Driving down the steep street, I saw the bright San Diego skyline that stood in front of Tijuana. Strange that this was now the most familiar sight to my aging grandmother, whom I had just left moments ago waving and saying “sun leen fai lok”.
“I don’t recognize it anymore.”
I was showing her pictures of the Hong Kong skyline just a few minutes earlier after a large Chinese New Year’s dinner she and my grandpa had prepared. I had just returned from Hong Kong 2 weeks ago and was showing her pictures, some of the area where she raised my dad. “They’ll tear down our old building soon…,” sighs Mama in pensive thought.
“You know, this is me and your grandpa’s 60th year being married in April… so much has changed since we moved from Hong Kong so many years ago,” she feebly told me as she peeled oranges for me to eat after dinner (They always have so many oranges, it’s as if they reproduce in that bottom left drawer in the refrigerator…).
And then she immediately went into her usual lecture to me that she usually recites word for word. It is good that my job keeps me busy. I have to make a lot of money because they grew up poor. Don’t eat all the candy she is giving me, because mom will get mad and blame her for making me fat. Keep saving money. And for goodness sakes (and no matter what, this is the part that is always stated no matter what variation…) find a wife, because I am the last one in the family that can carry on the Lui name. She wants to be able to hold her future grandchild before she loses her sight as a result of the cataracts from her long battle with diabetes. The lecture is heavy with their deep longings and dreams for their future generations, it was the reason they left Hong Kong. Sometimes it seems like they fear that their continual sacrifice and struggle will amount to nothing in the end.
(…Yeah I’ve come to know the wishlist of my father.
I’ve come to know the shipwrecks where he wished…)
I sigh. It’s always the same and I try to hide my annoyance and nod like a good Chinese grandson.
It’s the burden of the dreams and hopes that add to the momentum of my Toyota Camry as it rolls down Home Avenue’s steep grade. And yet, as I drive away glad that the usual lecture is over and I’m free to drive back home, those same burdens make it hard to drive away. My obligation-prone way of thinking makes it hurt to drive away.
I wish I could speak to them fluently, and assure them that my God cares so much for me, and cares so much for them. I wish they knew that if they hadn’t moved here, I would never had met this God. I wish I could tell them that our hope and long held dreams are so gray in comparison with His dreams for us. I wish they could understand the prayers I pray for them every time I come over. I wish they understood my own work and why I serve this God. I wish they could know the deep healing I have witnessed in other peoples’ lives and my own life over these years… healing of depression, of addictions, of cancer… And I wish that God would show that side of Him to them. It’s so difficult to wish them “good health” in the New Year, when year after year, they struggle with their aging and deteriorating bodies. I wish they knew that God Himself may have drawn them to these shores so that they might be able to experience His love, and that He’s waiting patiently for them to turn around and respond to Him.
But the gentle whispers of my heavenly Father remind me to let go. The whispers remind me His love for them overwhelms any love that I have for them. His wishlist is long for them, and He’s not done pursuing them. He reminds me that I of course can never carry all the burdens of this family. I remember His strength and love, although that memory is fleeting and staticky for me at times. It’s His strength and love that can carry my grandparents, not myself. I need to remember that.
A student came up to me recently asking me what it meant to be a man. I asked him what he meant with his question. He referred to some Christian books he was reading about how manhood was meant to be hunting, conquering and battling… but it wasn’t quite satisfying. To be a true “Christian man” has to do with the struggle, battling, conquering… but not quite. It’s coming to the end of it all, and realizing that you can’t win any of those battles and struggles and surrendering to Him. It’s wrestling with Him and losing, and realizing it’s only with the Almighty that you can breath, walk and live. It’s looking at the battles before you and giving up so that God can finally act.
And as I drive north on the 805, that’s the choice I’m faced with. My heart is a wrestling heart that cares too much and has difficulty surrendering. And that’s perhaps something I’ve inherited from my Heavenly Father and the nature of His love… but really, I’m not God. I need to see that in reality; I can’t carry the burden of this family. I need to surrender it, not out of negligence, but as an act of stepping out of my own limited and broken love and stepping into the roaring river of His love, which is the source of all love. At the same time, that’s so opposite of what my grandparents have done all these years. They struggled. Surrender isn’t why they moved here. It’s ironic that the result of so many years of struggle for the sake of their future generations, their grandson chooses to surrender.
My heart wrestles so much with being far from the things that I care for and the state of powerlessness I have from that distance. I hurts to be far from my family.
As the 805 turns into Highway 5, driving to what I currently call home but am not always comfortable calling home… is His presence really my home? People say You satisfy fully, and supply everything. These last 4 years have been me arguing with You as to whether that’s really fair… But I am reminded it’s not a question of fair or not, it’s a question of truth, but beneath the question of truth, it is trust.
The road ahead is still long and winding. It’s not a safe road. It’s not an easy road. And sometimes it’s a seemingly lonely road. But it’s a good road. It’s a path of trust, towards my true home, my true family, which is found entirely in Your love.