I knew the movie would portray a “super hero” with many intractable problems. Hey, I have enough problems of my own. Going to the movies was supposed to be feel good time!
Finally saw the movie last week. Went with my two sons. (They both had seen it twice already but kindly volunteered to accompany their dad.)
I’m glad I went. It was a good movie, in many ways more substantial than the first Spider-Man movie. The only part that didn’t feel quite right was the ending, when Mary Jane left John Jameson at the altar. That felt more like something from ‘the Bold and the Beautiful’.
As in all good movies you learn key lessons about life. I learnt two at least.
First I learnt that my 18 year old no. 1 son probably has a secret life as a super hero. In the beginning of the movie we see Peter Parker having the following problems because of his secret life as Spider-Man:
1. His grades are dropping. 2. He is tired all the time. 3. He is often late for appointments.
In the darkness of the movie theatre something clicked. Those three problems also characterized my no 1 son! Therefore no 1 son must also be a secret hero on the side! QED (He denies it of course.)
The second lesson I learnt from Spider-Man 2 was more personal. As always in the Spider-Man movies, wisdom comes from the senior Parkers, Peter’s uncle and aunt.
In the first movie, Uncle Ben teaches Peter that with great power comes great responsibility. In Spider-Man 2 Aunt May teaches Peter that sometimes, to do what is right, we must give up what we want the most, even our dreams.
What I have always wanted most was a normal life. Indeed secretly, I guess I thought I deserved one. I thought I had had enough craziness in my life already. Deciding to give up a career in dentistry to pursue a church related vocation was traumatic enough.
Therefore I had assumed that at the very least I could grow old with the wife of my youth. I could see my children grow up with the love of their dad and mum. I would eventually provide church leadership for church, denomination, and country.
Instead, as some of you already know, I lost a wife to cancer. Another to divorce. I struggle to balance my duties as a single parent and to run a ministry. I feel tired most of the time.
And as a result of my broken marriage I am outside the mainstream of church leadership. And my reputation and suitability for church leadership is a matter of public debate every other day.
What do I want the most? Nothing much Lord. Just a normal life.
I know what you are going to say. First off I blew my chance for a more normal life because of decisions I had made. And you are right.
Besides, what is a normal life anyway? Especially in a fallen world? Though some lives may appear normal and similar on the outside, we all have our unique paths to walk, and every path has it?s own set of tragedies and joys.
I am sure my wife Hee Ling wanted a normal life. She too wanted to grow old with the husband of her youth. Most of all, she wanted so much, to live long enough to see her beloved children grow up. Instead she was afflicted with lung cancer. Yes she is somewhere better now but hers was hardly a “normal” life.
I realized afresh that I needed to stop drinking from the well of self-pity. In the words of the indomitable ‘Eagles’, I need to “get over it.”
Get over it. Get over longing for what can never be. Save your energies to live the life that you have. Don?t waste them pining for a life that can never be.
Or as the character Gandalf reminds us in ‘the Lord of the Rings’, we can’t choose the times we live in, or indeed the circumstances of one’s own life. Our responsibility is to decide what to do with the times/life we have been given.
So on a good day, as I reflect on my life, I realized I have been very blessed. I am blessed with loving supportive parents. (I miss my dad so much. He passed on last year.) My boys Stephen and Andrew are growing well. We have enough money for our needs.
I have more ministry opportunities than I can handle. Among those are the opportunities to walk along some of the most important emerging leaders of the church in Malaysia. I have some of the best friends any man could ever have. The list goes on and on.
As Dr David Gunaratnam reminded me over the weekend, (we were speakers at the same camp), even our spouses do not belong to us. They are on loan to us from the Lord. I thank God for those twelve wonderful years with Hee Ling.
More than that, even our worst failures can be redeemed by God under His “severe mercy” programme. Most of us, and that definitely includes myself, are obsessed with what we can do for the Lord. The Lord is much more concerned with what kind of people we are.
As Dr. David reminded us from the life of Moses:
For the first 40 years of his life Moses thought he was somebody. The second 40 years of his life, he learnt that he was a nobody. The final 40 years of his life, Moses learnt what God could do with a nobody.
So we can even thank God for the worst failures of our lives if they help to strip away any illusion of our spirituality, and our independence of Him. Would I have learnt the lessons I have learnt if I had lived a “normal” life? Probably not.
So Aunt May, I hear you. To get on with my life I need to give up what I want the most, a “normal” life. Indeed I need to give up the illusion that there is such a thing as a “normal” life.
Instead I need to embrace the life that I have, fumbles and all. And live it to the full for His glory.
“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die we die to the Lord. So then whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:7-8 ESV
To embrace the life that God has laid out for you, what do you need to give up?
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan