agendaless history

is such a history possible? looking even to the earliest records of Herodotus and Sima Qian, each had their own agenda. dismantle the emperor. promote Hellenistic culture. who has lived that could write without an agenda? is not the agenda the driving force that so compels one to write? words are water that flow with pressure, motions arising from emotional hydraulics. we feel, we speak – and when taught we write.

but at the heart of my struggle: is this a problem? that every history written has an agenda? why do we strive so much for objectivity, or hold in contempt those with a clear intention?

reality is not empirical. life is not experienced as ‘objective’. all of existence is subjective. even if one were to argue the objective reality of atoms or elements, all of that reality is mediated through our subjective experience of that reality. that is to say, reality is subjective.

because what is the point of discussing reality apart from our subjective experience? i’m sure some realms of philosophy have already grappled with this, but even that grappling, that attempt at apprehension is a subjective, human endeavour.

yet i say human not to distinguish it from the divine. if one truly believes that all of existence flows from God, then the reason why ultimate reality is not empirical, measured, scientific, emotionless, agendaless is precisely because God has created the universe with an agenda in mind.

it was not made simply to exist in an objective space, it was made to glorify Himself.

i realise that i’ve conflated subjectivity/objectivity with agenda/agendaless, but i do think my point comes through. we are purposed beings, and hence we understand the world with purpose in mind.

that is not to say truth does not exist. but truth as we think it might be – scientific, experimentally-conclusive, agendaless – perhaps such a truth does not exist, and we hold high a god of our own making.

dealing with suffering.

for as long as i can declare, ‘the worst has come’, it has not. there are limits to words, extremities that it cannot explore.

then we add melodies and chords that give depth, thinking that if we disguise them we will see them for who they really are. there in their obscurity they are revealed, and we are given over to greater depths than mere ink on page.

yet there is a rhythm to song that distracts, a momentum that leaves no room for pause. the song must end, so every station is temporary, with each note leading to the next.

but what happens when it doesn’t end? when all we are left is the 4th minor hungover to silence?

there are limits to how much i can make you understand my pain. there are limits to how much i can express it. but reality has no concern for limits, it stretches on further, farther, pushing the emptyless cart forward.


who can understand my pain? who knows its cause?

is it not You Lord?

yet how shall i know You know? is it not through Your words? are there limits to how much i might know Your love?

my words betray me; they say what i really mean.

there are only exhausted avenues. where might i find solace in my pain?


keep me close to Your words. let my eyes not obscure them.

have i ever

have i ever told you
used my words to speak
instead of songs that nothing mean
masquerading in melodies

have i ever told you
use my voice to say
don’t divide between the sheets
and make that difference seen

have i ever told you
i love the rhymes you write
partnered with our love
distilled my heart to bitterness

have i ever told you
about this dream i had
where the silence spoke, and held your hand
and gave me room to breathe

black holes

for when my heart is cold, my fingers numb – when i think i can no longer repent. read His word and be amazed, be in awe once again.


I remember being stunned the first time i watched Interstellar; the scene with the black hole left me particularly speechless. I remember hitting pause on my laptop just to stare at the spectacle before me, cosmic vastness captured in 15 square inches. I remember being in awe of the amount of engineering that must have gone into recreating that scene, the work of organizations like NASA that have allowed us to even conceive of what a black hole looks like. The beauty and scale of the scene shook me.

Granted, it is easy to stun a Singaporean. We are a people who rarely look up, because the streetlight-stars we see are too small to shock. Hence, even the smallest flicker of an actual star is enough to set our hearts racing. Who would be surprised that the representation of a black hole would enthrall us so?

Yet even now I can remember moments when the beauty of nature stood before me, but I was left unmoved. Sunsets at the end of tiresome days, my eyes too weak, too drooped to catch even a beam. Days when I am a crescent moon turned into myself, all those moments of beauty I missed. It takes little to distract us, to chill our hearts that they remain cold even under the sun.


The Hebrews were like us in many ways. Constant in complaint, blind to God’s persistent grace and mercy. They were a people turned inward, people who looked to themselves as gods, who crafted for themselves gods.

Jeremiah 2:13 – ‘For my people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves —  cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.’

Another way of phrasing this: My people have rejected me, the best thing they could ever have, and have instead turned away towards false gods who cannot compare to me.

In other words, they remain numb to God – He no longer excites their hearts, no longer is He our fountain of living water.

The prophet Micah prophesied to Jerusalem, calling out their sin and speaking judgement upon the city of God.

Micah 6:12-14

“For the wealthy of the city are full of violence, and its residents speak lies; the tongues in their mouths are deceitful.

“As a result, I have begun to strike you severely, bringing desolation because of your sins.

“You will eat but not be satisfied, for there will be hunger within you. What you acquire, you cannot save, and what you do save, I will give to the sword.’

We often look at the judgement of Israel and Judah and think, ‘Indeed, the Israelites were horrible, stubborn people. They had it coming.’

For sure they did. Yet do these words not ring true for us today as well, even within the church? What then shall we do with these words of condemnation?

What stands out to me the most however is Micah’s final recorded words in 7:18-20.

Who is a God like you, forgiving iniquity and passing over rebellion for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not hold on to his anger forever because he delights in faithful love.

He will again have compassion on us; he will vanquish our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

You will show loyalty to Jacob and faithful love to Abraham, as you swore to our fathers from days long ago.’

Who is a God like you? These are the words of a man stunned! Shocked, laid bare, undone not by mighty power, but by incredible mercy and grace.
We are rarely stunned by God’s forgiveness because we rarely remember just how undeserving we are of it. The fact that we can repent and again hope in Jesus is amazing news!

It is easy to stun a Singaporean because he so rarely sees the stars, so when it comes he is amazed. How much more should we be stunned by the forgiveness of God when it extends to a people like us!
We are no different from the people of Israel. Have we not sinned, carving out our own little thrones to sit on? Do we not constantly reject his kingship, setting up our own rules and laws?

We are not a people who deserve forgiveness. We deserve death. Yet God’s forgiveness has extended to us. Who is a God like He? Who loves like He? Who is merciful like He?

Holiness is a summary attribute of God for He is so set apart – there is none like He, in any way, shape or form.
What then shall we do with the words of condemnation and judgement we read in the prophets?

Let them sink in. Let them strike your heart. Let yourself be made aware of your sin and how much you deserve His wrath.

Then turn to Jesus, and be amazed at the forgiveness God has given to us. Put your faith in Him and remember that He is yours forevermore.

Truly His mercy and love is like no other.


o Jesus, it is so hard to face the fact that i am not as humble as i thought i was, not as sure of you as i should be, not holy as you are holy. to find my heart still prideful, still hungry for affirmation – o Lord is there no freedom from this? might i find peace here?

yes, and no. help me to know – really know – the peace you give to me, the light and easy burden of fully-paid-for salvation. strengthen my weak knees in biblical theology, fill my broken heart with Christ-love, and stir me to worship you always.

yet not i

I labour on in weakness and rejoicing,
for in my need, His power is displayed.

To this I hold, my Shepherd will defend me,
through the deepest valley He will lead.
O the night has been won, and I shall overcome,
yet not I, but through Christ in me.

I labour on in weakness and rejoicing,
for in my need, His power is displayed.

yet not I, but through Christ in me.
not I, but Christ who lives in me.

3 body

we three bodies, masquerading as two.
when does the sun rise on you.
is the heat just as strong
to melt my heart all the way through.

give me dates, gives me notes
help me, i need to know
when you’re free,
and when i need to believe.

that the sun still rises, from east to west,
that i still believe what i see, though you keep the rest.
when i look to the stars, i’ll remember below
that you’re still here, please don’t go.

the beaches are blackened, our feathers don’t stick
drift, slowly move till you don’t feel it.
you said i won’t die,
but i don’t feel quite alive.

“every day we betray our identities”

telos, end-goal, finish point, the end of means, the means as end

the lord is patient with our different cloaks. every time we put on Christ we are reminded that there is another veil we must remove. every time we are reminded that we are children we make known our other families, our other lovers. there are a thousand other end-points, a thousand other ways to view myself, a thousand other ways to view others – yet this is the one set out for me.

there is no resting from rest. only the relentless reminder that there is no work left to be done to save myself. keep me squarely in this frame, in this mind; any other place and my feet will run away, thinking You are the mist among my works, my place earned by climbing, not resting.

it’s not that i move forward by standing still, but standing still i am lifted up, up and toward – all the running in the world can’t make you fly.

so what is this race i run? is it not toward my prize? yes, yet it has already been won, i know my crown is coming – help me still run, knowing that when the day comes i will not finish and collpase, so much as be given wings and carried to the place prepared for me.

but for now my feet are on the ground, and while i am still i am running. help me to centre on the gospel, where all the paradoxes of the world are made simple.

help me rest in you.

God, is your gospel big enough for class consciousness? for organic solidarity? does humanity even need explanation?

but God i want to know why people do what they do. why are we they way that we are? how do we think about ourselves? are we all that different? is that what we need?

i will sound like a fool, but is your gospel big enough to encapsulate my questions? to dismiss them? to help me dismiss them?

are we all just looking for gospels? lenses by which we might make sense of the world? is that all the gospel is – a mode indistinct, an un-outlined type that any can fill?

what are the glasses i need? can i even see?

“it’s not my job to make you feel like a man”

I really loved the movie. The Asian references were a refreshing sight, to have a movie (at least some parts of it) speak to a culture I not only understand, but am actually a part of. Limited in perspective, yes. Not quite what The Great Gatsby was to a hedonistic, excessive lifestyle, yes. But nonetheless I enjoyed it.

The storyline that really appealed to me however wasn’t Rachel and Nick, but Astrid and Michael. Their story, while uncoventional, treads familiar ground with a man unable to be a man, and a woman unable to be a woman. The line Astrid drops at the end of the movie, “It’s not my job to make you feel like a man”, still rings in my head.

Is that true?

Before we move on, let’s get some things clear. Michael was clearly in the wrong – no doubt about that. Astrid shouldn’t have to hide her wealth or spending habits to make Michael feel better about himself – that’s for certain.

So I guess from here on out I’m really taking the quote out of it’s original context, but I do believe the questions it raises are worth exploring.

What is the role of a woman to a man in a romantic relationship? Clearly not simply to “make him feel like a man” by hiding her wealth and status, but is there some truth to that statement? That a woman should help a man feel like a man? Certainly not in the way we would percieve “man” ie. its connotations of power and dominance. But perhaps in some ways? That she would help, no empower him, to fulfill his role as a man in the relationship.

Then we come to other side of the coin, where the role of a man is to help, no empower her, to fulfill her role as a woman in the relationship.

The original quote grounds itself in the definition of masculinity as power (financial, maybe social, in the case of the movie), and so Astrid’s retort is clearly appropriate. But if we were to take a step back not just from the movie, but from the very way we define what makes a “man”, perhaps we might reconsider whether such a phrase would be appropriate for all situations.

The narrative of Astrid and Michael paints a raw and bleak picture of what happens when a boy involves himself in something only a man should – that is marriage. But even within marriage, no man feels and behaves like one all the time. Marriage isn’t a static affair, where two parties grow individually, distinct from one another. They grow together, intertwining one with another – should not a woman help her man be a man, and a man help his woman be a woman?

We don’t love in a vacuum; why should we expect to grow in one? We bump and bruise and sharpen, each working for the other, each slowly shaping and being shaped.

What makes a man? What makes a woman?

What makes them work, together?