A woman’s vocation

The Woman …

Sometimes I wonder how we are to be referred – the fairer sex or the inferior one? Depending on one’s state of mind, each woman may find her definition alternate from time to time. I’m not sure why we were created..different Scriptures portray different explanations, with the Bible claiming that ‘woman’ was created a while after man, simply because man could not find any other suitable companion from all the rest of creation, and then generations could only come forth from and with the ‘woman’. Hence our status cannot be judged as inferior nor superior but rather mandatory.

The world today has thankfully come a long way in recognising the importance of women, though reluctantly not yet. I say this because despite having women employers, business owners, and even politicians, her capacity is still doubted upon, her strength is still questioned. Errors committed by women politicians will make greater headlines than the countless scams committed by men century after century. Her mistakes were because she was a woman, his mistakes was because he’s after all human.

The biggest setback a woman faces is when she decides to swim against the regular tide – when she plans to live differently, when she makes decisions that ‘normal’ women don’t make. It seems like the entire world is waiting for her failure, and to say ‘ I told you so’. I have been a victim of similar circumstance when I decided to forgo my marriage plans for the time being. A few years ago, I decided not to join the marathon of over anxious women who want to tie the knot before the ‘Age-30-deadline’. Unfortunately this decision is not well received in the asian subcontinent. Some of the most challenging questions I’ve encountered almost once every week are: ‘Don’t you feel you will eventually get lonely and depressed? Did you fail in love? Do you have any permanent physical or mental disabilities? Are you trying to lose weight first? Is it not a sin? How much longer do you plan to stay irresponsible? Why are you increasing your parents’ burden? Do you tend to get rejections a lot? Are you homosexual?’ Like these are not enough, I’ve even openly received forecasts about myself: ‘If you get married later, you will get all old and useless men…If you marry late, your kids will be physically deformed or perhaps you wont have any…you will be a scandal in every house, no woman will call you to her home for fear of the effect you may have on her husband (wow!!)’

In all of the above statements and questions, if looked upon really closely, one can find the absence of God in their lives. If each of the above are to be even slightly believed, then their faith in God is merely lip service, and marriage therefore only remains to them as a means of duty and task achievement. Its important to realise that everyday is a vocation given by God. A vocation is a Divine call, whereby one is needed to complete / fulfill / beautify / experience something to achieve the purpose for which he or she was created. And if such vocations can be respected in a man, it should be equally respected in a woman; therefore entrust all to God, for He will be the One behind every grace, every miracle and every beloved call.


Love and Godly love

I have been thinking a lot about love lately. There used to be a time when I thought true love exists only in movies and I know I am not alone.Love has to be most celebrated of all human emotions. I believe most women secretly admire great love stories/movies because there is a little girl inside her who wants to be swept off her feet by someone who is madly in love with her. A woman wants to be the most beautiful and loved person for her man and ideally it is a man who will go to great lengths to attain it. Which woman does not like to be chased for love?

Where love stories end in movies, it begins in real life. Suddenly you realise the mysterious aura of your lady love irritates your very being or the wild side of your man you once so admired has completely lost its charm. And many other such traits become undesirable. Marriage is not easy. No one can prepare for it before taking the leap. Love in a marriage is not infatuation but love in spite of the differences of opinions, attitudes, culture and priorities. Not many are willing to live for this love and fewer get to taste it.

True love is unconditional and it need not be returned in the same level as given or may not be returned at all. This concept is difficult to fathom as it means to completely love a person with your whole being and letting go of ego and pride in the process. It is not for everyone which is why great love stories live over time. It involves pain, hurt, sacrifice and compromise. It is what man has lived, died and fought for and to find it is a great treasure.

My love experience with the Divine can be described as mostly an on and off relation to mortal terms. I do love Him and I also realise it is a selfish love. Conditional from my side and unconditional from His. Yet in many ways small and big I see His love, gestures and messages.  But I sometimes wonder if He loves others more than me. There would be others who are more good, righteous, prayerful and leading a better Christian life. Am I doing enough?  Does God have a favourite?  He surely would love Mother Teresa and the rest of the saints more than me. What chance do I have when there are so many worthy of His love? Hard to understand how He loves us all equally and I know He does. No matter how imperfect I am, I know He could not love me less. Because I am beautiful in His eyes, selfish and imperfect that I may be. That is love. Pure, unconditional and true.


And life slips away

The other day I came across a random article about how the earth could be hit by an asteroid in the year 2040. I am interested in astronomy due to my brief glimpses of the solar system episodes on NatGeo which I find very fascinating. So I read this article which goes on to explain how the earth has a 1 in 625 probability of being hit by this asteroid and that scientists are working out ways to try and deflect this collision. What caught my eye was that 2040 was another 28 years away. I quickly calculated how old I would be that year. I would be almost 60 in 30 years.That could not be right, I thought. I couldn’t have just 30 years to be a senior citizen.

But the fact is that it is true. In the passing and often seemingly boring days I keep forgetting that time is racing by. It is already the third month of the year and soon I will turn another year older. What pricks my conscience though is the fact that I have not done anything productive with my life. I read somewhere once that no matter how bad my day is, I should thank myself for simply being alive as someone else around the world is fighting just to survive. Sometimes I get these messages coming to me from the least expected places and I piece them together to realise an important truth. In this case it is simply that I am letting my life slip away.

I fail to acknowledge the fact that each new day is a gift from the Lord.  It is easy to ignore the small miracles in search for the larger and often material blessings. Everyone has a different way of connection with the Divine and my way of connecting with Him is through nature. When I am caught up in the beauty of the mountains, sea, earth, plants and flowers; I feel His presence. It is a very personal and beautiful experience of God and such encounters prove to me that I serve a mighty God. But why do I not see this beauty everyday?

Sometimes, I imagine a silly childish scenario of my after- life, which is not my view in the normal world.  In my make- vision I imagine that I die and go up to the huge white pearly gate where I would assume Peter in his white robe would take out my book of life and weigh my positives versus the negatives. What I hope is finally when I meet God and He asks me what have I done with His gift of life to me, I am able to tell Him without remorse and regret that I have done something constructive with my limited time on earth. That I have not wasted it in hopes of leaving my happiness on others and live in regret on not doing what I wanted. And that I have been able to use my talents (again His gift) on earth and  have done a small albeit tiny part in making the world a better place.


The talent

Its been a month since the weather has remained faithfully hazy. The clouds of suspended dust, the sudden sandstorms and the morning smogs have taken a toll over my eyes. I’ve never been particularly allergic or sensitive, but the recurrent eye infections as well as blurry vision at work forced me to take an appointment with the ophthamalogist over the weekend.

At the clinic, I expected to find many with similar ailments, but apparently I seemed to be the only patient in-waiting with an eye swelling. After the examination, the doctor confirmed a minor non-contagious infection, reasoned that the blurry vision was due to eye strain, but expressed concern over the recurrency. She hinted it could be a rise in blood sugar levels and recommended I check at once. My heart raced; I did not want to be diagonosed so young with the dreaded disease and paced myself to the pathology lab with a request for express test results. After the test, I was informed that it would take 3 hours for the report, so I was shown into the waiting room.

While I was seated I noticed I was directly opposite a glass door of the chilren’s ward room. Little kids all in hospital pyjamas were strewing across the section, giving the nurses a hard time with their childish antics. Just then, my heart almost skipped a beat, my eyes widened and my body paused into a virtual statue. Through the glass doors, in the kid’s ward was a volunteer I knew very well…..and what was he doing here??

Flashback Year 1998: Venue – Christmas Festival, High School grounds – back then I used to be a complete geek in school with no sense of fashion, trends or any of the ‘popular stuff’. I lived in the surburban area, and hence had very few friends…actually a single best friend – Janet. She was nowhere to be seen during the festival so I wandered aimlessly around the game kiosks having played almost all and won nothing. Just when I was about to call it a day, I met Henry. Henry left our school 8 years ago to shift to a boarding school back in his home country. He had obviously changed in built and stature, but still recognisable. After I called his name, he was surprised to find someone who recognised him after all those years. “Yes I remember you too” he said, “in fact I remembered you all these years and hoped to find you. I even kept a card ready in case I finally met you” and he handed over a greeting card with the words “Merry Christmas Sweetheart”. I was taken by surprise, and my head suddenly tuned to Backstreet Boys ‘As long as you love me’. We had an amazing chat for the next twenty minutes or so, remembering old times, till I finally said that I had to return home. I was so eager to attend school next day felt like I was among the ‘popular’ girls and having met someone this festival. I went over to Janet, who seemed to have an equal mouthful of news. “I met someone!”, she exclaimed, before I could pop the same line. ” Do you remember Henry? the cute guy who used to study with us? He recognised me, and said he was waiting for me all these years & even carried this card with him incase he found me”, promptly showing me a ditto card that I had received the previous night. Her face was still cherry red while mine switched to blue. After her excited one- breath recollection of the event finally came to a halt, she managed to ask me “so what you got?” I didn’t have much to say, but showed her the card I got which was self-explainatory. With the infatuation now sizzled off, we both realised that there was no addressee inside the card, but it simply said “From your ever loving Henry”.

I never met him after that, and 14 years forward, I am now just 6 feet apart, separated by glass doors (thankfully) and feeling a surge of embarrassment. I looked around the waiting room for a vacant seat that would prevent me from catching his sudden view, but didnt find any. I prevented making any sudden moves that would stir up attention. I was angered for having seeing him at such an anxious time, and angry at myself for having had to fall for his gimmick at school.  I had outgrown all my insecurities over the years and this guy brings it up in a couple of seconds.

An hour passed, and he hadn’t noticed me yet. I took the opportunity to check what he was upto and it seemed he wore a volunteer’s badge and was busy assisting nurses and entertaining children. The kids were crowded around him amazed at his card tricks, balloons and ipod music. I noticed his talent – the natural ability to charm, and he seemed to use it well among these sick patients. Everyone – from the agonising to the recovering had a smile on their face. Perhaps it was the same 14 years ago; All he ever did was make a non-popular girl feel special, and it was my immaturity to overthink & brand him in a negative spot. What he was doing here, was something I could never comfortably go about doing. Thankfully, my reports arrived with my sugar levels well within the normal range. As I exited from the glass door, thanking God for my health I glanced at him as he pushed a wheelchair of a little girl. He looked at me but didn’t recognise, and I sweetly waved at the girl and smiled.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” [Is 55:8]


Parental love

Parenting is one of the most important and fulfilling  role a person could perform in his entire life, if one decides to be a parent that is. Most couples wait eagerly for this stage in their marriage- a chance  to upgrade their bond of love to a new level.   Parents also  have high hopes for each of their children and  pin all their expectations on their offspring. In the process, they tend to forget that children are not vessels to fulfill their own unmet dreams and that they too have their own goals and aspirations.

When I look into the lives of many of the families of my parent’s generation, I realise that many parents play favouritism with their children. I do not know if this is intentional or not, but it is very much evident in some cases. Having been subjected to this myself, I have often wondered the reason for this. What I find most intriguing is when I realise that most parents who do this were themselves  subjected to being second fiddle to their siblings in childhood. In other words, they were not the favourites of their own parents. One would assume that not being the most favoured child would make them realise the consequences of this action. That they would not repeat this with their own children. However, I wonder why this doesn’t happen. They say that a mother cannot love one son more than the other. I do not believe this is true in real life. All parents have favorites, some are better at concealing it than the others.

Recently a friend confided in me about his father who reminds him that his younger brother is smarter. He has had to live with this from childhood and may  continue living with it for the rest of his life. When he told me this it made me feel really sad, maybe because I have experienced  favouritism in my own childhood. It is difficult to deal with people who think you are not intelligent everyday. Its more difficult to love them and forgive. The unspoken hurt caused   due to such actions or words often mature  into feelings of inadequacy and depression. It is sad to see this happen because of one’s own parents.

Our birth into a particular family is a decision which we have no control over. We have no choice in selecting our parents and hence they were not ‘chanced’ upon us. We are in their family for a definite reason, whether we realize it now or later.  If we understand that God places difficult people in our lives to strengthen us, we would look at them in a new light. The world did not even spare Jesus from taunts and rejection and He came down as a human so that we could relate to Him as a person. Jesus was a  God who was not showered with praises by His people, but suffered one of the worst forms of death and humiliation. People walk into our lives for a purpose and all of them are learning curves for a better us. We just have to see them as how Jesus would see them. Created in the image of  God. No matter how harsh they may act towards us, His grace will lead us to the realisation that God who is the creator of the entire universe loves us more than we could ever imagine.  This is a powerful and humbling thought. After all, there can be no love greater than our Heavenly Father.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, these may forget, yet I will not forget you! Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.”  Isaiah 49:15-16


Recognising God’s Child

Its Oscar fever! Every english movie channel on the tube seems to feature a marathon of the Academy Awarded films from the classics to the latest. Its a movie buff’s haven to be spoilt with choice from ‘Gone with the Wind’ to the ever elaborate ‘Titanic’, & most of these quality films are noticeably over two-hours in duration. So unless you are completely at leisure, its impossible to enjoy an entire film on a working day.

A week ago I caught up upon ‘Dead Man Walking’. It was showing after dinner time, & I had missed a vital half hour of the film. By synopsis, the movie is about a catholic nun who is requested by a criminal on death row to be his spiritual advisor. The accused man was sentenced for having raped & killed a teenage girl and her boyfriend along with an accomplice. Sean Penn plays the arrogant, cold, & typically racist murderer to be executed, while Susan Sarandon does an admirable job of the nun who emotionally connects with both the victim & the condemned. For the short time that I managed to watch the movie, two dialogues caught my attention: First, when the father of the murdered daughter, having refused to forgive the criminal explains to the nun, ‘He doesn’t deserve to be called an animal, even animals don’t rape & murder their own kind’; & the second was when the nun tells the murderer just minutes before the execution that he is a ‘Child of God’ & consequently he breaks down having set aside all his mighty arrogance he held on for so long.

That night during my reflection, I happened to agree with the victim’s father in standing by his decision to punish someone for such brutality. I myself am a protective person, & I have difficulty tolerating my temper against a person who may have misbehaved with any of my younger siblings. The next morning, the dialogues (still fresh in my memory) compelled me to research more into the film. It seems it was an adaptation of a book, based on a real story and authored by the nun herself, Sister Helen Prejean. She highlighted the need to choose life imprisonment instead of capital punishment in order to give the condemned time to return to Our Father. Ironically, the criminal’s last words addressed to the victims’ parents was that he hoped his death would bring them solace. He died peacefully, whereas the victims’ parents continued to live in hate & resentment to the extent that a few years later the father of the victim suffered from a major stroke. It is here I realised that forgiveness is a healing grace which fills you with the courage to live & let go.

It is easy to understand that we are all imperfect & that our Father still loves us. But we have difficulty in fathoming why we need to love those who commit atrocities against us. It was important for me to learn that love is not the fondness or romance displayed in a relationship. It is simply the courage to forgive. It is the grace that sustained King David for his murder, the grace that healed the paralytic man, & the same grace that gives matrimony its sacramental value.

“And if you love those who love you, what good is it? Don’t pagans do the same?” (Mt 5:46)


God-time!

Yesterday I received a Divine Answer to a question that had been worrying me for a month. The ‘answer’ came in as a beautiful feeling of peace. I am finally not troubled anymore. 

Before I go on to detail the troubled question and the answer I was seeking, I need to narrate a rather sweet experience at my office today. A colleague, (whose parents had left for their home country a year ago) was missing her family immensely as she passed Shrove Tuesday without her favorite pancakes that her mother prepared all these years. It is her first Lenten season without them and she was nostalgic the entire day about what it would have been had they been around. By mid-day she received a parcel via courier. She opened the sealed bag to find a prayer book and a list of ‘things to do during Lent’. Her father had sent the sweet surprise and yes, she was ever-grateful. We spoke at length about the list, which in fact was an itenary for all 50 days – the days she will to go to church, the days she will visit a sick person at the hospital, the day she will cook something new for a laborer, etc. A wonderful itenary, i thought. She tried to call her father to thank him, but he was unreachable. A few hours passed, and she came into my cubicle screaming, “Guess what!! My dad is here! this parcel is dated today, and the sender’s address is my home!” She frantically dialled her landline and indeed was confirmed by her dad’s voice on the other end. She cried, she laughed and was still holding the phone with disbelief. Her father asked, “what took you so long?”, apparently disappointed that she took the entire day to realise. When she finally ended the conversation, even I seemed to have the same question: What finally made her realise? “The prayerbook”, she explained, “is from home, I was wondering how it landed in my parcel!!”. In short, she missed the first obvious hint of the prayerbook, and then the next hint being the sender’s address on the courier label.

Evening came, and it was time to leave the office, my over-joyed colleague accompanied me to the exit, and said that she promised she would spend each day fully with her parents, as they were here for a month and thus celebrate Lent together.

That night during my reflection, it dawned on me the complete reason why I had to experience the scenario for today. My colleague always knew her father was the ‘surprise-type’ but she underestimated the extent of his surprise. I reflected, how often I underestimate my heavenly Father in His daily gifts, by failing to look at ‘the obvious’. A month ago I was fervently looking upon changing my career, and I passed a particular job interview on all 3 stages. My final interview however was the one with the CEO of the firm, and for some reason I was disqualified. The result was shocking – not because I was disqualified, but because if my Father knew I would fail in the final, why raise my hopes with each passing level? Today, I came to know that a team member (from my department) was due to resign by end of this month. It would have been a terrible blow to my company if both of us had to resign at the same time. I finally got my answer that it was not the right time for me. All the same, it ws required that I pass the interview levels so as not to lose confidence in myself.

Now, piecing the two office events, i came to know how my Father speaks to me. He speaks to us in unique ways – for some it may be surprises, for others through people, and for others through answers. It is very vital to understand this mode of communication; thats the sole purpose of Lent; thats exactly how Jesus spent 40 days and nights knowing His Father, and like my colleague, I too promise to spend each lenten day giving my Father the Divine time He deserves.