I suppose these are the ABCs of my life.
When you grow up Buddhist—the branch that mixes in Confucian and Taoist beliefs—and Asian, one message rings loud and clear: your family comes first before all other things. You’re nothing if not viciously loyal to your surname and all those who share it.
But this gets complicated pretty quickly when you’re me.
No one else in the family I grew up with shared my surname. I was lucky enough to inherit my father’s name and live among my mother’s relatives: three brothers and their families who share one surname. My relatives were loyal to those with money and power. They were prideful, and pride will choose the illusion of family loyalty over the real thing.
So my relatives acted like family to me, stringing me along so that I’d feel indebted to them and allow them to stay under the illusion rather than work and sacrifice to make us a real family. Guilt, manipulation, shame—all these and more were employed full throttle, and my abuse started early on. Before it was physical, it was first emotional and mental.
But when it got physical, I was faced more intently with some decisions. Do I submit and keep quiet like a stereotypical Confucian Buddhist? Or do I fight like an American for my rights?
I’m not one to take abuse lying down. I will kick and scream and bite and punch and swear like a sailor. I shattered the illusion, I tore up the security blanket. And after the law got involved, we all went our separate ways.
I was fourteen at this time, trying to take on all these big people issues. I was pretty traumatized—more than I was willing to admit. Life had just smacked me in the face and kicked me in the gut, and I wanted to mope a little. But I didn’t. The way I saw it, success was a much better plan of revenge. So I got up, dusted myself off, and told life it hit like a sissy.
I’d started going to church at the beginning of a lot of this, and it was hard for me to accept who this guy Jesus was from everything everyone said. Where was He when my family told me and treated me like I was useless? Where was He when I was scared out of my mind about what they would do to me? Where was He when my uncle hit me in the face?
It’d be about a year before I’d begin to realize He was in all of it. I’m still learning and seeing it now. Who would I have been had He not been there? I’m not sure I’m willing to think about it. No matter what, this is my story. And when you put it next to Jesus, it’s amazing to see how big His love is, and how strong His faith is. He had to have quite a bit of faith in me and so much more in Himself to pull this off: to save me, to heal me, to redeem my story, to bring me to Him, and to bring Himself glory.
I am not my abuse. I am not a Confucian. I am not a Buddhist any longer.
I fell in love ten years ago today. Reflecting on that now astounds me when I think about how gracious God is, but also, how invasive faith is. To be with Christ meant I had to redefine my values, whom I submit to. Somehow, there was suddenly Someone I didn’t share blood with that demanded and deserved all of my devotion. And I wanted to give it to Him.
When Someone rewrites your entire history to redeem and heal your heartache… that’s pulling out all stops to love you.
Ten years ago today, I was in a room with hundreds of Asian teenagers, bawling my eyeballs out cuz I didn’t know how to respond to a God who had been pursuing me from the day I first learned to breathe.
I don’t understand how He can be so patient, so gracious, and so loving.
But I’m thankful for it.
Happy anniversary, my Love. Here’s to several more decades and a new alphabet defined solely by You.