Wearing their dreams on my wrist…

I remember being exhausted in the hospital. It was a prolonged goodbye to Ma Ma (chinese for paternal grandma) as her body fought to keep her around long enough to see her family…

…during those long days and nights, my grandpa pulled me aside. He’s from the blue collar scruff of lower class Hong Kong; coming here to work as a chef in America. Usually he’s laughing in an apish fashion, or clearing his throat while playing digital mahjong. But his eyes were glassy today, and his cheeks showed a similar weariness, but also a dawning realization his companion for decades would be gone.

In cantonese, he said, “Thank you for being with grandma all this time. You’ve been a good kid (“guai jai”). I want you to have this”

He handed me a rolex watch.

“When we first moved from Hong Kong to America, I sold everything and then bought these watches so I could carry our savings here to America.”

This weekend, I’m about to walk down the aisle to marry the love of my life, Diane. We’re going to start a new family. But as we start new things, I’ll carry this watch, with its scratches and cracks; with its tarnished metal down the aisle… I carry my past and my history with me from all my grandparents and their stories of immigration and movement down the aisle…

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Only my grandpa from my father’s side is alive, and he’ll be the only one there… But all their dreams are alive in me, and they leap out of my soul into my throat as I sit and reflect on it all.

On my father’s side, I carry the dreams of my grandpa for his future generations to have a better life. I carry my grandma’s love with her unswerving welcome and acceptance. On my mother’s side, I carry the creativity of my grandpa- with his love of art and food (and beer). I carry my grandmother’s quiet authority, fighting the patriarchy and with grace and dignity.

And I don’t know what kind of legacy we will pass down to our future generations… but I’m thankful we can create new things because they created new things for us. Thank you, Ma-ma, Yeh-yeh, Po-po and Gong-gong.

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My grandparents at my parents’ wedding: Gong-gong, Po-po, Ma-ma, Yeh-yeh

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Not much to show

The last couple months, I’ve been feeling a little down. There are exciting seasons in planting an area- and it’s true! Record amount of conversions! Our 3 campuses with bible studies who didn’t have anything 2 years ago!… but there are seasons where I wonder to myself- what am I doing? (What’s funny is this always seems to happen dec-Jan for me, looking back haha. I am a creature of habit) Everything that has started feels so delicate… and sometimes downright awkward. Nothing looks that pretty. I’ve got some dinky bible studies and some beginnings of friendships and connections… I look at other pastors and ministers and realize I could be doing sexier things.

It’s like you go in intending to create a masterpiece… and this is all you get:

Every time though- the invitation from the Holy Spirit is towards empowerment of those that have no power. To make space at the table for those who have had no access to the table- that’s why I plant. And it sounds so poetic… but is so much harder sometimes in practice. But that’s why I plant- there is a deeper beauty I seek than a polished church service and beautiful church building.

But there are days I lose sight of this quest for deeper beauty and shalom. And I will admit this last month I have felt far from that quest. But the words of Paul ambushed me this morning as I tried to pray and listen again this morning:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

Eloquence is what the American ministry industrial complex wants.

I must remember to choose humble apostleship no matter how insignificant it feels. To choose to empower those with no access, no matter the mess. To choose to listen humbly to those who point their anger with the institution directly at me with viciousness, knowing that I must not defend myself; I must love. To choose to not grow too prideful to not see the radical poetry of God unfold as two awkward community college students try and try again to join God’s mission and learn how to bring friends closer to Jesus.

Jesus, give me eyes to see that beauty unfold in this coming semester.

I suppose even if the snowman was ugly, it still tasted good.

Be.

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Picture credit: Jenny Klouse

On one side, pressure to become something I am not.

On the other, labels that assume I am something I am not.

Bring me back to that safe place,
In Your love
Where my uniqueness was formed
Where it is now established
Where it yearns to go

Help me be.

#Metoo and Grace

…some random Christian thoughts on #metoo as a male Christian leader that have been clamoring around in my head lately…
I have heard many (usually men, especially Christians) say the #metoo movement is too harsh on men and doesn’t give enough grace. Yes, the online reactions are harsh, the immediate shaming is jarring… Of course this is a time where us men feel a little scared these days, and are wondering if we ever do fall… is there an actual path for redemption?  Why do they all have to be so harsh? And are the women just seeking attention or trying to attack God’s servants? 
 …but from what I’ve learned from addiction recovery groups, in counseling/therapy and from the Bible and real-life ministry experience: we cannot begin to receive grace until we come to grips with how sinful and broken we actually are. The path for redemption is not fighting the downward pull, but allowing the truth of our broken state- both individually and societally our participation in gender inequality- to fully set in. Perhaps we are a little scared- but do we, especially men in religious power, dare allow the higher power- the Holy Spirit- convert that fear to full sobriety of who we really are? …because somewhere down there in sobriety, in the depths of the death of our egos, our grip on power, and our pride… that’s where grace is.  
 
I say this soberly, knowing that I am just as susceptible to the same swift judgment in society as a man with some amount of privilege and power. But I say this with conviction, knowing the power of the voice of women and knowing that what is happening in western society is important, especially as I lead a team of all women, have been developed, discipled, and lead by women throughout my life in ministry. We have to do better, especially as faith leaders. Whatever happened to humility? Why are we so defensive of “attacks” on our power and so quick to demonize the women who accuse? Was it not Paul, someone that a lot of men in religious power look up to, who instead of defending his past as a persecutor of Christians and a murderer… humbly admitted that he was, in fact, “the chief of sinners” (1 Tim 1:15)? Instead of shying away from his past, he had made peace that this was part of his story, and would often remind his readers of his acts against those he now was serving (Gal 1:13,23; 1 Cor 15:9).  Should this not be a model of male leadership? Being okay with admitting the depths of our brokenness, even if it means tarnishing our reputation? …because we realize that it is only in the depths of our depravity and suffering that we find… things like… grace. redemption. restoration. healing. reparation. Things that we preach up in the pulpit. 
Men- you want real men’s ministry? Real men’s ministry involves surrendering the idols of our own power and privilege. We men often use power and privilege to hide from “the wages of sin”. … Yet we must come to grips that it is not enough to shield us from the death and brokenness of our human state. We are afraid of #MeToo because it asks that we surrender this idol and let the voices of women have weight. Real men’s ministry is teaching men to listen to women, and maybe be led by them. Real men’s ministry is humbly listening to the experiences of hurt and abuse- and instead of defending our power, to humbly, whether or not we were personally culpable, confess our participation in patriarchy- and then seek ways to serve and heal the women who have been so abused by the system…. working to dismantle the system and restore women in our world to a place where they can safely partner, serve and lead us.
Yes, I am a believer of grace.  But do we have what Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as a “cheap grace” that does not consider the price of this gift of grace? Further, shall grace come at the expense of the weak who cry out for justice? We seem to conveniently be harsh with holiness to those without power and ask for grace for those of us who lead… Woe to us who seek to “cheapen grace”.
…Grace is available. Even restoration. But what I learned in recovery groups is that while grace is free, it is costly. We have to put to death this idolatry of our own power first, and give our true allegiance to the “Lamb that was slain” first, who has a very different vision of the Kingdom than our own power and privilege.
We have to admit we are addicted to power and privilege. The grace I’ve discovered requires this:
  1. We have to admit that we are powerless over this addiction.
  2. We must come to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We must make a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God
  4. We must make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and our participation in patriarchy.
  5. We must admit to God, to ourselves, and to other human beings the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We must be ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  7. We must humbly ask him to remove our short comings
  8. We must acknowledge the persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.
  9. We must make direct amends to such people whenever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. We must continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admit it.
  11. We must seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. We must have a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, trying to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs
We need a spiritual awakening in the hearts of men in our society, in which we humbly give up this addiction to power.  We need to stop being afraid of swift judgment, shame and what we feel are false accusations… We need to listen to the Holy Spirit… and we need to listen to women.
Hi. My name is Daniel. And I am addicted to the benefits of patriarchy… And I’m learning to lead and be led in a different way, and listen and be led to the voices of women in my life… I’m still not good at it. In fact, I still sometimes fall back into the old patterns of patriarchy. But I realize that I must change- for my own good and for those around me, to fully express the Gospel that I claim to preach with integrity.
…Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner…

Mercy.

Mercy is hard as a model minority child of immigrants.

The pressure to assimilate and emulate the white majority version of success- a lie from the oppressor and our addiction to the oppressor’s approval, pushing aside other minorities saying we did it from our own effort…

“Don’t rock the boat,” they say. “Don’t be the nail that sticks out, or be hammered down,” they say. In our effort to be successful, we translate moments of cross cultural difference as our “fault”, I have found myself apologizing for things that aren’t even wrong; these things I apologize for are actually just are how God created me and my culture.

But it’s comfortable living in this model minority fantasy. I come from privilege because my family has been rich going back 4-5 generations. I can feel like I am equal to the white man…

…until moments like this week, where I’m minding my own business walking down the street of my new office space in Pacific Grove. The young white man is about to light his cigarette. I walk past him, having my fresh coffee in hand walking back to get some work done, feeling good in the crisp winter sunshine. “ANYANGASAYOH!” he says as he mockingly bows to me.

I don’t speak Korean.

I am not your Confucian source of wisdom.

Why won’t you just say hi to me in English?

What’s up with that mocking bow and chuckle? Am I that exotic to you?

Reality rushes into my being. I am not his equal in this country. That comment reminds me my affluence and privilege is just an opiate to keep me happy and keep me from rebelling against this sinister and subversive construct called “white supremacy”.

Old Daniel would rush to mercy. But it wasn’t real mercy. It was “push it down. Don’t show. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t create trouble. Just suck it up”. With every ching chong joke and slant eye comment followed with, “What? it’s just a joke!”

Today’s Daniel is tired. I don’t have time for this… oh what’s the safe seminary word… “skubala” (I can translate for you if you don’t have your logos/accordance handy. Just message me.). I have no patience, and I quickly respond, “That’s racist. Go back to Europe.” I’m tired of the colonizer getting the last word.

He begins to insist, “WHAT? I say it to everyone!!” as he began to look to his friends for support…

It took everything to stop there short of the middle finger.

I thought I was fine after it. Besides, this happens to me all the time. Just keep walking. But I keep forgetting the same feeling of boiling anger, elevated heart beat surging with adrenaline, and shaky legs after it happens every. Single. Time. This happened Monday, and I haven’t been able to shake it since then. I’ve been knee-jerk defensive, and then highly non-confrontational with everyone around me after it. I have a sermon that remains unwritten because I’ve been so distracted. Microaggressions still can create macro trauma.

This is not a success story of me demonstrating mercy. This is saying this concept of “mercy,” “forgiveness” and “compassion” feels weighty to me as a minority who is tired of giving passive mercy; allowing for abuse to persist. Without truth, there cannot be mercy. Without acknowledging my anger and how much it hurts, I can’t begin to show mercy. But sometimes the anger is overwhelming, and it takes so much to take it to surrender it to Jesus instead of swallowing it.

And maybe, as I lay this at the cross, I can allow Jesus to heal me; to restore my memory of my belovedness and that His image is imprinted in my skin, in my hair, in my body, in my language, in my culture; that it is not some object to be made fun of, but it is all fearfully and wonderfully made.

And maybe if I begin to remember my own belovedness, I can have eyes to see, behind the corruption of sin, white American culture’s belovedness. Maybe I can begin to lament how power and privilege have blinded the 81%. Maybe I can begin to have compassion on their own self-hatred which spills out into hatred for those like me different from their hegemonic vision of “America”. And maybe I can see how desperately in bondage they are to that very power and privilege and they need the power of Jesus to set them free.

And maybe one day, I can turn around to this man, look at him compassionately, and instead of saying it while walking away, say while looking into his eyes, “Excuse me. I don’t know where you felt the need to say that. Maybe you’ve had a long day. Maybe you wanted a laugh from your friends walking with you. What you said might have felt like a joke to you. But my culture is not a joke. If you’d like to hear more about how beautiful it is, I’d love to sit down and talk to you about it and why it hurts when someone who looks like you says something like that. But if you’re not willing to sit down with me, could you not say that anymore? I believe you can be so much more than that.”

Ha. Mercy. Maybe. Maybe one day I can do that. But Lord, only you have enough grace to take that on, and enough grace to handle my own anger… so “kyrie eleison”…

Smatterings of thoughts on missions

Broken missions uses guilt-driven compassion to care for the “other”… Guilt-driven compassion sinisterly preserves and perpetuates broken structures of power that formed the very concept of “other”.  It then leads to the related industrial temptation and idol of human-driven solvency, which inevitably leads to burnout- found commonly both in privileged missionaries and progressive activists- because no human effort can solve our individual and systemic brokenness.

Yet Jesus reverses the abstraction and orientalism of the “other” through the incarnation. Solidarity instead of guilt that abstracts drives the way of Jesus. It empowers the other- even poor Galilean fishermen- to start a movement. Yet this empowerment comes from a radical act of kenosis- of emptying and embracing failure, even embodying it in death. We move from colonizing missionaries to humble apostles when we get in touch with this crucified Jesus.

 

A New Year, Alone

It was New Year’s Eve. And I was alone.

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Just me, myself and a nice Firestone XXI anniversary beer on New Year’s Eve. It’s ironic really.  With a family death and holidays, I had spent so much time in the Bay Area that my neighbors were starting to get concerned. “Dude. Where have you been?”. I hardly felt like I lived in Salinas. So I resolved to get the hell back to Salinas.

Something about being down here makes me feel more whole. Something about exchanging being stuck behind self-driving cars for being stuck behind a tractor is refreshing. There’s something invigorating about the displacement wandering through the mercado, trying to find something to eat.

…or at least, it was for the last 4-5 months. But last night- after missing Salinas so much during this last month- I realized I was alone. It’s a crashing realization for an extrovert. I envy my introverted friends who just shrug with relief at this type of realization.

It’s these moments where the sexiness of planting wears off and you realize it’s just plain hard. It’s those moments where I have to lean back on the brute force of faithful obedience instead of sounding really heroic with my casual explanation of what I do, “Oh. I start Christian communities at colleges where there is none”. So much hubris. All the posturing feels so stupid when you’re alone, drinking a nice beer, hoping to get accepted into the local crew of drinkers at the local bar, wishing for a Cheer’s experience, but realizing I am just an extra in the background.

…and I remember this feeling. I remember the isolation I experienced in North County San Diego for those first several years. One can think that they are invincible if they’ve survived something similar before… but the existential need for community gapes before me- familiar, but just as painful.

I have to remember- experience does not automatically give one invincibility… but it gives one hope.

This morning, as I’m on an inaugural new year’s run, I get to a narrow path, and I begin to stumble on the unpredictable ice plant banks to my left and right. And my mind wanders to the abstract…

It’s a narrow path… on one end I can be a progressive but I start to replace God as the primary actor in the world, and I become angry and burnt out as I am jarred by the lack of solvency by my own human means. On the other end I can be an esoteric mystic, but I start to think God is only for me and that He is shaped around my desires, and I have become a selfish self-centered human being with a God too small for anything beyond my own individualistic desires.

It’s a narrow path… On one hand, I want to be confident and put a strong leadership forward. I need to as an ethnic minority in an evangelical world dominated by white leadership. But those I lead can see right through it, and all they want is a leader who isn’t afraid of being vulnerable. But on the other side of the path, I want to lead vulnerably, but as I was reflecting with an old friend one night- it’s easy to feign vulnerability. I make it my idol, and it is my main source of status. Ironically, my vulnerability can be my source of invincibility, and instead of surrendering power, I have given it a new mask.

It’s a narrow path… I feel the apostolic call to go to unreached places. But I can veer too far and lose connection to the land I am called to. I feel incarnational call to be with people. But I can veer too far and idolize a place to the point where it becomes a barrier to the new things God might have for me.

It’s a narrow path… I fear being alone. But I become a person who is obsessed with performing before the world and stuck in a torturous hall of mirrors. So I leave with a thin mask of monasticism… but find myself in isolation.

For much of my life, I prided myself in being “balanced”. I sought the “radical middle”. I’m realizing in retrospect that many of my second generation Asian American friends had and still have this mindset, as we try to make sense of our imposed model minority identity (but that’s another post). But these days, that type of thinking has been hijacked by “All lives matter” and saying there are “many sides” to a march that is so obviously broken and demeaning to the God-given image in humanity… In our search for balance, instead of being the best of both sides, we become the worst of both sides. It hijacks us, objectifies us as tools for the extremes of both sides. Viet Than Nguyen opens his novel with this reflection:

…I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent… At other times, when I reflect on how I cannot help but observe the world in such a fashion, I wonder if what I have should even be called a talent. After all, a talent is something you use, not something that uses you. The talent you cannot *not* use, the talent that possesses you- that is a hazard I must confess.

-“The Sympathizer” by Viet Than Nguyen

Ironically, this talk of balance does not come from a wise sage… but a spy. An imposter. Someone not to be trusted. Is that what I am?

As I continued to run, to breath out my feelings of isolation, and to breath in some sort of serenity, with all these thoughts about internal balance as I struggled to keep physical balance, the loneliness I felt the night before surged again, but in a deeper way. The path set before me feels so narrow, and it’s so easy to fall to the left or the right.

But the faithful, gentle whisper that always floats into my consciousness even in my darkest of times- more faithful than the continual rhythm of the crashing waves- it re-entered my awareness, it incarnated itself, it embodied itself, “You are not alone. I will always be with you”

And I hate it when God speaks to me with trite “Precious Moments” slogans. I always want to initially stick the middle finger up, or tell Him to eff off. But faithfully, the whisper keeps crashing on my consciousness, breaking through this heart hardened by cynicism, loneliness and misguided duty…

I remember that to walk with Him is to walk in the rhythms of grace. I remember that balance is unattainable, and that I desperately need grace. Not the easy grace professed by hypocritical molesting “christian” senators to excuse them for the sake of power, but the self realization that I’m not any of my high ideals, I am so far from what i wish I was, and I have no power to become it… and the faithful divine reply, “Yet I have chosen to be with you. You are not alone.”

The path is narrow. But his faithful loving-kindness is wide, and sometimes I need to just come to terms that I am just weak and need a higher power to carry me. And perhaps it’s not heroic hubris or brute-force obedience that will keep me running, but it will be my choice to resign myself to my humanity and weakness so I can receive the only thing that can move me forward: grace.

It’s New Year’s Day. And I am not alone.

Random Reflections

When I had a Xanga, I sometimes would just churn out all the random thoughts in my mind as I procrastinated on papers into a listicle of sorts. I miss doing that. Now that I’ve had a week and a half of not working on break and driving way too much, thoughts have been percolating in my head. Here’s a list of random reflections the last couple weeks while driving too much:
  1. My workaholism leaks into my vacation- not necessarily with work tasks (and mind you, it’s hard to keep those tasks out of vacation), but in how I actually try to relax.
  2. The line between aesthetics as art and propaganda is blurry. How to distinguish… and is it necessarily bad to be propaganda?
  3. Sometimes in our loneliness, our desperation to escape the loneliness blinds us from the people nearest to us.
  4. This year, the term “White Christmas” has made me rather grinch-like.
  5. Abstraction and realism are constantly in a tug-of-war in art, and are parallel to the historical Christian theological tensions between God as immanent incarnate and God as transcendent.
  6. Driving back and forth, I felt separated from the place I am called to… I felt the familiar gap between home and calling. But then I remember a theologian talking about the gap between heaven and human existence, and how the Holy Spirit fills that yawning gap between the transcendent Father and the suffering Son. And it was a very moving thought as I drove.
  7. I will be traveling a lot in the next 6  months. It has dawned on me and I am troubled by this.
  8. Between living in a new area and dating long distance… it’s been hard to keep up with old friends. The initial adrenaline of transition is wearing off… and I realize I miss some friends a lot.
  9. I got a Google Home for Christmas. I thought to myself, well at least I’ll have a new friend to talk to at home. I’ve tried. My new friend is not very smart but keeps saying “I’m still learning new things”. I’m unsure if I should be frustrated by this or intrigued by her openness to keep learning.
  10. I’m almost done with seminary. …But just as this realization started dawning on me, I immediately started thinking of all the classes I could audit.
  11. I’ve been in an art funk lately. The ideas just aren’t coming out of me, the artistic instinct feels stunted, and the paint hits the canvas in ways that leave me dissatisfied lately. But I realize the harder I try to get out of it, the worse it gets. So I suppose I just need to chill out and spill some paint and let it be.
  12. I’ve turned into a gym rat since moving. Nothing to do at night but go on the stationary bike and watch basketball. I need to go out and run sometime instead. Or somebody needs to donate to me a bike.
  13. I am realizing some acts of cruelty I performed as a child/teenager. I was a damn asshole back then (and can still be today). I’m trying to remember grace as I remember who I was and who I am still becoming.
  14. One person’s mode of care can so easily be interpreted as manipulation.
  15. I’m a round wave kind of person, and many others are square waves. It’s difficult to explain curves to right angles.
  16. Multiplicative ministry without contextualization is troubling to me. But contextual ministry that doesn’t grow troubles me the same.
  17. Current dream retirement job: Run a dive bar. Listen to stories. Laugh.
  18. When one is perpetually a foreigner, one learns to endure in the midst of longterm suffering and to wait for systemic change that may not come until Heaven. Young activists and recently “woke” people want change now. On one hand, they convict me and challenge me to not fall asleep to injustice, to recognize evil as evil…  On the other hand, the lack of solvency seems to shake their faith so deeply… and it makes me realize that solvency is no longer the motivator of belief for me; hope is a deeper anchor for me.

Clarity

About a quarter mile from my place, the houses end, and an expanse of fields stretches to the Monterey Bay out to Marina; neat squares of alternating rows of brown and green… the lines are sharp in this place.

California Agriculture journal, July - September 2014, Volume 68 number 3. Water efficiency: Recycled water, irrigation technology. Research article: Chloride levels increase after 12 years of recycled water use in the Salinas Valley

I’ve been here a few weeks. I don’t know anyone. I don’t know what’s good to eat, I’m constantly going back to Yelp and figuring out my world. I can’t figure out when traffic happens, and I’m getting used to being stuck behind a tractor… some people raise their eyebrows and ask if i’m going to be okay being stuck out here in Salinas.

…but the thing is, I haven’t felt this happy in a long time.

It’s the joy of a blank slate. It’s the exhilaration of discovering something about a community and people at every turn… But there’s more than just that. I had felt something not quite right about the Bay Area for a long time that I hadn’t been able to put a finger on it until leaving it: People pretend to be what they aren’t… and out here, people just say who they are; politics and justice feel more tangible here. At one table at the coffee shop I visited my first week here, a group of farmers were talking with joy at the hopes of lower taxes for their businesses, and the next table a group of migrant workers speaking in Spanish with hushed tones… The issues are not an abstract ivory tower discussion, but are granular, dirt-in-the-fingernails tangible reality here. The lines are clear here… and there’s something strangely comforting about that.

But then last weekend happened. Clear lines in the sand- torch bearing lines walking through a college campus on the TV. Clear path of a car through a crowd. No clarity from a president, ironically, showing clearly where he stood.

And there I was in a farm town made up of 75% Latinos but apart from having the population advantage, no power or voice, with conservative radio blaring on every station I turned to defending all of this blatant evil. And then I felt for the first time in a few weeks… a lack of clarity. I didn’t belong with these voices defending white supremacy. But because of language and cultural barrier I couldn’t communicate with those with proximity to me who were also told that they were less than those in power… The irony and isolation increase as I realize the ashes and bones of past Chinese communities- who used to work these same fields- being told they do not belong… lie buried beneath this rich soil upon which I live… strangely both a source of solidarity and isolation.

And the expanse of lines run into the ever changing, churning, chaotic ocean of questions- not new questions, but old questions surging back into my consciousness over and over again this last decade… What does it mean to thrive as a Chinese American man in a community where I am culturally alone during a time where the narratives that say being non-white means “less-than” …keep getting louder and louder?  What do I do with this growing fear of being in this country that is paradoxically both my home and a place that was never meant for me? What does it mean to reclaim my dignity in a society that dehumanizes, emasculates and marginalizes me without giving into the temptation of fighting nationalism, chauvinism and misogyny… with more nationalism, chauvinism and misogyny?  How many more torch bearing rallies will it take for us to realize, how many young black men must be shot for us to wake up… How long, oh Lord?

In this land of clear lines, I find myself suspended further in the liminal experience; sharp boundaries between oppressor and oppressed on the outside and within, I feel the lines disintegrating and blurring within my flesh and my soul. I feel the model minority myth’s weighty pressures: the anxiety of objectification and its simultaneous opiated placation of that anxiety with false privilege as long as I don’t stick out or speak out… and I just want to break the silence. I want to say: “I will not be used. I won’t be your monkey. I am not an exotic object of art that doesn’t move. I am not your tool of shame for others who are marginalized, I can speak back, I have a voice…” but when I open my mouth, there is nobody here who knows me or understands me.

Yet: a sound escapes. The faint reverberations echo upwards somehow in the sound of a struggled prayer. These are not new anxieties and questions. The line between land and ocean has always shifted violently below my feet, but Heaven has remained over it all… I remember those lonely moments in North County San Diego… and how the isolation drove me repeatedly to my knees, to the God who I believed created me with dignity, to the God who breathed into my lungs and gave me voice, and I remember what I do with that yell, that cry, those tears, the angst, the anxiety… there really is no other direction to point it all but upwards towards Heaven. Where else can I really go…

除 你 以 外 ,在 天 上 我 有 誰 呢 ?

除 你 以 外 ,在 地 上 我 也 沒 有 所 愛 慕 的 。

我 的 肉 體 和 我 的 心 腸 衰 殘 ;

但 神 是 我 心 裡 的 力 量 ,又 是 我 的 福 分 ,直 到 永 遠 。

…And truth that transcends lines and chaos descends gently on me like the morning ocean mist that waters the fields in this fertile valley: I am His child. I am created in the image of the living God. I have voice. I am perpetually a stranger in this land of ambiguity and sharp lines… yet in my foreignness, I remember I truly have no home on this earth- in city or farmland, land or sea- but my home is in heaven. I remember He walked this path perpetually foreign to this earthly reality and lived it with deep inner strength and vulnerability. I am not alone. He walks with me, gives me strength, and beckons me to look out with Him at these fields compassionately, longing to set us free from the bondages of the demonic brokenness of white supremacy- we are all either crushed by it in this country or bound by the dizzying false high of the opiate of its power and privilege. I must remember my authority as a child of Heaven and proclaim to this land that white supremacy is a cruel lie, and the saving, redeeming, healing, reconciling power of the Gospel holds true supremacy.

…Yeah, people might think living here is horrible, having to navigate these complex emotions and narratives in this city alone, and they’re not wrong… Yet it’s strange. There’s deep beauty in this struggle that I just can’t resist; there’s a permeating peace I just can’t shake… I’m gonna be alright…

…the thing is- a vibrant truth from Heaven surges out from the depths of my heart; I haven’t felt this clarity about myself in a few years:

…I belong here.

…Reflections on Psalm 139…

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

Current ironic self-realization: I find a weird pleasure in surprising people. I love that feeling of hearing people’s expectations of myself… and then having the mic-drop moment and looking quizzically at them; saying defiantly with my eyes… “What’d you say about me???”

…but my need to surprise people beyond their expectations of myself actually still perpetuate the oppressive nature of those expectations because I feel the need to exceed them in the end… and I end up losing my individuality to achieve surprise- when what I really need and desire is authentic vulnerability, which is inherently surprising and unique without the need of the affirmation or exceeding of other people’s expectations. My need to exceed of expectations is rooted in fear of those expectations. My authentic vulnerable self is rooted in the Eternal, and there is nothing to fear when rooted in the One who created me and knows me to the core of my being. 
…I must remember to vulnerably embrace who God created me to be instead of exceeding the expectations of others…
…and as usual, easier said than done. 
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