No selfishness to hook

A common theme during Good Friday is Betrayal. This is because Jesus was betrayed by one of his 12 disciples – Judas Iscariot – with a kiss. Judas led the Roman soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane, for them to arrest Him. Judas had to kiss Jesus, so that the soldiers would be able to identify which one was Jesus.


The Kiss of Judas (El Beso de Judas), Francisco Salzillo, 1754

Once a pastor asked this question – if you knew that Judas was going to betray you with a kiss, would you let him kiss you?

At the time when the pastor asked that question, I was going through a difficult period with my son. He had not kissed me for a while. So as I sat there, listening to the sermon, this thought came to my mind – if I was Jesus and Judas was my son, I would let him kiss me. Even if it was a last, insincere kiss, I would take it because he is my son and I love him.

The reality is, that I struggle with loving my teenagers. To me, they are not only wise in their own eyes and unteachable but they are self-centered and ungrateful. In turn, they retort by saying that my love is therefore conditional (conditional upon them being humble, teachable, considerate towards others and grateful).

Well, they are right – what they said is logical. It took me a long time to accept that verdict about myself and it was a little of a shock to me, because I always thought my love for my children is great and noble.  But I had to admit that – Yes, my love for them is likely conditional and definitely limited.

There is always a point beyond which I can no longer be patient, kind and gracious towards them. I will either blow up at them, or I have to walk away in anger and frustration, or despair and discouragement. Yes, that point can be stretched, and my tolerance for their unkindness and indifference can increase but it always hits a limit – the question is not “will it happen?” but “what will trigger it?” That point can keep getting stretched till my limit is higher and higher, but it will always reach a limit. Only God’s love is unlimited.


One night, I read this phrase – “His selfishness hooked my selfishness”. (Paul Tripp – Why is parenting so hard).

In my sane moments, when things are quiet around the house, I will be reminded of my love for my son. But on a normal chaotic day, I just want a perfect child and a good life. That is my selfishness.

I want my child to pick up after himself so that I don’t need to pick up after him. I want my child to be able to wake up and prepare himself for school every morning so I don’t need to do it for him. I want my child to do his homework independently so that I don’t have to get calls or written reminders from the teachers. I want my child to do well in his exams so that I can glory in his success too.  I want my child to get along with his brothers so that they don’t irritate me with their squabbles. I want my child to greet the aunties/uncles so people won’t criticise my poor parenting. I want my child to be actively serving in church so that I don’t need to constantly worry about their devotion to God and salvation.

Yes, as a parent, I want my child to have qualities like independence, responsibility, excellence, good people-skills, service to God/others. There is nothing wrong with me wanting them to do all the things I want them to do, because it is good for them in the long run and it builds their character. But on a normal chaotic day, that is usually not my motivation. On those days (which is almost every day), I just want to live my life in peace and joy with no troubles and inconveniences that come from parenting imperfect children. That is my selfishness.


When they go directly to the computer as soon as they return home – to do their own stuff – and stay in that position for the next 1-2 hours – while I continue to iron their clothes and prepare dinner – I see their selfishness and that irks me. That irks me because I would rather they give me some attention and appreciation, and offer some help so I can enjoy my life too.

Yet, isn’t that a desire which stems from my own selfishness?  Their selfishness hooks my selfishness. I want them to be mature selfless and be people of good character meet my needs because I am selfish. They want me to be selfless and meet their needs because they are selfish. Our selfishness hook each others’ selfishness.

WhatsApp Image 2017-04-18 at 17.06.31

Have I ever mentioned, that I love being the mother of three cute
(as in cute puppies and cute guys we loved as teenagers) boys?
I love them because they make me feel like a princess.
That is my selfishness.

I think I consider myself to be far more selfless than them. Yet in the essence of selfishness, I am no different from them – we are just different in degree of selfishness. Anyway, I am the mother, isn’t a mother expected to give much more than a child?

I recently read two things that changed my attitude and the way I related to them. One was a story/poem, I call it “There were days when my home“. Another was an article about raising awesome functional teenagers.

The first reminds me that the reason my home and my daily life is full of messes and surprises, disruptions and interruptions is that the children are still with me. And the reason they are still with me is precisely because they are immature and lacking in character.

Our home is to incubate them as they grow and my husband and my job is to train them to become godly men – good husband/father material and productive members of society. Once they are sensible in thinking, kind in heart and responsible in action, they will move on, to be a blessing to society and start their own family. When that day comes and they all leave me, my home will be spotless and my days predictable. I will have the time to myself, and the peace and quiet that I crave but I will miss them.

The second tells me to love them fiercely, even the annoying bits, and that teenagers are really fun to be with. That is fantastic advice and it is true – they are mighty fun.

15 Apr 17 Sat Service

Last Saturday we were supposed to attend
church service at 5pm at Marine Parade.
However, we arrived too late for the service,
so we spent time at the beach and
had a nice, slow dinner at St Marc Cafe instead.
After that, we went over to Suntec for the 8pm service.
Elias and I texted each other during the service.
No, it is not something people should do
– we should listen to the sermon and focus on God.
But I am trying to build my relationship with a teenager,
so I took some liberty.
By the way, I was using the phone to read the Bible. Legit.
After that, they found a soccer table along the halls.
No boy can resist a soccer table.
So they played.

It is so much work forming unruly boys into godly men, that I am always grateful to my mother in law. She was the one who took care of my husband, Edmund when he was growing up. She loved him, gave him a safe home and encouraged him to be good and do well in life. I am reaping the fruits of seeds which she sowed in him, and from the garden which she tended, for many years of his life.

I knew that Edmund was very close to his mother, and he loved her. So after I married him, I did my human best to maintain a close relationship between them and also cultivate a close relationship between our family and his parents. It has been twenty years.

Mummy passed away last week and her funeral service was held on Good Friday. She had given her life to Jesus two years before she died, and she is now living an eternal life in an imperishable body.

She had raised her seven children on little – she had to wash the laundry for a household of ten by hand, iron all their clothes and do all the cleaning and cooking. Despite the financial difficulties, they always celebrated Chinese New Year with new clothes and new year goodies. She continued to give every dollar and cent she saved to her children and grandchildren whenever they had needs. She kept nothing for herself; she wanted nothing for herself. She just wanted everything for her children, and grandchildren.

To Edmund and I, there is nothing that a mother like that needs, besides Jesus, because only Jesus can take care of her children and grandchildren better than she can, in this life and for all eternity. We are glad that she is finally able to rest and be at peace about her life, herself and all the people whom she cares about.

Her job is done. My job is not.

I have so much to learn about love. I am a long way from being a Jesus to a Judas. Mummy is my model. Jesus is my model.

Good Friday is a a good day, because Jesus made it possible for us all to die to our selfishness. I need my children’s forgiveness for my selfishness. So I shall forgive them for theirs, day by day, moment by moment.

One day, by God’s grace, on the other side of heaven, we would be able to relate to one another with no selfishness in our hearts.  That would be God’s gift to us – a new, resurrected body with a pure and beautiful heart.


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