Tag Archive | Hope

How Embarrassing!

 

embarrassed

When I was growing up one of the most popular ice breaker questions was, “What is your most embarrassing moment?” I hated that question. For one, the only thing I could think of was when I threw up in front of my first grade class, which to me was not very exciting as far as embarrassing stories go. Secondly, if I really had a horribly embarrassing story, why would I want to share that as an introductory piece of information to a bunch of strangers? However, I soon found out to my dismay that I didn’t have to have an embarrassing story to share for people to laugh at me. From the fact that I was Asian to my hearing impairment to my cluelessness regarding the things my peers talked about, I felt that I was an embarrassment. As an adult, though people don’t laugh at my culture or disability as much anymore, it sometimes doesn’t seem as though my laughingstock status has changed much, especially when it comes to my career/purpose.

 

I’ve dreamed of being a teacher ever since I was eight years old, but more than that, I’ve dreamed of making a difference. However, every attempt at doing either of the above has ended in humiliation. As I am waiting to hear from schools, I’m starting to feel the humiliation once again. Last night, I thought to myself, “Other people are getting interviewed, hired, and promoted, and no one has even called me.” I must look like a fool to everyone around me.

 

As I was thinking those things, a really interesting Scripture popped into my mind. It was from Psalm 40. I have written before about how I have put Psalm 40 into music and have sung it from time to time. I also shared about the time I sang it in a prayer meeting despite being tone deaf. One thing that really stood out as I sung it during the prayer meeting was the reaction I got when I sang verses 14-15, “May those who try to destroy me be humiliated and put to shame. May those who take delight in my trouble, be turned back in disgrace. Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now.” I was encouraged by the verbal agreement from those praying for me when I sang those two verses, but was surprised to see that passage flash in my mind as I was thinking about what a laughingstock I have become.

 

God reassured me with those verses that once he accomplishes his purpose in me (finishes what he started) then those who have tried to destroy me or who have rejoiced in seeing me stumble will tuck their tails between their legs and walk away in shame. Once his strength is perfected in my weakness, those who oppose me will have nothing left to say. God will be lifted up and will draw me to himself, safe from the accusations of my enemies. Then I can say with the psalmist, “Those who look to him are…never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:5).

You Call That Sweet?

One thing I’ve always wished the Bible would show more of is emotion. That’s one of the reasons why I love the story of Joseph so much, especially at the end when his family comes to Egypt. There is definitely a lot of emotion shown by Joseph in those last few chapters of Genesis. However, sometimes I find that I have to be a bit imaginative when I’m trying to figure out what a Biblical character is thinking or feeling. Take Noah for example. The Scriptures merely tell us that God told Noah to build an ark, so he did everything that God told him to. Knowing that he wasn’t a robot but was human just like myself though, I often wonder what was going through his mind the whole time. Did he ever think things like, “There’s not a cloud in sight. Did I really hear God right or was it the sour goat cheese I had this morning?”

 

He must have thought something similar because God brought him up when I was thinking along those lines last week. I was not building an ark, but preparing for a classroom. You might think, what’s wrong with preparing for a classroom? Nothing, if you have one that is, or if you know for sure you’re going to have one. None of the above is true for me however. I have only applied for several teaching positions. I have not gotten hired or even interviewed. Besides, most of the schools I visited in the last two days have no positions available. Even as I started preparing, I kept thinking to myself, “This is ridiculous! It’s highly unlikely that I’ll get hired and if I don’t then all this time and all these materials will be wasted.” What’s more, after I left the second school I visited today, I felt God telling me to stop all my efforts and wait for him to move. My response? “Are you sure God? I have so many other schools I have not visited yet and what about other districts and you know that schools don’t hire on the basis of online application alone and I have to visit the schools and…”

 

You know the song, “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus?” I was thinking about it tonight and thought, “No, it’s not sweet to trust in Jesus, it’s really hard!” Then I thought back to something else God had said when he told me to stop my searching. He told me to lay my Issac down. It threw me off guard for a bit because this wasn’t about my child or anything. Then I realized that just as Issac meant the world to Abraham, it means the world to me to have a teaching job again. God was asking me to surrender my grip on the thing that I’m clinging to and let him take control over it. Tonight, as I was thinking about how hard it was to trust in Jesus and how there could be anything sweet about it, I suddenly thought of the songwriter who wrote that song. I’m sure the composer had a few gray hairs in her head that spoke of years of watching as she “proved him o’er and o’er.” Abraham was certainly no spring chicken when God asked him to sacrifice Issac. He had had years of witnessing the faithfulness of God and hearing his voice. I may not have the years of Abraham, but I’ve definitely seen the faithfulness of God o’er and o’er. It still doesn’t come easily, and it was still with trembling hands that I put away my list of schools to stop by. However, God has never left a need of mine unmet, and I know he’s not about to begin to. I am confident that long before the last hair on my head turns gray, I’ll be able to truly know the sweetness of leaning my entire weight on the most faithful one!

Forgotten Money

Have you ever found money in a winter coat or a bookbag which you have long since forgotten about and it’s like you’re suddenly ecstatic that you’re $10 richer? Don’t you love it when that happens? Now that I am really tight on money, finding a $10 bill is like finding a $100 bill so my joy in those types of situations is much more what they would normally be when I didn’t have to count every penny. Today, God brought this picture to mind as he was trying to calm me down from the temper tantrum I had immediately after church this morning.

 

The last “Amen” had barely left my pastor’s mouth when I bolted out the door on the verge of tears. Having sat in the back doing power point for the whole service, my exit was quick and easy. The whole time I drove home I was fuming with anger and the minute I sat down at my desk, I burst into tears. Why was I so upset? I was upset because I didn’t get to share my testimony of being freed from the torment of the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. I had been ready to share the testimony last week but there wasn’t time in the service, so my pastor asked me to share it this week. After waiting all week and counting down the days so I could share, I was devastated when we ran out of time again this week. I had tried to have the pastor send out an email with the testimony last week, but he wanted me to share it in person this week. I really wanted to send out another email pleading with him to share the testimony through email instead of waiting one more week, but God held me back.

 

“Why is it so important for you to share this now?” He asked quietly. Now I have learned that when God asks a question, it’s not because he needs information, but rather it is to show us where our hearts are. After thinking about it for some time, I responded, “Because the way people value my experiences is the way I think they value me.” In other words, in my mind, if people really valued me, they would be excited about the good things that happen to me and would want to tell the world. For example, if a parent whose child has been really sick suddenly gets healed, he would not hesitate to tell the world about this wonderful news because he values his child. However, someone who does not know the child who hears about the news would not have the same enthusiasm about sharing the news because the child doesn’t mean nearly as much to the stranger.

 

That’s when God brought up the money illustration. “Did that $10 bill you found in your coat pocket lose its value after being ignored for a whole year? Did it suddenly become worth only $5 because it has been shared or used and no one knew about it for a whole year?” God asked. He then continued, “You are still basing your value on the actions of others and your feelings. A $10 bill is worth $10 not because it’s used all the time, but because it was assigned that value by its maker.” Finally, quoting a message I had given to a youth group once, God reminded me, “Only the maker of an item (or person) has the right to name and assign value to that object (or person)”

 

If you have been following my blogs for some time, you will know that the issue of my value and worth has been the topic of many of my blog posts. It is definitely an area that God is repeatedly working with me on as it involves pulling up deeply rooted ways of thinking and sowing the truth in its place. So whether my testimony or blogs get shared or talked about or not, I must remember that my value does not hinge upon the responses of other people. It would be scary if it did because people are unpredictable and situations are unpredictable. If our value depended on what happened to us or what people say about us, we’d all be basket cases because we’d never know our value from moment to moment. I am grateful that the only one who has the right to assign my value never changes and so I can count on my value to never change as well. That, my friends, is the true cure for insecurity.

Lessons From a Bad Hair Day

Somethings are so horrible you have to blog about it, namely, my haircut. If you are a guy reading this, please excuse the drama, for there’s no way you could understand. Ladies, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Last night, I looked in the mirror and got disgusted with my previous haircut which wasn’t even straight and grabbed a coupon and headed to a local salon. When I came home, I was in tears and vowed never to leave the house until my hair grew out and I had it fixed. I didn’t even want to go to church this weekend. To make it worse, I had a wedding to attend today.

 

It’s strange how one spark can ignite a whole house. All of a sudden I became convinced I was ugly and worthless. I didn’t have a job, my finances are a disaster and now I look disgusting. When I went to bed, God tried to tell me I was beautiful but I wouldn’t hear of it. “Ugly, ugly, ugly,” I lamented and started thinking about how I could excuse myself from all activities like the wedding and church.

 

You know what I did next? I went to the bathroom and tried to avoid the mirror while I washed my face. Then I went online and looked up Tricoci University. Part of me wanted to learn to bring out the beauty in everyone and make sure no one ever went home calling themselves ugly over a haircut. I dreamed of one day volunteering my services at a women’s shelter so that ladies whose lives are falling apart can look in the mirror and see the beauty that God created.

 

Is this new career choice just a “fad” like all my other pursuits and desires? I don’t think so, but time will tell. However, I have learned a valuable lesson about hope. Several weeks ago, God told me that he has placed a strong seed of hope in me, and that seed has kept me alive thus far. If I let him, he will cultivate it so that it will bear much fruit. I doubted God then, because I’ve spent most of my life feeling depressed and in despair. However, I learned last night that hope is not a feeling. I still feel horrible about my haircut and still wish I didn’t have to go to weddings and church. However, Biblical hope speaks of expectation. All throughout the Bible, God has shown himself to be the redeemer, redeeming what has been lost and making new all which has been destroyed. Even before giving my life to him, I have known that somehow he will make things right in the end. It is that expectation that causes me to “prepare my fields for rain” even in a drought (as quoted in Facing the Giants). I know God will send rain in his time, and when he does I want to be ready. Besides, it would be just like him to turn a disastrous haircut into a ministry, don’t you think?

I REALLY Get It!

Except for the three hours of sleep that I got, I spent most of last night in tears. I should probably add that they were tears of gratitude. I would have called myself a drama queen in regards to the incident if I didn’t know the nature of God and the mysterious ways he sometimes works. Ever since I came back from my Christmas trip to Bloomington, I have eagerly awaited my summer trip. This year however, due to having almost no income, it became less and less of a possibility as the months went by. In addition, my brother, aka my normal pet sitter, would be tied up as would the rest of the family this weekend because of my relatives from Taiwan being in town. So at the beginning of this week, I had to reluctantly say no to Bloomington this summer.

 

Then suddenly last night, by God’s incredible provision, I had $100 freed up to use for things I needed. I began listing in my head all the bills I needed to pay including, utilities, car payment, insurance, gas, laundry, internet, phone, the list went on and my head was starting to swim. I was trying to figure out which one I should knock out first when out of the blue I thought about my trip which would now be made possible if I used some of the money. As much as I wanted to do it, I was really hesitant because the trip in my mind wasn’t a “necessity.” I didn’t need to help out my college pastor’s church with their children’s program. Besides, I told myself that I was given the money so I can pay bills, not so I can go on a trip. My stomach started to churn and knot and I was ready to cancel the trip for good when I heard the unmistakable voice of God.

 

“I want you to go, and I’ve provided a way. It’s a gift.” Stunned, I tried to argue, “but what about my utilities and gas and all the other stuff I have to pay?” “Do you not think I can provide for those as well?” came the response. Continuing, he surprised me by saying, “Is life more than utilities?” I smiled at the new rendering of Matthew 6:25 and Luke 12:23. Suddenly, I burst into tears as the love of God swept over me. I kept hearing the words, “It’s a gift” and I finally understood. Love gives, and keeps on giving.

 

Here’s the interesting thing though. I never prayed about this Bloomington trip. I never asked God to make a way for me to go. Why? Because I never ask God for such frivolous things. The things I pray for are like jobs and my family’s salvation. I never bother God with what I consider are “wants.” But then I thought about the gifts my friends give me on birthdays or Christmases. Many of those would be considered “wants” as well. My friends know I don’t need another teacup or Archivers gift card, but they know I like them and enjoy seeing me smile…because they love me. God doesn’t always give me everything I want, for that would not be loving just as spoiling a child wouldn’t be an act of love. However, much more than any earthly father or friend, God is the giver of good gifts. Why? Because he is love, and he loves us so much more than we will ever know. I get it. I really get it.

But That’s Not the End of the Story!

Have you ever read a story or watched a movie that doesn’t have a happy ending? I have mixed feelings about those. On one hand, I feel cheated. Being the passive, let’s-make-everyone-happy kind of a person, the thing that gets me through the conflict part of the story is knowing that there will be a happy ending. I don’t want to read about wicked people destroying good people unless I know that everything will turn out fine in the end. On the other hand, we don’t all have fairy godmothers that wave a wand and turn pumpkins into carriages at the sound of bibity-bopity-boo. People do die of cancer, or just die, houses do get burned down sometimes, and bad things do happen. So sometimes I like the fact that certain stories do not sugar coat life’s realities. However, most of the time I still feel cheated if there’s not a happy ending. Many times I want to rewrite those sad-ending stories so that they will all live happily ever after. I protest, “but that’s not the end of the story!”

I think I remember something that happened when I was at a church camp. We were instructed that whenever we talked about something bad that was happening in our lives, we have to add the phrase, “but that’s not the end of the story” to the end of it. The lesson was that God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes, so whenever something happens that is not good then we know there’s more to the story because ALL God’s promises are yes and amen. Now just a note of clarification, the verse doesn’t say that God will only cause good things to happen to us, but that he will use the things that happen in our lives to make us more like Christ, which is the ultimate good that can happen to any of us. So whenever we say things like, “I lost my job” or “My mom died of cancer” or “My child has a difficult disability” we can latch on to God’s promises and say, “but that’s not the end of the story.”

Last night I had to learn this lesson in a new way. I had been struggling hard with my financial situation and inability to find a suitable job. I was looking for a way to express the anguish I was going through and flipped through the Psalms for help. When I reached Psalm 102, I found exactly what I was looking for. As a side note, I would encourage you to read the whole Psalm. It’s a long one so I will only be citing parts of it, but it is a really neat psalm to study and meditate on. Here’s verses 3-11, which I found was a perfect mirror for my emotions, “My days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.” My thoughts exactly. I wasted no time to share it, after all, it’s Scripture, and it describes my situation perfectly.

“But it’s a Psalm,” I heard the whisper in my heart.

I know what that means, I’ve even taught others what that means. A psalm never ends in lament. If the psalmist is lamenting about something, he always ends with praise and an acknowledgment of who God is. However, last night, I would have none of that. I was only concerned about the “woe is me” part. I know, some lessons don’t stick very well the first (or tenth) time. As God mercifully removed the barrier that was hindering me from seeing his plan, I was able to read and share the second half of Psalm 102. I’ll share a little part of it here, from verses 12-17. “But you, O Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.” The end of the story is God wins and he will be glorified. My financial situation isn’t any better, it’s actually worse than it was last night but we’re only at the conflict part of the plot line. The resolution has yet to happen, and when it does, the whole world will know that Jesus is Lord. That is the end of the story!

Dangerous Secrets

Do I tell her secret and get help for her even though she will probably hate me forever and never talk to me again or do I keep her secret and hope I can convince her not to kill herself? That question is probably a no-brainer for many of us adults, but for an eighth grade girl longing to be liked and make meaningful friendships, this is tough stuff. I regret to say that this is exactly what I put my best friend through when I called her one night in sixth grade telling her that I believed others would be better off if I was dead and I had intended to make that happen, but that she better not tell anyone.

If you would have presented me with the above question, I would have not hesitated to say, “By all means, get her help!” However, when it came to another kind of secret that also belongs in this category, up until this week, I couldn’t give you the correct answer. Specifically, it had to do with the sexual abuse. Like the majority of sexual abuse victims, I was threatened against telling. As an Asian child, the threats carried the additional weight of dishonoring my family. Children who dishonored their parents committed one of the most horrible crimes in Chinese culture and met with severe punishment and disgrace. When the nurse at the hospital suspected sexual abuse and asked a specific question, my silence confirmed his suspicions and initiated the investigation. However, until this week, I continued wrestling with the guilt for having disclosed the “family secret.” Some members of the family took my dad’s side and charged me for tearing apart the family. Even after I was able to believe that the abuse itself wasn’t my fault, which took years for me to believe, I still wrestled with the guilt of having brought shame to my family.

Last night I shared how Ginny Yttrup’s book Words completed the healing in all areas of the sexual abuse. One of the key areas was this guilt that I had carried with me for so long. In her book one of the key characters had struggled with drug abuse and her best friend was trying to help her. Her friend eventually told her parents about her addiction, which caused quite a stir to say the least, but got her the help that she needed. As this woman shared with the sexually abused girl her story of how her best friend’s insistence on telling the truth helped her get the help she needed, a light bulb went on in my mind. This woman was sharing her story to the girl to show her how it is actually a loving thing to tell the truth, and I realized that by telling the truth about what he did, I provided an opportunity for my dad to face correction and change his ways just like the woman’s friend did for her by telling her parents about her addiction. Whether my dad chooses to take this opportunity and change is completely up to him and out of my control, but at least I can know that I brought the truth to light and in doing so, gave him the opportunity to walk in the light of the truth. I realize now that that is probably the most honoring thing I could have done for my him and my family.

I am still amazed at how God was able to communicate this truth to me in such a profound way. Although many would not hesitate to tell such dangerous secrets, I have a suspicion that I am not the last one on earth who struggles with telling such painful truths for the sake of love and honor (or fear). My prayer is that those who are still living in the dark would find the courage to step into the light. I can say from experience that the light is painfully blinding at first, but as the eyes of our hearts adjust to the liberating brightness of the truth, we find that we are able to love as Jesus did. Then we can truly lead the “little children” in singing with joy, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”