? Then one of her girlfriends tells her that Bon has been seen at a party, with another girl. He was supposed to be working at his part-time job that night – at least that’s what he told her. Sylvia tries to call him but he doesn’t pick up. She texts him “We need to talk” but no reply. Then, late at night – she is staring at the screen, waiting for the ‘online’ to come up and her last message ticks to turn blue – he replies: “Let’s take a break.” “Why?” she immediately shoots back. But no reply. It feels like their relationship is broken.
The truth is: Often, many of our relationships are broken – we are broken.
Because too often we make ourselves dependent.
Our self-worth depends on the approval and appreciation by others.
And often the reason these relationships break is because we can’t love ourselves.
We say “Can’t fix ugly”, like in the very first episode of QE Season 1.
First of all – not true, as the Fab Five have shown.
Secondly – nobody is ugly.
We are all beautiful creations made in the image of God.
But if we can’t say, like Bette Midler, ‘I’m beautiful, dammit’ – then how can we expect others to love us?
So we play a role, 24/7.
Represent someone we feel our friends, parents, the world would like to see. Someone who isn’t us.
So how about our most precious relationship? Our relationship with God? Are we resting in it, happy that we are loved and accepted? Or are we sometimes feeling we are not worthy of God’s love? Because of something we are, something we have done or haven’t done?
Have you ever felt not worthy of God’s love?
We all felt that way at some stage. Even though this is the one relationship that matters – the relationship with Jesus and yourself.
How is that one relationship? Aren’t these two?
No. It is the same.
Because the relationship with Jesus is supposed to be the foundation of our life.
The Cost of Being a Disciple (Luke 14)
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
The foundation for the relationship we have with ourselves. It is an example for the kind of love we should have for ourselves.
First comes the foundation.
The foundation is God’s Love for us.
Unconditional love. No ifs or buts. The way we are – warts and all.
Because Jesus knows. And still loves us. Despite knowing everything.
Isn’t that liberating?
My best friend knows everything about me.
That’s very rare and special, because: We always censor, filter ourselves, even with those close to us.
Because we want them to have a good picture of ourselves. Partners.
Because we don’t want them to judge. Parents.
Because we don’t want them to take advantage. Friends, colleagues.
We do it all day long, every day of our lives.
We do it automatically.
Which is tiring. And exhausting. And which doesn’t allow us to live authentic lives.
But if we have that one best friend, the one who knows everything, our deepest darkest secret, our afflictions and addictions, our beautiful and our ugly side – that is liberating.
We can relax in that relationship. No need to pretend. For once.
Lucky got kaki like this.
And remember kaki in Malay means leg – your support, your foundation.
Jesus is a kaki like this.
He is pure love.
1 John 4
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
God is love.
And in this love there is no fear.
No fear of judgment
No fear of rejection
No fear of being used
No fear of losing that love
No fear of it breaking
This is what we need.
A love for ourselves that is like the love Jesus has for us.
A love that screams an unashamed I LOVE YOU for ourselves.
Resting in the acceptance and unconditional love we receive from Jesus. Loving ourselves. And less dependent on the labels other people put on us.
Fatty? Faggot? Dumbo? Tomboy? Geek?
These are just words. They have no power – unless we give them power. There is an interesting Buddhist tale that goes like this:
Once upon a time there was a world famous teacher in Takkasila, in north-western India. He had 500 high class students who learned sacred teachings from him.
It just so happened that one of these high class students had been named ‘Bad’ by his parents. One day he thought, “When I am told, ‘Come Bad’, ‘Go Bad’, ‘Do this Bad’, it is not nice for me or others. It even sounds disgraceful and unlucky.”
So he went to the teacher and asked him to give him a more pleasant name, one that would bring good fortune rather than bad. The teacher said, “Go my son, go wherever you like and find a more fortunate name. When you return, I will officially give you your new name.”
The young man named Bad left the city, and traveled from village to village until he came to a big city. A man had just died and Bad asked what his name was. People said. “His name was Alive.” “Alive also died?” asked Bad. The people answered, “Whether his name be Alive or whether it be Dead, in either case he must die. A name is merely a word used to recognize a person. Only a fool would not know this!” After hearing this, Bad no longer felt badly about his own name — but he didn’t feel good about it either.
As he continued on his way into the city, a debt-slave girl was being beaten by her masters in the street. He asked, “Why is she being beaten?” He was told, “Because she is a slave until she pays a loan debt to her masters. She has come home from working, with no wages to pay as interest on her debt.” “And what is her name?” he asked. “Her name is Rich.” they said. “By her name she is Rich but she has no money even to pay interest?” asked Bad. They said, ‘Whether her name be Rich or whether it be Poor, in either case she has no money. A name is merely a word used to recognize a person. Only a fool would not know this!” After hearing this, Bad became even less interested in changing his name.
After leaving the city, along the roadside he met a man who had lost his way. He asked him, “What is your name? ” He replied, ‘My name is Tourguide.” “You mean to say that even a Tourguide has gotten lost?” asked Bad. Then the man said, “Whether my name be Tourguide or whether it be Tourist, in either case I have lost my way. A name is merely a word used to recognize a person. Only a fool would not know this!”
Now completely satisfied with his own name, Bad returned to his teacher.
The world famous teacher of Takkasila asked him, “How are you, my son? Have you found a good name?” He answered, “Sir, those named Alive and Dead both die, Rich and Poor may be penniless, Tourguide and Tourist can get lost. Now I know that a name is merely a word used to recognize a person. The name does not make things happen, only deeds do. So I’m satisfied with my name. There’s no point in changing it.”
The teacher summarized the lesson his pupil had learned this way — “By seeing Alive as dead, Rich as poor, Tourguide as lost, Bad has accepted himself.”
Coming back to my divorce.
It was five years later, and I was based in Korea, driving to work. On AFN, the only English station there, they were playing a song which I knew – but for the first time I listened to the lyrics.
And I realized that it’s a breakup song. A HAPPY breakup song.
Which reminded me that not all broken relationships can be fixed.
Which reminded me that sometimes, getting out of a broken relationship to move on, can be a good thing.
Because I deserve better.
Because I have the best relationship of all.
With Jesus. And with myself.
Song: Beautiful day (Michael Buble)