between.

In a world that demands labels, identifications, and sides, it’s a nightmare to be stuck in between.  To not be “normal”, “average”, “white”, “straight”, “American” or “majority” is a constant struggle between two worlds.  I witness this uneasiness everyday working in a high school.  Students are constantly attempting to conform, change, shove, and push their way into the popular, smart, hip, skater, or emo group.  The labels high schoolers place on themselves and peers add pressure to ‘be’ and ‘act’ a certain way.  I especially see the struggle of my students with special needs as they try to make friends, and try to reach out to students who don’t understand why they look or act a certain way.  It seems as though they are seen as different from the start, and their struggle to “fit in” is so much harder than other students.  My heart breaks for them to know how much greater they are than they can even imagine.

I often reflect on my own life and what these labels mean and do to me now.  Life and it’s labels are given by society instead of the peers and colleagues around me.  The expansion of these labels have taught me a lot- mainly that I don’t belong.  Do we ever really belong?

I am a Christian, half Japanese, half American bisexual woman whose labels don’t describe who I am.  The complexity of a human being is fluid and much deeper than any label could describe.  I have felt caught in between many of these labels- it’s a pretty lonely place.

In particular I struggled with my “Christian” label and “bisexual” label.  When you think of what a “Christian” is, you think of a moral, conservative, creation believing, Bible thumper who has all the answers, right?  They are confident about where they’re going, what they believe and sometimes they seem to tell people they’re wrong if they don’t believe what they believe, right?

When it came to my sexuality, I had a picture that Christians were straight.  If they weren’t, they were celibate, that was expected and taught.  So, when I realized I was bi, I felt my “Christianity” was like oil and my sexuality was water.  They couldn’t and weren’t supposed to mix.  I couldn’t be both bi, and Christian.

Because I was told my number one identity was always supposed to be “Christian” (because I believe in Christ), I shoved my struggles with sexuality away.  I wrote it off thinking “I can’t think like that, that’s wrong”, and most of all sinful.

When I think about sin, I think about actions that pull you farther from who God is in a destructive manner, whether that’s destructive toward oneself, ones relationship with God, or ones relationship with others.  When I look back on my denial, ignoring, and bottling of my feelings towards the same sex, I realize how destructive it was towards not only myself and who I am, but also my relationship with Christ and how I relate to Him.  I felt shame, loneliness, uncomfortable, and stuck between two worlds.  When I began to come to terms with my sexuality, that’s when I felt a weight off my shoulders.  I felt God telling me it’s ok, the struggle is ok, and (most importantly) I am ok, the way I am, the way God created me.

The most dynamic, life-changing, view altering thing I’ve learned since coming out to myself and others is how great, deep, and expansive God’s love for us is.  No matter who we are, what we do, or how we hurt ourselves, His love is far deeper than we could ever imagine.  He has taught me how to love Him more deeply, and how to love others more deeply.  Even others who disagree with me.  I’ve realized Christians aren’t tied down to certain stereotypes, certain labels like I described before.  There are Christians who are liberal, independent, straight, gay, transgender, scientists who believe in evolution, smokers; Christians who drink, who aren’t sure, who don’t know everything, who don’t understand all of the universe, and most importantly who don’t know how God works all the time.  When Christ is involved, labels aren’t needed.  Christ is bigger than Christians in this world.  He’s greater than how we label ourselves, and if we go to church every week, or if we go to the biggest church in the country or the smallest.  He is bigger, his work is bigger, and his love for you is bigger.  He is not contained in a label- he’s not contained in a church, or a culture, or a specific bible passage.  He is so much bigger than all of those things.  I’ve found when I step beyond the labels, when I’m stuck in between the labels, although it’s deeply lonely sometimes, I’m able to grasp more fully an understanding of who I am in Christ- and nothing more.

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quiet.

With these posts, I came into this challenge thinking my posts would be very diverse and I would post songs, videos, quotes, etc. But, so far none of that has happened.  So my creativity has failed me.  I hope those of you who have continued to read my posts still enjoy them and I hope that they are thought provoking besides my lack and inconsistency in posting on time.

One of my students came into my room today and said “Ah, I like it in here.  It’s so peaceful and calm.”  I was a little confused because I was typing away at the computer summarizing my last students’ lesson, and although I wasn’t talking or playing music, I was curious why she felt such a peace from being in the room.  I asked if she had any siblings, as if maybe the lack of noise was a refuge for her because her life is filled with noise.  But she said she had an older sibling who was 18.  So I was left confused, and still am.

But, quietness is something our society lacks.  Silence is feared in most social situations, even when we attempt to sit in silence, there is noise around us.  Not necessarily auditory noise but noise from advertisements, media, radio, and other voices that flood into our life.

So how are we supposed to handle verses that talk about meeting God in silence?  What does silence or stillness or quiet mean in the 21st century?  Is it even possible?

“The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain int he presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” 1 Kings 11-13a

This is a relatively familiar passage to most Evangelical Christians.  It’s a passage that explains how God revealed himself to Elijah.  It’s a passage that explains how God speaks through quietness.  But it’s also a passage that reveals how God is unexpected.  God is all powerful and all knowing.  He can do anything he wants to reveal himself to Elijah.  He could prove to Elijah how powerful he is in any possible way, through fire, wind, earthquake, literally anyway (this is God we’re talking about here…).  But instead of proving to Elijah his worthiness, his power, his all-knowingness, he instead decides to speak to Elijah through a whisper.

God is not just a God who meets us in our stillness, in our confusion and loss, He’s a God that unexpectedly meets us.  When we least expect God to present himself, he’s there.  When we expect God to prove himself to us, he instead approaches us in a whisper.  When we expect God to come to earth as a mighty king to save us from our worldly troubles, he instead comes to earth as a lowly infant and sacrifices himself to save us from our more important spiritual troubles.

I challenge you to ask God to meet you in unexpected ways today.  In a way that you would never expect God to show up, but it’s clear that he’s present.  I pray God would hear our prayers and unexpectedly meet us in the “quietness” of where we are today.

present.

I have returned.

Sometimes I get frustrated when I’m not able to keep on to something that I really want to (*ahem* the a-to-z challenge).  It’s not that I’ve purposely stopped, it’s that I have too many thoughts and I’m trying to keep with it but then I can’t think of topics for the thoughts I have running in my head and then I’m sent in a whirlwind and I’m not sure when or where to start. It’s a frustrating thing.

On with the challenge.  PS.  I will be adding a random blogpost in response to my post titled “[         ].”  Because it’s about Easter (which was now two days ago).

Ok, when I say I hate being confined by time, do you understand why? I feel like time passes way too quickly, and my life isn’t able to catch up to it.  Ever.  There is never a time I feel like I’m on top of time and I hate that.  In life, we’re always looking towards the next minute, always thinking about the next hour, day, week, month, year, years, etc.  We live by goals and goal setting and sometimes we forget about the present.

One of my good friends asked me the other day how I approach friendships.  She continued to describe to me how she tries as best as she can to be where she’s at, because she knows her tendency is to rely and heavily reach back to the past and attempt to rely too heavily on past relationships instead of investing in the present ones.  This was an interesting concept to me, because although I don’t struggle with being present (or at least I try not to think I do), sometimes being stuck in the past is much easier.  It’s really easy for us to rely on what we know and not explore the present and what we don’t know.  It’s easy for us to reach back to the past, to the familiarity and become invisible in our present.

Even more interestingly, it’s easy for us to become attached to our future and forget about our past and present.  Sometimes we look and plan so heavily on our future that we lose the present and our past.  I want to challenge you today to be where you are, to be where God has placed you and to be all there.  Love the past, appreciate the relationships you have from the past, and continue to kindle them, but don’t forget about stepping out of the comfort and finding the present.  Don’t lose what God has placed in your life right now.

openness, opportunity, and ostracize.

So, the title was basically the only three words that start with ‘o’ I could think of right now.  But I realized they are all related in an interesting way.  They are all steps in a process of knowing and acceptance.

First, you have to be open.  You have to be open with yourself, with God, and with others.  Being open means being willing to be challenged and changed.  You have to be able to identify who you are and how God created you and accept that it may be different than what you first thought or what you want.  This is sometimes challenging because we put ourselves in boxes.  We think that we have to be a certain way, and instead of actually asking ourselves who we are, we assume we must be a certain way.  Being open is accepting that that may not be the case.

The second step is being ready for an opportunity.  I realize I’m being very vague with my definitions, and I apologize.  There are opportunities that we’re given to explore, to understand, and to reveal ourselves to others, and the only way to grow in deeper relationship is to seize these opportunities of vulnerability.  I’m a firm believer in the fact that we’re given opportunities to share and I’m also a firm believer in the fact that when the opportunity is given, one should take hold of it.  I think great growth come from these opportunities.

Lastly, you are either ostracized or accepted.  You are either accepted and loved for who you are, or you are ostracized and isolated.  I struggle with this because I’ve experienced both, which I’m sure you have as well.  I struggle because acceptance especially in the current Christian culture is becoming synonymous with the truth or ‘standards’ by which Christians are supposed to live.  In order for us as Christians to accept you, you have to live a certain way, and if you don’t live that way, then we can’t accept you.  We’re forced to love you and hate your sin.  But in reality, as I’ve learned, there is no Christian “type”. God has made us all differently, we all have different strengths, we all have different weaknesses, and we all react to situations differently.  Yes, there is sin, but we are innately sinful.  So how can we as sinful beings decide what is the sin and what is the fruit?  I’m wary of my ability to judge people and decide who’s life is sinful and who’s life is not.  In fact, I am pretty certain I am incapable of having any say in who’s life is sinful.  All I know is we are all sinful, including myself.  There is no man or woman out there who is anymore sinful than me, for my sin is just as bad as any other sinners out there.  The only thing I am certain of is that Christ died for me, and has obliterated my sin with his shed blood on my behalf.  I have no right to ostracize anyone, and I mean anyone by telling them that I can’t support the way they live because I,sinful, broken, selfish being be

misunderstood.

As humans, we’re limited not only in our knowledge of understanding fully the unseen, but we’re also limited in our understanding of ourselves and of others.  Because we can never insert ourselves into another person’s life fully, meaning live life as they live life, see the world as they see the world, we are limited in understanding each other.  This is a big detriment to ourselves and causes us to depend on our own ability to express and communicate what life is like as ourselves.  

Oftentimes this dependence fails us and despite our greatest efforts, we are still misunderstood.  Sometimes this failure is because of a barrier outside of ourselves, and sometimes it’s because we fully don’t understand ourselves and therefore something still doesn’t feel right.  Either way, we are left misunderstood.  Sometimes communication is cut and therefore there is no ability to explain ourselves, sometimes, we’re left with wounds that hurt and we don’t want to address them.  Relationships depend on communication, and when communication is cut, relationships are broken.

I’ve experienced being misunderstood many times by many people.  I come off as a person who seems to be a “badass” usually, tough, not really caring about other people or things, I apparently scare people when I initially meet them.  I’ve tried really hard in the past several years to break this view I portray, but I’m not sure if it’s been successful.  Anyways, people misunderstand me all the time.  I think that’s one of the biggest problems in relationships where people are learning more about themselves, and they have a lack of grace for others in their process of learning, and then they choose the best decision is to break off communication.  

I’ve been astounded by the lack of grace our society extends towards each other in general (this is in secular society and religious society either way).  Grace is retained not only when others open themselves up to others, but when we go through life.  Usually this lack of grace has to do with a lack of understanding which is a consequence of not communicating.  The understanding part of this tends to have a direct correlation with patience, which a lot of people in our society don’t have, and therefore an understanding of the situation becomes unnecessary and instead people just lose grace for people.

This is a frustrating fact but it’s how our society runs most of the time, there’s a lack of patience for understanding which leads to a lack of grace.  Sometimes grace can be extended too much, and I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for discipline, but sometimes I feel like there needs to be more grace in general in our society.

loss.

Today at my church gathering called “Collide”, several people got baptized.  I love baptisms; there is something special about someone proclaiming God’s testimony in their lives and their public declaration of their commitment to follow Christ.  This baptism was particularly moving to me.

Among others, Rose Stevens was baptized tonight.  I don’t mean to diminish the others who made public commitments to Christ today, but I was moved because of how God has moved especially in Rose’s life.  Rose Stevens lost her brother Graham one year ago today (March 26th).  Graham died at the young age of 19, he had just started his freshman year at Wheaton College, and his death was sudden and painful. Rose told her story about how she began to know Jesus. Graham was 6, two years older than Rose, and Rose described riding home from church one day when she was 4. Graham would not stop talking about God and how much he loved Him.  Rose wanted to know this God Graham was talking about, and so she asked him how to get to know Him.  Graham led Rose to Christ and prayed with her.

I’ve been blessed to be in a small group this past year with a group of young adults who are each very dear to my heart.  These group of people God has brought into my life also were very close to Graham Stevens.  Graham died March 26th to a heart attack kind of thing.  He was a freshman at Wheaton College and his death was incredibly sudden.  He was playing Capture the Flag with the Glee Club boys and collapsed.  I didn’t know Graham well at all, but I know people who knew him deeply.

Watching and hearing Rose’s story was painful.  It was hard to see the people in my small group around me suffering, I was physically feeling their pain inside of my heart.  But I also struggled.  I attended Graham’s funeral in the same sanctuary she was being baptized in.  I remember celebrating his life with an overflow of people who gathered.  His life was lost one year ago today.  But his life was not lost without life being gained.  Not only has he gained eternal life with Christ, and no longer is suffering bound here to earth, God used him in his sister’s life.  He used Graham to give Rose life.  Where there is death and loss, there is greater life and blessing.

It reminds me of the cycle of death and life and how much God longs to restore us. It gives me great hope in the loss of Graham to know that our God is a God of redemption, not of death and destruction.

juxtaposition.

This world is an interesting place.  It’s a place of great hurt, pain, and suffering, but also a place of grace if we’re willing to accept it.  If I were to show you my notes from class, I think you’re mind would be thrown into circles.  I take notes on a white page of paper because it’s easier for me to make connections with other parts of the lecture.  When I have lined paper, I struggle with how to draw out different related pictures. I felt very confined by the lines on a piece of paper, and I didn’t realize it until I started taking notes on a blank page.

One chapel David Choi was speaking (for Spring Special Services part 1, 2, 3).  My chapel seat this semester is terrible, and I really struggle to stay engaged when I can’t see anything because of the chandeliers in the way. But I really like David Choi, so I decided to try and stay engaged.  I decided to start doodling because my mind was flowing into images of pain and suffering, I was really struggling with life in general while I was sitting listening to David speak, and although he wasn’t relating to me specifically, I was broken.  And I felt it.   I came up with this:

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It’s a picture of God’s grace, and my complete, and utter brokenness. I was quoting some of what David was talking about (he was talking about being branches, and he was talking about how there was nothing we could do to make God love us less, etc.).  I also struggled with the pain I was feeling and why I was feeling it, and I questioned why I was feeling it.  I didn’t feel joy in my heart, and I did feel God’s love or presence in my life at the time either.  I was struggling with who I was and who God created me to be, and I was met by God’s grace.  Words of love and grace kept flowing from my pen despite the pain and struggle I was feeling.  I was hurting and alone, and I was still met by God’s grace and love for me.  The collision of my brokenness and pain left me with grace and love.