4 Things That Kept Our Long-distance Relationship Going for 4 Years.

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You know what’s super awkward?

Excitedly inquiring someone how their significant other is when they’ve totally broken up with them and currently hate their guts.

Happened to me. More times than I care to admit.

In a society where people change their partners like they change their socks, it’s not every day you meet someone who’s been dating the same person for more than a year, let alone do it over long distance.

This past Friday ( September 4th, 2015), Elynn and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary. It is exceptionally special since we have endured most of it being miles apart.

So, we’re like… unicorns in that respect. Rare and stuff.

Here are 4 things that has kept us from killing each other during these past 4 years:

1) Commitment

Someone once shared the following statement with me:

“It’s not the love that keeps the commitment; it’s the commitment that keeps the love.”

This sentiment couldn’t be truer in our relationship. Since we were physically apart for most of our relationship, we had to rely more on the commitment we had for each other rather than on the love we showed each other.

We also saw commitment as a muscle that needed to be exercised through love when we were in the same place. The more intentionally we loved each other when we were together, the stronger our commitment was when we were apart.

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that there were times, many times, where this commitment was tested either through internal struggles or external circumstances. A quick glance at the conflicts we’ve had in the past, however, reminded us of one thing:

Our conflicts were the flames in which our commitment was forged.

“Yea right. That’s cute and all, but conflicts wrecked our relationship, bro.”

I would agree with you. And I would want you to read till the end of the post. Because without #4, the above sentence is mush.

2) Communication

If our relationship was a body, communication might as well be oxygen.

Maintaining consistent communication was and still is a priority in our relationship. The times where we failed to communicate were inarguably some of the hardest times for us. Prioritizing communication early on taught us a few things:

  1. How we say it is as important as what we say. Approach is as important as content.
  2. Don’t take it personally unless specified.
  3. Affirmation is currency. The more you have, the more you can give and the better you feel.
  4. Listening is everything.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Consistent, effective, and honest communication was, and still continues to be, a life line to us.

3) Consideration

Our long distance relationship amplified both strengths as well as weaknesses. We celebrated our wins,  but we also over-analyzed our shortcomings at times. The strain caused by this sensitized us to each other’s proclivities to extents where we were frustrated with each other.

We realized early on that we had to assume the best of each other especially when things looked bleak. Jumping into conclusions is far easier than struggling to understand, but we realized that the quicker we learnt that, the easier it became for both of us in the long run.

How did this look like in our relationship?

When she didn’t text me for hours on end, I had to recognize that it’s not because she didn’t value me, but because she probably couldn’t text.

She had to realize that my lack of affirmation after a heated conversation didn’t come from a place of malice but of mere mindlessness.

And I can go on. The point is that we had to consider the best interest of the other to maintain a healthy relationship.

4) Christ

Glad you read up till this point. Or maybe you cheated and just jumped to #4 from #1.

At any rate, here’s that sentence I used earlier:

“our conflicts were the flames in which our commitment was forged.”

The flames are necessary for the forging. But if the forgery is left without a forger – one who is responsible for the forging – the flames can be counter-productive, and, in many cases, even dangerous.

The Forger in our relationship was also a carpenter at one point. He knows what type of treatment removes debris and purifies the substance at the same time. He knows where we are the weakest and where we thrive. He knows our end from the beginning and has been shaping us to be His masterpiece on display.

Without Him, all the forging would have melted us by now. We are glad that is not the case.

Reciprocal commitment, consistent communication, careful consideration and Christ has kept us going for 4 years.

Looking forward to 400 more. 🙂

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Does Prayer Really Make a Difference?

The Wilson household took prayer seriously.

Daily personal prayer as well as family prayer was encouraged. But growing up, I’ve often times wondered if prayer really made any difference.

Because what I’d known about prayer sometimes did not quite reflect the reality of my experiences.

For one, I couldn’t quite relate the unfathomable Bible stories with today’s context. Why can’t people call down fire from heaven, raise up people from the dead, or convert multitudes to faith in God, with a single prayer to God like those guys?
My experiences with prayer also made me question its veracity. Why doesn’t God answer certain prayers especially when they are so important to me?

I eventually realized that these questions stemmed from a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of prayer:

Prayer is not about bringing God to me. Prayer is about bringing me to God.

This realization led me to understand prayer as communication with a living God and not a calling bell for a cosmic butler. Just because some prayers are not answered the way I expect them to doesn’t mean they are not heard or answered. Nor does it mean that prayer is unreliable. Sometimes, the answer happened to be a “no” and I had to learn to trust the heart of God when I didn’t see his hand.

Prayer is communication. But does prayer really make a difference? I believe it does and here are just two reasons why.

1) It’s the direct 24/7 hotline to God.

We live in an age of accessibility. From recipes to reality shows, from DIY’s to daily news, everything is a mere click or a touch away. Communication, more than ever before in earth’s history, has inarguably become faster and easier. Social media has reduced the distance between colleagues and continents to a single Facebook message. But while my friend may be a tweet away, God is only a thought away.

We clamor for the latest gadgets with the fastest processing speeds, failing to realize that prayer has always had the fastest processing time. It has not only proved to be fast and convenient, but also significantly meaningful. In a world blighted by feel-good morals, and feeling-based theologies, God is a sure stronghold. And unlike friends who could possibly ditch a Skype call at a moment’s notice to meet some need, God is available 24/7, ever ready to meet mine.

2) There’s nothing else that helps me overcome my limitations

In the Bible, there’s a story about a man who was swallowed by a whale. The utter improbability of the story and its intended theology notwithstanding, this story, I suggest, may as well be a cautionary tale against man’s insatiable appetite for control and power. As long as we stay afloat, we pride ourselves for commandeering our ships across the chaotic sea of knowledge, navigating its waters with the trusty oars of technology and innovation. But occasionally, history repeats itself when the whales of worry, despair, or doubt devour us somewhere along the way. It doesn’t take too long after that to realize that the captain’s manual is of little use in the belly of the fish.

Life constantly reminds me of my limitations as a human being.

The Psalmist echoes this sentiment by likening man to a mere breath and his days to a “passing shadow.” All the accolades accrued and the security insured over the course of your life simply cannot compensate for the fragility of life, however much we may hate to admit it.

We live. We die.

But in God, we thrive. Strengthened by the grace of God, The apostle Paul exclaims that in Christ, when he’s weak, then he’s strong. This paradox can only be justified by Paul staying connected to God through prayer. Paul overcame his temporal weakness by relying upon the eternal strength of God through prayer.

Prayer is my life line. When I’m humbled and overcome by the storms of life, I pray. It’s almost instinctive.

The world has become smaller. As the lines between cultures and countries increasingly blur through the exploits of man, the boundaries between the Divine and us seem to expand. Consequently, we have become more adept at communicating with our fellow human beings while struggling to maintain a decent conversation with God.

I’ve come to realize that there is a strong correlation between my interactions with others and my interaction with God. When I pray more, I love more. When I pray more, I share more. When I pray more, I relate more. and the converse is also true. I challenge you to take a few minutes today to pray. Talk to God. Tell him about your day, your wishes, your likes, dislikes, anything. Yes, he does know everything. Yes, He is very much aware. Yes, it may seem like prayer is pointless.

But prayer is not about bringing God to you. It’s about bringing you to God.

And when you bring yourself to Him, your life changes.

So go ahead.

Close your eyes.

Pray.