Category Archives: brokenness

Take courage.

image

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper.  

A man acquainted with sorrow and depression, William Cowper spent his days holding on to small grains of hope and faith.  Even till the end, his last days on earth were dark, and it’s difficult to know why God would allow him to find no respite.  But what’s clear, and perhaps what’s even better for him, is that when he arrived to meet his maker, his joy was that much sweeter because of the clouds.  The joy and awe that he must have felt was infinitely greater because of the contrast to his black days here on earth.

It’s not ungodly to have seasons of depression, or dark nights of the soul.  Even Jesus himself was a man of sorrow, acquainted with suffering.  (Isaiah 53)

10Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,

and though the Lord makesc his life an offering for sin,

he will see his offspring and prolong his days,

and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

11After he has suffered,

he will see the light of lifed and be satisfiede ;

by his knowledgef my righteous servant will justify many,

and he will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,g

and he will divide the spoils with the strong,h

because he poured out his life unto death,

and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many,

and made intercession for the transgressors.

But it’s up to us what we will do during those seasons.  Will we turn inward and see no more than the pain that threatens to overwhelm us, or will we strain to lift our head from the miry clay and set our eyes on Jesus, and find our salvation there?  Don’t give up the fight.  

Tagged , , ,

Children of Divorce: Blame, Forgiveness, and Scars.

truth.

Confession: I yelled at my dad tonight.  For the past few months, I’ve been the primary cook in the house.  It’s not a big deal, I enjoy cooking, but I hate that my dad expects me to cook now, and he doesn’t even try.  He’ll even purposefully come home late, or if he comes home early, he sits in his chair or waters the garden instead of getting dinner ready.  So I end up cooking.  I’ve had this discussion with him before.  We used to take turns cooking, or if anything, he cooked the main dish while I made sure we had vegetables on the table.  But not anymore.  I cook, and he (unspoken) expects me to cook.

Yesterday, he asked me if I’d be home for dinner, and I told him yes, but I’d probably be a little late.  He said he’d cook leftovers, and then changed his mind and said he’d cook this beef we’ve had in the fridge.  Instead, I come home around 7:15, wash rice, and relax a little, waiting for him to come home.  He doesn’t get home till 8, then he starts watering the plants and asks me if “we’re” going to cook the beef.  I told him I don’t know how, and so I start getting other food ready because it’s coming on 8:30 and we have no food to eat.  I don’t mind until I after I come out of the shower (after my dad took his shower while I cooked), and I find that my dad has already started eating without me.  He didn’t even think to wait for me.  That’s what bothered me.  After I cooked dinner (when he said he would), the least he could do is just wait till I get out of the shower so we can eat together.  He did the exact same thing the other day, and I pointed it out to him then as well.

It just struck me tonight, as I was yelling at him, that this is what it must have been like for my mom.  I’ve been feeling that more and more as time goes on…throughout the summer, it was necessary to really clean the house because we (me, really) were having guests over to stay.  He didn’t help clean the house at all, so I cleaned everything.  The only thing I asked him to clean is the area around his recliner, and under the toilet seat, because those messes have nothing to do with me.  He says “Why can’t you clean it?  Mommy used to clean the whole toilet.”  And that’s the problem.   She used to do all these things for my dad and he never showed any gratitude.  He took it all for granted.

When I first found out about the divorce, I blamed my mom.  Her temper was is explosive.  Therefore, I thought it was her fault.  My dad, as everyone who meets him tells me, is so nice, and such an easy going guy.  Make no mistake, he is, he’s a local boy, product of the Hawaiian Islands through and through.  How could it be his fault?  My mom is the one who flies off the handle, who has problems forgiving people, right?

Eventually though, when I learned what happened, how my dad broke her trust in a major way (no cheating, thank the Lord) in the early years of their marriage, I saw his part in it all.   But I didn’t and still don’t fully understand how he allowed –no, chose–to lie to her about something so major, so the easiest thing to do was turn a blind eye.  Given what I know about my dad, how nice and laidback he is, this just didn’t make sense.  So instead of trying to understand it (my dad gets really sensitive every time I bring it up), I told myself–why couldn’t my mom just forgive him?  Again, I chose to blame her.

That is, until I grew older.  To have been betrayed by your best friend, the one you swore to love till the day that you died, is a deep deep wound that requires the strength of God to forgive and his grace alone to work on saving the marriage.  I realized too, how much my mom had sacrificed in order for my brother and I to have the opportunities we did.  With my dad’s betrayal came a role reversal.  My mom became the primary breadwinner–had to, in some ways, if she wanted to continue towards upward mobility for my brother and me.  She certainly wasn’t a gold digger, but she had planned for an easier life for herself, with her doctor of a husband.  Instead, she now took consulting jobs that forced her to live in hotels Monday through Thursday–perhaps just for the money, but in retrospect, perhaps to get out of the house to keep their marriage from crumbling any sooner.  And so over the past few years, I’ve come to see her as the paradigm of sacrificial giving.  I even bragged about her to friends at times, whenever the topic came up.  I know it’s common, especially amongst Asian Americans, to sacrifice for your children, but I’m amazed at how much of her life she gave–no, continues to give– for us.

And so when Joe asked me about the divorce, and I told him what happened, and how I now am so grateful for my mom–he replied–“But she should have put her marriage first.”  I was a little offended by his comment.  I appreciate my mom for everything that she has given to me, it has allowed me to be who I am, to have the amazing educational opportunities that I did, to not be in debt upon college graduation, etc.  She should have put her children first, I thought to myself.  That’s what makes a good parent.

But as I yelled at my dad tonight, I found my voice cracking and tears starting to come to my eyes.  I couldn’t figure out why I was so emotional, until I realized that now I do blame my dad for the divorce.  I blame him because he shuts down during conflicts, and he doesn’t take responsibility for his part of the problem.  He has a hard time saying that he’s sorry, instead choosing to shift the blame and put it back on you.  Not only that, but I realized that this is what I do when others get upset at me.  I have a hard time owning up to my mistakes if I’ve really hurt someone.  Moreover, as the words “you always” and “you never” came flying out of my mouth, I realized that I even argue like my mom.  I even brought up that point about cleaning under the toilet, just like my mom would have done.

The tears came because I realized that I blame both my parents for giving up.  For not putting their marriage first.  For showing me these terrible conflict resolution styles that have wormed their way into my personhood.  For thinking that sacrificial love is really putting your children first, when in reality, the best thing you really can do for your children is to love your spouse.  For not fighting for their marriage.  For not learning how to apologize.  For not learning how to forgive.

In addition, the tears came because I realized how much of their sinfulness is in me.  I am like my mom, and I am like my dad.  And it scares me.

They were both Sunday School teachers, super involved in the church.  They knew what was right, and what was honoring to God.  But they chose instead to lie, to hold grudges, to withhold forgiveness, and finally to get a divorce.  I’m grateful that they waited until I was in college so they wouldn’t have to fight for custody or make me choose which parent I wanted to live with, but they should have fought harder.

I tried to apologize for yelling at my dad, but he still wouldn’t admit his role in any of it, or even say sorry.  He still pushed the blame back on to me, so I just went to bed.  (Now a few hours later, I realize that I tried to apologize but couldn’t because my dad wouldn’t admit he was wrong.  What kind of apology was I trying to make??)

Before turning out the light, I opened up a book I’ve been reading through recently–Child of Divorce, Child of God–and as I turned the page and began to read, I started to cry.  The author was abandoned by her father and knew that God was calling her to forgive him.  And as I read that, I knew that God was calling me to forgive my parents for not putting their marriage first, and for not trying harder.

I’m still working on it.  I wish I could say that I willed myself to forgive them, but I can’t just yet.

It’s been 8 years since I accidentally found the divorce papers.  I thought I was well adjusted to it–even grateful, to a certain extent, since family vacations (which we still do with both parents) are infinitely more pleasant now.  I was still blessed to have grown up in a (tumultuous) two parent household.  I’d seen the humanity in my parents and loved them still.  I’d found my identity in Christ alone, the great healer and restorer.  But it’s only now, as I’m beginning to look to marriage for myself, potentially inviting another person into my life, that I begin to realize just how many scars I have, and just how deep they run.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

We know what injustice looks like.

With the verdict out on Trayvon Martin’s case, and a man walking free, there’s a cry for Justice. Race is powerful in today’s society, whether we choose to see it or not.  As an Asian American whose only language is English, I’ve had my AP English teachers ask me if English was my first language, I’ve had an elderly black woman ask where I’m from–no really, where are you from?, I’ve had people shout out “That’s how we do things in America!” as I’m crossing the street (whatever that even means…), and I’ve seen the news broadcast just last week that claimed the pilots of the crashed Asiana flight were “Ho Lee Fuk”, “Wi Tu Low”, and “Bang Ding Ow”.  Really, America?  You decide that a plane crash is an appropriate time to make a racist joke out of Asian names on broadcast television (as if there were ANY appropriate time for such behavior)?

But worse than that, an unarmed (though apparently they claim the sidewalk is a weapon now…) teenage boy is dead.  And his killer walks free.  It’s true that the media loves to sensationalize, and no one knows exactly what happened except for Trayvon and George Zimmerman, but nevertheless, we know the system is huge and broken. So what now? What can we do?

This morning I heard a recounting of Dr. John Perkins’ talk at Reed College. He spoke about growing up black in Mississippi, and wanting to seek vengeance after his war vet brother was shot and killed by white police men at a movie theater. He spoke of being forced by his family to flee to California before his actions made him another “dead Perkins”. He spoke too, of finding faith through his son, and returning to Mississippi, not for violent vengeance, but to seek civil rights.

During one of his demonstrations, his students were arrested and carted away to the most racist county in the state.  They called him, and he answered.  When he arrived, Dr. Perkins, defenseless, was thrown into a police station’s windowless back room and beaten within an inch of his life. As they struck him again and again, he suffered a heart attack, and he watched his own blood spray and splatter the walls.

But “as I lay there at the feet of those huge, white police officers, I looked up into their faces…twisted with anger…immediately my heart was filled with compassion. Seeing them, all I could think was, “Dear Jesus, what pain these men must have endured in their lives to feel such hatred. Have mercy on them.”

I teared up when I heard the verdict, and I cried when I heard this story.  We know what injustice looks like.  Our hearts ache and cry out for wrongs to be punished, because we know that there is a cost for brokenness, and we know that somehow, it must be paid.

But as I listened to the story of Dr. Perkins, his blood on the walls, and a prayer on his lips, I immediately thought of another man, beaten, flogged, ridiculed, who also prayed for those who persecuted him, asking the Lord for their forgiveness, because they knew not what the did.  And it was for him that I truly cried.  To speak forgiveness for those who seek your life is radical.  To choose to love and have compassion on them who spare no whip and grant no mercy on you is unheard of.

We know what injustice looks like.  Our hearts ache and cry out for wrongs to be punished, because we know that there is a cost for brokenness, and we know that somehow, it must be paid.  And this, Jesus, was the ultimate injustice.  The innocent being found guilty, while the offenders walk free. While we walk free.  

The story wasn’t over yet.  “There is no hope,” Dr. Perkins continued. “There is no hope [for our broken communities], apart from the reconciling work of Jesus Christ.” Finally, when he was done speaking, the students gave him a standing ovation.

What can we do? Stand up for ‪#‎Justice‬ and strive for ‪#‎Reconciliation‬ , even when it’s your blood on the walls. 

He has showed you, o man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Lovely.

Lovely.
adjective

1. charmingly or exquisitely beautiful: a lovely flower.
2. having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye, as a person or a face.
3. delightful; highly pleasing: to have a lovely time.
4. of a great moral or spiritual beauty: a lovely character.

noun

5. Informal. a beautiful woman, especially a show girl.
6. any person or thing that is pleasing, highly satisfying,

For about 7 years, I have had a friend whom I nicknamed “Lovely”. She once wore a shirt with the word embellished in large sweeping letters across her chest, and it’s just such a nice but far too uncommon word that I started using it as a nickname for her.  More than cute, more real and far deeper than just pretty, it signifies a delight in character and visage.

Just yesterday, I was walking alone down the touristy streets of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.  It was relatively early in the morning, around 10am, and the cold sun had already begun to cast its grey shimmer through the thin fog, cutting across the stormy steel-blue waves that crashed against the pilings laden with seagulls.

The air was cool with a thick layer of sea salt, so I tucked my hands into the fleece-lined pockets of my rainjacket, and pulled the zipper up to my chin to keep my skin tucked away from the breezes.  These weren’t the warm Hawaiian tradewinds that I’m so accustomed to;  I shivered–not from the cold–but from the excitement of taking in the sights on my own for a couple hours before I had to catch my flight back home.

I felt exhilaration at the anonymity I had in this city full of wonders, and I felt the warmth of wanderlust winding through my veins, begging my feet to make haste in this new place.

It had been years since I’d seen the stalls stuffed with steaming seafood and crab legs, the stores lined with their squish penny souvenir machines and postcards of cable cars and winding garden streets.  The last time my feet had touched these streets, I was just a girl, holding on to the hands of my mother.  I remembered sitting and staring at barking sea lions, and breathing in the warm scent of soft sourdough bread.  I couldn’t wait to explore this part of town and reawaken childhood memories that were retained in the ‘I heart SF’ sweatshirt and flattened pieces of copper stamped with iconic SF landmarks that lived in my drawers at home.

I set out from my hotel without a map, and without an agenda.  I knew if I stuck to the shoreline, I’d never get lost, and when it came time, the waves would take me home.

I passed by an older woman, who accosted me, telling me that I was being stopped for “being under the influence of San Francisco”.  She handed me a sticker with that ubiquitous “I ❤ SF”, and told me she was collecting money to feed the hungry.  I signed my name and handed her some money, my soul warmed as though I myself had been given a warm meal. We chatted, and after hearing how I was a marine biologist, she affirmed that the beautiful blazing bounty of life found beneath the waves was a testimony to the glories of God. I wholeheartedly agreed, and she bid me farewell with yet another sticker–an American flag, this time–and a “Thank you” and a “God bless”.  Indeed, I am blessed.

I kept walking, passing under an awning, smiling and waving as the stall keepers solicited me with smiles and promises of only the freshest seafood.  I skipped the Starbucks, and stopped to admire a window full of San Francisco souvenirs.  Always on the hunt for unique shot glasses to add to my collection, I slipped into the store, bells jingling my arrival.

I contemplated the bags of Ghiradelli chocolates, on sale, but having bought some just last night, I forced myself to keep walking.  I perused one aisle full of cheesy shot glasses plastered with cartoon images of the Golden Gate Bridge and clip art cable cars, then stepped into the next aisle, walking past two men, and found another shot glass treasury.  These were more unique, with colorfully painted scenes from the City by the Bay.  Admiring the artistry and weighing it against the price tag, I felt a pair of eyes watching me.

The two men I’d passed slowly crossed over to my right, “Lovely,” one of them leaned in and said.  They crossed back to my left, and the other said in a singsong voice “I always want what I can’t have.”  I shivered, again, not from the cool breezes, but from the cavalier comments ringing in my ears.  I kept my chin high and my eyes on the glasses, until I felt their eyes leave, signalling my cue to walk away.

It’s strange, how a few misplaced comments can make one feel so small, and so vulnerable.  Cat calls, winks, leering glances, and sidelong sneaks are all part of the female experience, unfortunately.  Usually I can handle things just fine, but because there were two of them, and I was just me–just an unknown girl in a strange city…it was an unsettling and unnerving experience.  I felt unsafe, exposed, and quite frankly, fearful.  The drunk power of a day of solitary wanderlust became tinged with slight paranoia and constant vigilance.  I couldn’t just walk alone on the seaside streets getting lost in the sights, instead, the realities of my situation returned and I was more than just alone–I was unaccompanied.

I’ve had more than my fair share of girl friends who have encountered the darker side of desire.  I struggle to forgive the men who have hurt them, but beyond that, I struggle living in a society where women have to fear for their safety.  Moreover, not just a society, but a world where women have to face much more than the quick look up and down (even that is not ok).

I started this entry wanting to write inflammatory comments and have a righteous anger towards men who degrade women with their eyes, their words, or their actions.  I wanted to rant and rave about the state of the world and how unjust, disgusting, and sexist it still is.  I wanted to talk about the woman who was gang raped in India for no reason other than the fact that she stepped onto the bus.  I wanted to champion women’s causes and point out that the worst in men is terribly all too common.

But as I wrote the paragraph before last, I came up blank.  All this Jesus-flipping-tables anger just would not manifest itself through my flying fingers.  I paused, and I knew that the Lord was calling me to forgive.

To forgive the men who besmirched the word love in the eyes of not one, not two, not even three, but four of my friends.  Who pushed the boundaries because of their human selfishness, who took revenge and punishment out in the worst way possible.  The men who refused to treat my friends with respect and dignity.  Even now, when I think about what they have done, what they have said, and what they have taken, some of them over 3 years ago, I feel my body tensing in anger.

But I know, I know that God is calling me to let it go.  I want to, but I want to see them change before my eyes.  I want to hear that they understand how terribly they hurt my friends, how many tears have been shed over what they have done.  I want them to know what they did and I want them to realize how broken they are.  I want them to never do such things again, and instead, to fight for change in our society.   But the reality is that grace is unwarranted.  Forgiveness is unmerited.  God, the God of justice and the God of grace, is more brokenhearted than I will ever be.  All of these men knew God.  All of them at one point called Jesus their Lord.  Do I trust that God is at work in their lives?

My friends (or I) may never hear the “I’m sorry” that we’re waiting for.  While it’s true that hurt people hurt people, forgiven people should forgive people.  It’s a daily process, a choice .  One that I haven’t wanted to approach for years.  Why should I forgive them when they don’t understand the extent that they’ve done?

Because I am forgiven.  Are their sins really any worse than my own?

Every act of rebellion against God causes pain and suffering–whether it’s to others, to myself, or most importantly, to God.  The insurmountable sins that we have each committed were enough to put Jesus on that cross.  It was enough that he willingly came down and lived the sinless life none of us could, so that we could know him.

Who am I to look down on my broken brothers and lord it over them, claiming that the pain they’ve caused is worse than the rebellious ways that I’ve chosen in my own life?

It’s not up to me.  We live in a world that is broken, with people that are broken, who create systems of brokenness.

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” -C.S. Lewis

Lent. Romans 1: Knowing God

In this season of Lent, I’m hoping to not only give some things up, but to make good habits as well.  One of the good habits I’d like to instill is really reflecting and reading scripture.  I’ve been very lax about it lately, so I’m going to go through Romans chapter by chapter and write short reflections/summaries of what I read.

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” Romans 1:25

Background:

Paul’s writing to the non-Jewish people in Rome, whose faith has been so strong that people are talking about them all around the world.  He really wants to come visit them, to encourage, be encouraged, and to speak the gospel to even more Romans, but he hasn’t been able to make it out.

Paraphrased:

We* all know God.  His glory, power, and divine nature are so evident in the world around us–the sunsets, the oceans, the mountains, the stars, and the way the world is so perfectly balanced–in ecosystems, gravitationally, etc.  When you learn how intricately balanced the chemistry of our own body is, it’s incredible and amazing.  And it all points to the fact that someone knew what to do.

But the fact that we know God exists doesn’t mean anything.  In verse 21, it clearly says “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him…they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles…and they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.”  To exchange it, we must have had it at some point.  We knew God, we saw his glory, we had his truth.  But we didn’t care for it.  We didn’t think that it was worth our while to continue to believe in God or continue to have any sort of relationship with him.  We found our own things to worship, our own things to value, our own things to care about.  How true is that of us today?

And so God, knowing what we wanted, instead of forcing us to come back to himself, back to the truth, back to someone we didn’t want and didn’t care for, he let us go.  He gave us over.  It’s what we wanted all along.

And so we followed our desires, and women slept with women, men slept with men; we envied, murdered, deceived one another.  We gossiped, slandered, boasted, disobeyed our parents.  We were malicious, insolent,arrogant, boastful.  We became senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  And we not only exchanged the truth of God for a lie, but we became GOD-HATERS.  How painful that must be for God…to not only lose relationships that he deems so precious, but then to have those same people not just forget about you–but actively turn on you and hate you!  Can you imagine if that happened to you and a friend?

And all along, we knew that these things were wrong, that these were the very things that God did not want for us, did not hope for us.  We knew that these were the things God warned us about, the things that didn’t reflect his good intent for our lives.  But we continued to not only do them, but to “invent ways of doing evil”, and even “approve of those who practice them”.

Heavy stuff.  And yet–this is exactly the picture of our own culture 2000 years later.  We haven’t changed much.

*We: I purposely chose to use this pronoun, as we as human beings have all sinned, myself included.  I look at the list above and know that I am guilty of envy, deceit, lying, slandering, gossiping, boasting, disobeying my parents, etc.  Heavy indeed.  But just hold on for the other chapters–things get better.