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20/20 Vision

20/20 Vision is a terminology used when testing the vision of eyes. 20/20 Vision is considered a normal vision in medical terms. Half way through this year this thought came to my mind and I wanted to pen down my thoughts but it never materialised. Today I decided to write it up as 2020 is officially getting over in a matter of few hours though what I am sharing is not just about 2020 but the 20/20 vision.

Every single year we start with new visions, hopes, dreams and plans and when we reflect towards the end of the year there will be wins and fails but most of us persevere and keep pushing forward but few of them give up. This year was different in a way that our visions, hopes, dreams and plans were severely altered by one common factor which was the virus and the management of this virus outbreak.

As I reflect on what I have read, pondered and watched, the virus itself did very little damage compared to the related issues it created which included extended lockdowns, rising mental health issues, suicides, domestic violence, financial hardships and the list keeps going. Even before the year ended, too many people gave up on their dreams, visions, hopes and plans as they couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel but majority of the people I know didn’t lose much in these terms. Just like me they had the privilege to work from home, get a new job or financial assistance. Sadly, majority of these people were the ones supportive of the lockdown and did very less to support or bother to care of those who lost everything. But the best part was that it separated the wheat and the chaff and exposed people to who they actually are compared to who they portray themselves to be.

2020 was all over the place personally for me just like it was for most of us but the best part was the completion of my Diploma of Counselling from Australian Institute of Family Counselling. This course widened my perspective and gave me great insight into the intricacies of relationships and how little we understand each other whether it be parents, siblings, co-workers, partners, community groups, relatives, friends and even best pals. The important lesson that I learned was we generally tend to listen to respond than to actually listen. What a world of difference it makes to actually listen to a person to understand than to respond. When I did more of that I was able to understand more clearly what they were saying beyond the words and I was able to set healthy and safe boundaries in a way that I am accountable for my actions and ensure that the other party is held accountable for theirs too. I learned a whole lot but I just want to focus on these two now which helped me reset my vision back to normal.

Setting healthy and safe boundaries would mean different things to different people but whenever we don’t have an absolute moral standard to go by, we will be overdoing or underdoing things. For me it is the Word of God that sets the standard. I wouldn’t say that I am upholding the standard 100% but I know when I fail and I know where I have to reach and what I have to do to reach to that standard. Gladly as a Christian when I fail, I have the help of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God but it is never an excuse to continue in my ways and expecting things to change but to rise up and move forward and persevere even more with the help of the Holy Spirit.

As this year is coming to an end, as usual we love to have renewed hopes, plans, dreams and visions. What I have learned is to come to the normal 20/20 vision first so that I can start to see things clearly before I can see what is beyond.

In Matthew 6:22,23 Jesus says this

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

There was a quote I read recently

“In our rush to get back to normal, we should ask ourselves ‘what parts of normal are worth rushing back to?’

The answer for me is a normal 20/20 vision which got me more focused on the realities of life, the intricacies of relationships, listening to understand and not to respond and to be accountable and hold others accountable for their actions. In short to live up the standards set by God and not stoop low or go high to the expectations of others.

The Bible clearly says about the nature of people in the last days in I Timothy 3:1-5 and it is a good checklist to see if we relate to any of these. If we relate to one or more of this, it is time to change our behaviour and get back to the right standard.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 

Several lives have been ebbed out this year due to the virus and issues related to the way this outbreak was handled on top of other deaths. The fact is, we don’t get to live for eternity in this earth but we get to prepare for eternity with our loving Heavenly Father. Our death may precede or succeed His second coming and we all have to stand before that judge. He is a righteous judge and His standards are already set. Just like all other prophecies about Him has been fulfilled and nation of Israel is the very proof of that He will come.

Acts 17:24 – 31

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Let the new year be a year of renewed hope and renewed passion to seek after things that really matter. Invest time in relationships while at the same time set safe and healthy boundaries, listen more and talk less, be doers and not just preachers and let it reflect in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual areas of our lives.

“God has not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; God has not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain. But God has promised strength for the day, rest for the labour, light for the way, grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing sympathy, undying love”. – Annie Johnson Flint

Abuse Against Women – Reasons and Solutions

Domestic Violence

Three Dowry-related Deaths in Kerala Over 24 Hours Stirs Anger, SIT to Probe Cases

https://www.news18.com/news/india/three-dowry-related-deaths-in-kerala-over-24-hours-stirs-anger-sit-to-probe-cases-3878906.html

24-year old Vismaya V Nair was found dead in Kiran’s house early Monday, days after she shared on WhatsApp chats with close relatives alleged torture by her husband”.

“At Vallikunnam in Alappuzha, 19-year-old Suchitra was found hanging at her in-law’s place. Her husband Vishnu, an Army jawan, was away from home”.

“At Venganoor in Thiruvananthapuram, 24-year-old Archana, who got married a year ago, allegedly immolated herself. The police have arrested her husband Suresh, who tried to escape from their rented house. Archana’s parents alleged that Suresh used to quarrel with his wife and had demanded money from her family. Archana was staying with her parents, but Suresh took her back to their rented house on Monday, said her father Ashokan”.

Dowry, though it is officially illegal in India is still prevalent because parents are willing to pay a huge dowry to marry off their daughter and the groom’s family are constantly on the look out for a potential daughter-in-law who can bring in a big dowry. Hence, both sides are to be blamed equally. However, parents who have daughters have been mentally conditioned to invest their live-savings for giving a decent dowry and organise a lavish wedding for their daughter. If they have a son, they expect the same with their daughter-in-law’s family too. So, pretty much it boils down to pleasing the society that we live. Sadly, there are hundreds of women whose lives have been destroyed like these 3 young women and several thousands quietly put up with the abuse for the sake of their parents, for their children, fear of being judged or because they simply don’t know how to handle it.

Many women I have seen live in abuse without even knowing that they are being abused. There are statistics suggesting that men also undergo abuse, but it isn’t comparable to the way women go through abuse. I am not negating it nor condoning it but that shouldn’t get in the way when speaking up about the abuse women face. People automatically assume that women who are educated and have good relationship with their parents wouldn’t put up with abuse. However, I have seen just the opposite. Majority of those who live in abuse are those who are well educated and have good relationship with their parents. This makes me think that may be their social status, their family’s reputation, and the love they have for their parents makes them put up with the abuse than reaching out to them with their issues.

Like every other issue we face in life, we must deal with the issue and not cover up and hope things will get better. It simply doesn’t work that way. I have just given a brief description of the various types of abuse a woman may face.

Physical abuse – Physical abuse in a relationship often starts gradually, such as with a push or a slap, and then becomes progressively worse over time.

Emotional abuse – Emotional abuse can involve any of the following:

Verbal abuse: yelling at you, insulting you or swearing at you

Rejection: Constantly rejecting your thoughts, ideas and opinions

Gaslighting: Making you doubt your own feelings and thoughts, and even your sanity, by manipulating the truth.

Sexual abuse: Many common indicators of a sexually abusive partner exist, including the following:

Asking the victim to dress in a particular way

Manipulating the victim into performing specific sexual acts

Insulting the victim with sexually explicit nicknames

Demanding sex even when the victim is sick, physically hurt or fatigued

Ignoring or disregarding the victim’s feelings about sex

Dowry-related abuse: Any act of violence or harassment associated with the giving or receiving of dowry at any time before, during or after the marriage

Financial abuse: Financial abuse involves controlling a victim’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain financial resources. Those who are victimized financially may be prevented from working. They also may have their own money restricted or stolen by the abuser.

Every family situation is different but we as human beings cannot live an independent life without others involved. However, if there is abuse in any relationship especially with the intimate partner, it means that there is a necessity of intervention immediately. The issue immediately raises as to who should intervene and what role they should play in the intervention process. Any intervention against an abuser will not be taken lightly by the abuser hence there should be strong measures to protect the victim of abuse so that they feel confident to reach out to the support services.

It is important for every parent to treat their sons and daughters equally so that when they grow up it would be natural for a man to treat a woman as their equal and the woman to respect the man. As parents you work for your family and your children which is quite natural but don’t forget to live your life as well. Don’t give or take dowry. Whatever you wish to give your children, give it to your son and your daughter and not to the groom’s family or bride’s family or your son-in-law or daughter-in-law. Leave enough savings for yourselves for your retirement as well and be self-sufficient. Teach your children to be self-sufficient as well and not rely on their partner to fulfil even their basic needs and let what you give them be used with their own discretion.

Marriage is a union between a man and a woman and not a contract between two families. A woman doesn’t get married to take care of the husband’s parents and vice-versa. It is the responsibility of the children to take care of their own parents which too many men don’t seem to understand. When love, trust and mutual respect grows between the man and his wife, other relationships will flourish naturally and it can never be the other way around.

Now that I have penned down my thoughts, share this with your family and friends and create a safe space for those who can identify with these abuses to open to you. If you have a sister or a daughter who is married, share it with them too and tell them that you are there for them. You might not be the best person to intervene or counsel them, but you can be part of their support system and encourage them to speak up. Based on where they are located, you can do some research and find out the best people to assist them and help them out.

A final note to my Christian friends who are going through abuse. Do not let an abuser use Bible verses to teach you about submission. Reach out to your pastor or elders in your Church if you are going through abuse. If you hear the same message from them, please reach out to a Christian Counsellor. Please read this article to get more information https://garythomas.com/2016/11/29/enough-enough/

Let the definition of love not be marred by abuse. Speak up for those who don’t have a voice and let it echo everywhere so that we don’t see such deaths and abuses in future.

Accountability – A Christian Perspective

Webster’s Dictionary defines “accountability” as “the quality or state of being accountable; an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions.” Accountability doesn’t mean punishment. Accountability is a willingness to accept responsibility for our own actions.

This word carries a lot of weight and it isn’t an easy task. However, by the very definition it is clear that it is a great virtue and it is important to pursue it. Taking accountability for our own actions and holding others accountable both requires a great deal of courage. The former requires humility and the latter requires a hunger for righteousness. While it can mean different things to different people, as a Christian the standards are already set so it isn’t a matter of how to find it but on making it possible in our day to day lives.

Whether it be politics, religious organisations or private organisations, the leaders tend to set up the accountability very clearly for others who work under them but it is not an easy task to setup accountability for them. The same applies to relationships whether it be family, friends, children or spouses. While in an organisational setup it would be a hierarchical structure in relationships it is more likely to be a circular structure. There cannot be perfectness as we live in a fallen world but anywhere we see this has been given more importance will definitely thrive whether it be organisations or relationships.

Jesus, when He walked on this earth over 2000 years ago was the only one who was able to live out this 100% and how He did it is made evident in the gospels. He is the one whom we have to look up to. His Kingdom is the only one that will never be shaken and it is important to build our relationships with Him in our circle. He not only gives us courage, humility and increases our hunger for righteousness but makes it practical in our lives when we surrender every aspect of it to Him.

Regardless of the sinless and guiltless life Jesus lived when He lived in this earth, He wasn’t beyond reproach but no one could prove that He was sinful or guilty. When they couldn’t find proof, they just made some statements and cooked up stories. Hearing their argument, even Pontius Pilate wasn’t convinced and he made it point blank that he didn’t find any fault with Jesus to the chief priests and the crowd. But the very chief priests who had to uphold the law gave Him up. The reason why they wanted to crucify Jesus is mentioned in Luke 23:5.

“He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.”

When I read this I couldn’t continue without pausing and reflecting on their actual motives. Jesus was sharing a different and powerful message and His fame is reaching to distant lands and it had to be shut at any cost. I could find similarities in our current world in events that happened in recent times which bears a lot of resemblance.

In this case, Jesus was hung on the Cross with the inscription “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS”. The chief priests couldn’t simply tolerate it so they had to go back and tell Pilate to rephrase it as Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews which Pilate refused. May be Pilate was fully convinced that the chief priests and the crowd were at fault but he cared less about the innocence of Jesus than to appease the chief priests and the crowd.

In Luke 23:50,51 we talk about one man who had a different understanding and perspective

50 Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God.

He just went to Pilate, asked for Jesus’ body, took it down from the Cross, wrapped it in linen and laid it in the tomb. The characteristics of Joseph is what stood out when I read this. He was good, just, didn’t consent to the multitude’s decision and deed. He had the courage to go to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body and as he was waiting for the kingdom of God, his faith was unshaken. He believed the message Jesus conveyed before His death and just waited for God’s timing.

The chief priests made sure that the tomb was secured as if they can forever bury The Truth and in Matthew 28:11-15 their plan is mentioned when they found out that The Truth had resurrected.

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The most important part in this passage is the last sentence that this cooked up story was widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. Till date, there are several people who believe that Jesus never died on the Cross which changes the complete Christian message but it still prevails because Truth doesn’t stay dead.

As a conclusion from reading from Jesus’ life, the perfect man, The God Incarnate who walked this earth showed us The Way. Let Him be the ultimate role model for us to live a fully accountable life and holding others accountable. Do not let anyone dilute the standard set by Him but abide in His grace to work out our Salvation with trembling and fear.

May God bless you!!