When my heart is torn asunder

There is hope
Beyond the suffering
Joy beyond the tears
Peace in every tragedy
Love that conquers fear
I have found redemption
In the blood of Christ
My body might be dying
But I’ll always be alive

Starting up this blog again because I miss writing and it’s been over a year. I have decided to just write because I’ve realized it’s good for my soul. I realized it’s harder to take the time to reflect and write when you are in the working world. After a solid 8+ hours, all you want to do is crash and watch TV, even bad TV like The Bachelor. Yes, I am watching this season. My defense is that I will only watch when there are decent guys who are The Bachelor, like Sean Lowe. (although Chris isn’t a jerk yet, he is obviously perfectly okay with kissing everyone, which is pretty gross) Anyway, I digress.

I want to write because I’ve been feeling lost lately. Not to be all dramatic and emo, but I’ve never felt so unsure about everything in my life. And I am anxious about this uncertainty. Why after all that’s going good for me in my life do I still feel hollow sometimes? And yet – when I am listening to songs that speak of my Savior’s love for me, I have a moment of peace in my world of confusion. I am assured that despite where I fail and wonder where my life is going and what I believe in exactly, I have a God who loves me. Sometimes I even doubt that, which drives me crazy, but for one small moment in the shower when I was listening to this beautiful Phil Wickham song, I found comfort in hope and love.

Advertisements

And my soul is getting restless for the place where I belong

I have been feeling very defeated lately. Life is an endless cycle of feeling drained, frustrated, and disappointed in my job, my relationships with others, and my spiritual growth. Someone at my church put it as being “institutionalized” – allowing your life to become a routine and basically living according to that routine and for nothing else. I think the most difficult thing is feeling as though you’re supposed to be a light but not feeling like you are much of one. I’ve been told I always look happy because I smile a lot. But the truth is, I’m not happy. I’m constantly grasping for that indescribable joy in the Lord that I know but do not feel, though I know it is true and real because I have felt it before. I feel sad and angry because it seems like God has made my life so difficult. I know everyone has their own struggles and no one’s life is completely carefree, but I just feel this overwhelming sense of defeat and I don’t know how to get over it. Every day I think “There must be more than this.” I feel restless and disappointed with life and yearn for more. I’m yearning for that better place, for eternal joy. Why can’t I feel it?

The love of Christ which surpasses knowledge

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom [l]every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to bestrengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the [m]saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

I’m sure you can tell I’ve been thinking about love this whole week, specifically God’s love, the love of Jesus Christ, the love of a God and a man who loved us first and gave and continues to give us everything when we gave him nothing. I fall for love: the romantic, cheesy, stuff of movies and fairy tales. I idealize and romanticize unhealthily. I love love, I love the idea of it, and I love being in love. But these types of love are not sustainable, cannot be fulfilled without the love of Christ. If God is capital Love, perfect Love, then love as we know it in society, as we see in the world without God, is but a mere, tiny brushstroke on the massive canvas of God’s Love. Getting unnecessarily metaphorical here, I know. But the Love that I am experiencing, because it is so indescribable and inexplicable, I can only try to describe and put it into words.

Here’s the problem with accepting the Love of Christ. We think it’s good, but we don’t realize how great and how powerful it is. Measured up to worldly standards of success, love is for pansies. You can’t become a CEO by loving all your employees. Forget that. You gotta give tough love and fire the ones that become dispensable. You need to be feared, revered, worshiped. That’s success in our world. And nowadays, the latest idol we worship is knowledge.

I am a UC Berkeley grad. That literally means nothing to me as a Christian. But to the world, it’s validation that I’m smart. I go to different countries, encounter Asian immigrant communities in churches and in the Bay Area, and they are in awe. I also often in my heart judge people based on their education, which is so completely wrong. It’s unfortunate that that’s the way the world works, that that’s what we as humans value, but it’s true. The educated elite are valued at the top right now – Ivy League grads, world class ranked schools…people take pride in that stuff. There was some random world class university ranking list that came out recently, and Berkeley was listed as fifth or something, one rank above Stanford. My Facebook feed was filled with students sharing this link and showing their Cal pride/bashing Stanford, which of course can be light-hearted and all in good fun, but it demonstrates that this pride in knowledge defines many of us and in many cases, consumes us. I know it consumed me. But we fail to see that it is meaningless in the eternal sense. In this lifetime, it matters to people. God loves us anyway, so it doesn’t matter to Him what school you came from, or if you went to school at all. Even if you can’t read, He loves you. So yeah, education’s important – I think reading is important and can open up a realm of great things like exchange of ideas and Harry Potter. But it’s not necessary to be in the kingdom of God. There is no barrier to the kingdom of God because of the love of Christ. That is the power of the Gospel. Everyone is equally, uniquely loved.

I get worried and anxious about how I might change in the working world. Because in the working world, Christ is often not valued. Knowledge is power, as my dad loves to say to me. You have to have something the organization can use you for, or else you’re out. In the mechanics of an organization, you are a cog in a machine, almost no longer human. Really depends, obviously, on what type of organization and work environment you’re in, but your value is in what you contribute to your work, and not in God. I pray that I don’t forget the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Christ came. He overcame. He defeated death. And He loved us first. Let us dwell on that Love through faith, and “be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

A Heart Full of Praise

I praise You because:

  • You are God.
  • You give us FREEDOM in You.
  • You gave me a church family that has blessed and continues blessing me and each other. When I imagine what heaven’s like I see them. I’m excited to share eternity with them.
  • You gave me my apartmentmates. It’s a match truly made in heaven.
  • You love us first, always.

Perfect love casts out all fear – 1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

I’ve been thinking about this very intensely the past two days. Maybe it’s because I just watched V for Vendetta (which is a killer movie, by the way), but I find myself thinking a lot about the two powerful emotions of fear and love. The movie is about a fictional, oppressive British government that has so much power because people have fear. Their initial fear of chaos is what leads them to put this government into power. They feel like they need a protector. But eventually, the government in fact becomes their biggest fear. You then have this vigilante, V, who wants to eradicate that fear by exacting revenge and making the government fear him and fear their people. Fear begets power begets fear. It’s like a never-ending cycle. But the main female character instills something new in V. For the first time in his life, he experiences real love, and it is this love that allows him to be at peace and relinquish a bit of himself and his mission to her. This love makes him realize he is just as much a monster and perpetrator of fear as the government he is against. Obviously, this is just one of the many themes of the movie, and I am extrapolating quite a bit, but this was what stood out to me about the movie. Fear and love, both incredibly powerful. In my opinion, the ending of the movie shows that love conquers fear, that love can build something new and good that fear cannot.

However, this whole grandiose idea of love conquering fear is rebutted by the paradox that there is often fear in love. A leader at one of my college student groups once said to me, “There are two types of leaders: those who prefer to be feared, and those who prefer to be loved.” I, of course, am one who prefers to be loved, and am afraid of not being loved.  In a relationship, one of the biggest fears you have is that the other person no longer loves you. You are perhaps afraid to do things that you know will irk the other person or be reason for them to leave you. You try to be as lovable as possible. But there is no fear in perfect love. Perfect love is love that is unconditional and eternal. I believe that Jesus is and was an example of perfect love. He was the only human capable of perfect love because he was, well, also God. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples of perfect love; I think everyone is capable of demonstrating that perfect love, but no one can do it all the time. They fail in the constant, eternal aspect of perfect love. I think, in experiencing and realizing God’s perfect love for me, I strive to demonstrate that same perfect love to others through God’s love in me. But I will fail, because I am not God. And in any loving relationship I have with others, there will also be an aspect of fear, however tiny it may be. But in God’s perfect love, there is no fear. Experiencing God’s perfect love makes me less afraid. Knowing that I am already perfectly loved makes me less afraid to lose the love of others. Of course I want that love and I believe that love is good to share and experience, but I don’t need or crave it because I already have the most powerful, perfect love of Jesus Christ himself.

In summary, God = Perfect love > love > fear. That is a truth I believe.

A Testimony

I’m not sure how to articulate this, but here goes: I think I have experienced more emotional pain and turmoil in the past year or so than I had in my whole life previously. My identity, so firmly rooted in academics and family, was broken and stomped on over and over again. I experienced rejection from those who were supposed to love me the most, and for the first time, I felt truly lost in knowing who I was and what kind of person I am. My closest friend called me crazy and depressed, and at times, wanted nothing to do with me. I didn’t know what happened to me. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I felt abandoned in my faith and by God. How could You do this to me? I screamed so many times. What did I do to deserve this? How come no one else is going through this? How come no one else can understand my pain? At times, I just wanted it all to end because I felt like I could deal with things no longer. You know that verse that talks about God not giving you more than you can bear? (Okay, I looked it up – 1 Corinthians 10:13) Well, things felt pretty unbearable at times, so unbearable that I asked God, “Where are You now? Where and why have You left me?”

I called. He answered. Not in the way that I would have liked, of course. There was no sudden voice booming out over me, and I truly felt alone in my cries of despair. There was no miracle, no sudden healing of relationships and magical reconciliation. But He has brought me out of the darkness, and has surrounded me with His love through people and small miracles. Despite all my doubts, He has been and continues to be faithful. And for that I will always praise Him.

It’s not easy, though. Not a day goes by where thinking about all the pain I’ve felt can reduce me to tears. I continue to be hurt, feel hurt and rejected. Feeling loved and secure in the Lord is an everyday struggle because that identity and security in being loved was lost so strongly and abruptly. It’s taken me this long to admit as much because I didn’t want to admit that I had and still have so much anger, hurt, and sadness in me. I don’t like to admit that I’m anything less than the confident, bubbly, happy person I appear to and like to be. Most of the time, I still am. I still love people and being with people. I love rejoicing in the Lord. But it’s okay to not be that joyful person all the time.  And it’s okay to be angry or sad or weak. He loves me just the same. He loves us just the same. Because He loved us first – wholly and unconditionally. And in His perfect love, there is no fear.

Buzz Words

When I did debate (yes, I was/am quite the nerd), there were so many buzz words it was almost like speaking a different language: cross-ex, spread, flow, cutting cards, prepping out, just to name a few. Same goes for consulting. Instead of use, we say leverage, because we want to sound all scholarly and eloquent, when really we just mean use. And instead of saying we’re trying to do too much or that the scope is too large, we use terms like “boiling the ocean.” There’s a part of me that loves using buzz words because it sounds impressive and smart. It’s like validating my intelligence. Using buzz words is often subconscious proof that you are part of a certain community or have reached a particular social status. It’s another way of showing that you understand these secret terms, that you are “special,” and that there are just some people who don’t understand the words that are coming out of your mouth (sorry, couldn’t resist the Rush Hour reference).

Now don’t get me wrong. Buzz words aren’t inherently a bad thing. They are part of society and are probably even necessary in certain contexts. They’re just really annoying sometimes, especially when you feel intimidated and excluded by them, which got me thinking about another part of my life that uses a lot of buzz words: my faith.

Growing up Christian, there were a lot of those basic words with a religious connotation, like holy, prayer, God, Jesus, etc. I thought that was it. But when I got to college, I heard a lot more buzz words and phrases, like brokenness, kingdom of God, healing, social justice, ethnic identity, grace, and redemption. And since I heard them so much, I started using them when I prayed, but mostly because they just sounded so good and fluffy, not because I actually fully understood what they meant. But hey, leaders used them and they sounded so holy when they prayed that I wanted to sound like that too. Except there were a lot of times when I prayed with people that a) the words sounded super fake to my ears and b) what the heck did I even really mean anyway? Wouldn’t it just be easier and more real to say, “God, I’m pretty messed up right now. I need You” instead of “God, please heal me and everyone else in our brokenness. Bring Your kingdom here”? But I hid behind these phrases rather than be honest about how I was feeling with my faith. And I felt the need to, because I was afraid I would look bad if I didn’t talk about God healing my brokenness, even if I felt like He just wasn’t there. The reason was because it just seemed like everyone else had it so together. But most of the time, that’s not true. Everyone’s always struggling with something or the other, and a lot of the time faith is part of those struggles. We just have a hard time admitting it to people because there’s this expectation of being good, of being “Christian.”

But Christianity isn’t supposed to be that way. As human beings, we mess up all the time and as Christians, we should be able to share that with each other without feeling afraid of what others might think. We should be able to be real and honest and not use buzz words to sound good and holy. Because most of the time, we’re not. We get angry. We swear. We judge people and are mean. Buzz words are great and good to describe our faith, but I think overuse of them deters true community. I wish I hadn’t felt the need to use a bunch of buzz words while praying and was brave enough to just be truthful. So that’s my challenge, I guess, to myself, and to everyone else who happens to read this. Be real with others, because likely they feel the exact same way as you. But you can be the first to break out of the buzz words and say what you really mean to say as is: raw, open, and unashamedly naked.