We All Belong
by Alyssa Ong
When I received the invitation to write in Val’s blog, I honestly went…
Flip, where do I start?
I guess the best place to start would be telling you my name. So hi! My name is Alyssa, I currently reside in this beautiful lit island called Singapore. I spent my childhood in this homeland of mine which I then subsequently migrated to another island(s) called New Zealand for the next 12 years. So now, I find myself completing two cycles of island hopping, back to Singapore – a place I now call home.
Reflecting on how the last year had been having moved back for almost a year now, all I can say is that God, you are one good storyteller. The best there is. Like most, there were times of sadness, struggles, crazy adventures and good times that have made this first year a great one. Nonetheless, what has kept me going is having the true joy that comes with walking with God in daily communion with the Holy Spirit. Through this year, I have experienced His promise of being an ever present Father, a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He has given me his joy, which was and is my strength and shield (Psalms 28:7). My heart is overwhelmed with thanksgiving even as I’m typing these words.
Looking at my jar of stories, encounters and revelations, one that sticks out and one that I would say is close to my heart is culture. Not culture in the sense of the heritage or ethnic group I was born into. Not even the countries or societies I have lived in or where my family is from. No, but culture of which is the very DNA of my values, thought patterns and actions. I truly believe and would like to suggest that Kingdom Culture is one that all who calls Jesus Christ their Lord and Saviour belong to. A culture that is relevant and relatable to every race. The pattern of living and being that has not changed through the ages, even as the world has.
You might be thinking, this sounds good and somewhat convincing but what does that actually look like in my everyday life? This was the journey that Jesus took me on.
Before coming back to Singapore, I was aware of the various attributes that were common to this country. Some of which I felt were good, others not so much. Thus, I was very determined to ‘stay true’ to myself and not be influenced by this culture and social norms. To say the least, having lived here a year now, it’s easier said than done. In addition to being newly back to this country, I currently work for a company which has employees from two dominant cultures that don’t overlap much in commonality. I often find myself stuck in the middle, not knowing which side I belong to. I admit, the struggle is real!
One example, which might seem trivial but I was somewhat taken back by a seemingly divided and cold working environment. One thing that I found particularly strange was that a majority people do not greet each other in the morning at the office. This brought extra consciousness to the Good Mornings and How are yous that I used to say so naturally to whomever I see when walking into the office. Often I think maybe this is just how the office culture is. I should be the same. They wouldn’t initiate saying hi, so why bother being friendly? Do they think I’m weird? If I do the same, it would seem to fit into this environment better... Probably would be more normal and easier.
BUT – here comes the big but – this wouldn’t and didn’t rest well with my heart and spirit. I asked myself why. The simple answer is because God is love and God loves. The two pillars, which our faith and lives are built upon, are Love God and Love your neighbour (Matthew 22:36-40). We love because he first loves us. Therefore, love is our mandate, love is what we carry. Love doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t choose, it’s freely given. And thus, God’s love that abides in me does not have a switch. There’s no turning off, it’s always switched on.
"...love is our mandate, love is what we carry.
Love doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t choose, it’s freely given."
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Kingdom Culture stems from knowing that you are a child of God. All of his promises are true and they are for you. This is first and foremost my identity –a life that is hidden in Christ.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Therefore, Alyssa planted in any country, any environment or context is the same. It really is liberating to know that I don’t have to conform to the ways which my environment dictates. I can choose the values to adopt and those to reject. This is the freedom that I believe God desires us to be living in. There is a pattern of living that is best, one that is according to Kingdom ways (Romans 12:2). This is us knowing that we are first and foremost children of God before any other title we may carry in this life.
My actions align with what my heart carries. Even if it’s not a social or cultural norm, it no longer matters. Yes it might be awkward or maybe even uncomfortable and it’s okay! I understand – totally! Thus, drawing back to my earlier example, I came to a point where I decided not to resist the Holy Spirit and gave him full control of my heart, speech and actions. A daily choice of living a life surrendered to him. This is more than just being friendly, it is shining his light.
"This is more than just being friendly,
it is shining his light."
As Christians, we have the mandate in this life – to bring the reality and love of Christ into our seemingly dark and broken world. This is the very core of Kingdom Culture. What we carry is hope. The language we speak is love.
The best part of this culture is that it is inclusive; it’s a wide open door. It is a family that always has room for more. Your heavenly father is waiting at the door with open arms saying come home.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
– Parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15)
about the author
As I have mentioned before, I'm Alyssa. Apart from moving back to Singapore from New Zealand, I'm currently a corporate chick but always have a country heart. I like empty spaces with greenery and a view. I love coffee, and put that with meeting new people, that's the best situation! There is something amazing about knowing people from different backgrounds, culture and upbringing.