One night, out of desperation for a new bedtime story for my two happiest little people, I shared with them a funny story I heard from a visiting pastor in Church. A town by the seaside was hit by a thunderstorm which caused a serious flash flood. A religious man and his household panicked to search for a safe shelter. Soon the water level rise to their waist level and the man with his wife and their children decided to climb to safety at the rooftop of their wooden house. A boat came by with a couple offering to ferry the troubled family to a higher ground near the mountain area. The man politely declined the offer saying that God would bring him to safety but the man’s wife and children decided otherwise and climbed onto the neighbour’s boat quickly leaving the man alone on his rooftop. A while later, water arose to his wooden house’s window level as heavy rain continued to pour in from the sea.

A second boat came by with an elderly gentleman offered a free ride to the man to bring him to safety. Again the man declined saying with a deep conviction that God would save him as he’s been a good man. The old gentleman had no choice but to quickly leave the man for fear of his own safety. Rain and floodwater continued to flood the town and water arose to his roof level within few minutes. The man saw another boat approaching and when it stopped near him, he found out that it was his neighbour who had come back to save him. The neighbour told him to hop onto the boat as this would be the last boat to leave the town until the flood subsided. For the last time the man declined, telling his neighbour that he had faith that God would save him. So the neighbour, after persuading him without success, decided to leave him to pray in the rain. Soon water continued to floor the town and the man was drowned as water rose to cover the whole town under its raging storm.

At the Gates of Heaven, the man grew angry and shouted at God who was seated on His big throne in the centre of the Hall, “God, why hadn’t you save me from drowning when I called for help in the rain?” to which God replied gently, “my child, why, I did, I sent the three boats to save you but you rejected all three times, what do you expect me to do then?”

Not exactly what I thought was the perfect bedtime story, but the moral of the story that hardly needs to be said out loud is that when God tells you something, He tells it loud and clear, with some signs we humans often missed when it happened right before our eyes.

Chinese Proverb: Distance tests the endurance of a horse; time reveals a man's character.

Chinese Proverb: Distance tests the endurance of a horse; time reveals a man’s character.

In a smilar fashion, a business acquaintance of mine called Rina (of course NOT her real name) who is a successful, confident and lovely lady once had the bliss of the world married to an equally successful salesman. Before they had even passed the seven years itch test, the man was discovered to have cheated on her many times during their courtship, after they got married and again and again after she delivered her son. When Rina asked her husband what have she done wrong all those years of being together, he replied that she was near perfect but he just had an insatiable quest for new women.  Of course he also complained that she was not motherly enough, couldn’t whip up a decent meal in the kitchen, and even added that she could have tried to look trendier in her choice of attire. She was crushed and her self-confidence got thrown into the garbage bin overnight by a man she had loved for a decade.

That was three years back. I met Rina again sometime last year and to that episode she said that there were many signs that her ex-husband was unfaithful back then. Her own cousin had witnessed the ex-husband sharing more than just a drink with a woman at a bar but she told the cousin that her husband who had endured a car accident when he was younger had a slight facial scar that would deter any possible affairs. She continued to give him the benefit of the doubt. There were always the endless phone calls on work and off days and through the nights, and when he answered the calls, he would immediately leave the dining room and step out not just at a few feet away but outside of their gate to answer. She brushed off all those signs thinking that her ex was busy taking phone calls from customers. The credit card bills he painstakingly hid inside a drawer showed expensive charges at bars and restaurants. He had less interest in her and would go out alone on weekends and off days, and when he did, he called her back just as often pretending as if he cared or had missed her. He just had to make sure that she would not be going to the same place he went with the other woman!

He did apologise and tried to fix their marriage while Rina enrolled herself in cooking classes, changed her dressing and attended parenting workshops to improve herself but soon he was spending more nights away from home. He was also asking for additional money support from Rina, insisting to change new car and his entire wardrobe for “a better image”. Even when all these took place right before her very eyes and even when certain facts did not really tally back then, she did not want to go down the path of divorce because of her child.

Eventually it took Rina another year, a fortune-teller, her father and at least 4 friends to finally bring some senses into her that he was using her in a way a man who truly loves a woman would never do. The path to separation was painful but she was happier to have finally come out of the brokenness knowing that she would not have been able to model the perfect marriage for her son if she continued to be unhappy. The husband’s multiple affairs had also caused many quarrels which did not help build a happy childhood for her son. It then took Rina another two years to find God, rebuild her own confidence and solve the logistics of single parenthood.

She is happier now and has a renewed focus and an infectious zeal for life that she never had. She has also met a few Godly men since but she isn’t rushing into anything yet, not until she is sure that this time, the sign from Above is clearly understood and fully complied.

In Chinese, we often say that one’s real characters are hard to tell, especially when it comes to friendship and relationship, but “distance tests the endurance of a horse; time reveals a man’s character.” As we waved goodbye to each other and I stood there looking at the silhouettes of her and her young son disappeared into the grocery store, I could not help but to say a simple prayer of blessing for a more confident and happier friend who is ready to embrace the world as it comes, stronger and better. Apparently, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Finally, signs aren’t just for children. They save life during a thunderstorm.

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