How do you forgive someone who isn’t sorry?

Forgive

I’ve been trying to forgive the same person for the past 20 years… and for most of that time, I thought I had forgiven this person…. but then something else happens and then I’m right back where I started.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my unforgiving heart… and I finally understand why it’s so hard for me. I’m quick to forgive someone who is full of remorse, someone who repents, someone who apologizes. But this person, no matter how many conversations we’ve had, has no remorse, no apologies… in fact, this person plays the victim and sincerely doesn’t believe that they’ve wronged anyone else. Therefore, it feels like a never-ending cycle.

One side says “just forgive and forget”–but have you tried forgetting pain? It’s really not that easy. The other side says “just cut that person out of your life and don’t even care about it.” Once again, it’s a lot harder when this person is in your life not by choice. I always want to do what is right… what is just. And I finally realized that this is going to be a life-long process for me. This may be something I struggle with for the rest of my life… and I have to accept that.

Couple years before my grandmother passed away, she told me that it took her over 30 years to forgive a relative of hers. At the time, I thought “that’s ridiculous… how horrible of my grandma to hold a grudge for so long…” But now I totally understand her heart, and her struggle.

I used to think forgiveness was a one-time deal… but I’m now understanding that it’s a process… it’s a journey. I don’t have the bitterness I once did… I’m more compassionate and patient towards this person… but I think I can safely say that I haven’t completely forgiven this person because it really doesn’t take much to take me back to that dark, hurt place. Before, it used to bother me that I couldn’t just get over it… but today, I understand that it’s okay for me to have these crazy feelings about it because I see how God has slowly been putting my heart back together one piece at a time. Forgiveness is a journey… and I’m not a horrible Christian for not being able to “forgive and forget” because I think God is the only One who can really do that in the purest way!

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Let.It.Go.

Honestly, it’s getting old.  I’ve been through this before… many times.  I must be stubborn… or dense… or just dumb… I keep making the same mistake over and over… and every time, it feels new.

let it go

I keep thinking that I’m in control of my own life.  I keep thinking I know what’s best for me.  And when things don’t go my way, I get disappointed, hurt, and sad.  And I ask God “why God?”  I ask God “what is your purpose in this?”  I ask God “what is your plan exactly?”  I need to Let.It.Go.  I need to trust that God indeed knows what’s best for my life… and that He’s in control.  I need to Let.It.Go.

I have the need to correct everyone’s misunderstandings, misinformation, or misjudgment.  At least, that’s what I think they are.  I’d like to think it’s because I want people to be well-informed and be fair.  But in actuality, I just feel the need to make them understand things from my point of view.  I need to Let.It.Go.  I need to accept the fact that I can’t change people.  I’m not responsible for people’s decisions and opinions.  I need to Let.It.Go.

I have the tendency to want to fix everything.  I’m a problem-solver by nature… and I get frustrated when I see people spinning the same web over and over again.  I get frustrated when I feel like I have the answer, and yet they don’t seem to get it.  I need to Let.It.Go.  I can’t fix everything for everyone.  I can’t fix people’s attitudes.  I can’t fix their opinions.  I really don’t have all the right answers.  I need to Let.It.Go.

I believe life has many ups and downs.  I believe how you feel about life is dependent on your attitude. I believe every stage of life feels difficult when you’re in it.  I believe it’s necessary to have a good sense of humor about life because otherwise, you’ll want to cry all day.  I believe God doesn’t give us beyond what we can handle.  I probably won’t last a day in your shoes just as you may not last a day in mine.  Trust me, my life is no picnic either.  I believe every tough life stages will eventually pass, and we can overcome.  Lately, I’ve heard so many “woe is me” stories and attitudes.  I just want to shake them and tell them to put life into perspective.  If you have a place to lay your head at night and food to eat, you’re blessed. I want to tell them to just get over it, own your own life, and live it!  But I need to Let.It.Go.  I can encourage people, but I can’t change people–only God can do that.  I can listen to people, but I can’t shake them out of their self-misery forcefully.  I am responsible to people, but I can’t be responsible for people.  I need to Let.It.Go.  By the way, there’s a reason why I didn’t go into counseling (when many people said I should)… I would have been a horrible counselor–God wired me for something else and thankfully the Holy Spirit guided me to listen to Him rather than people.

I keep holding onto emotions that aren’t healthy for me.  I need to surrender every aspect of my life to God.

and Let.It.Go.

How do you measure a child’s faith?

Lately I’ve been engaged in a lot of conversations about what and how we should teach children in the church.  And naturally, these conversations lead to measuring what kids have learned and applied to their lives.  I know that most (hopefully most, if not all) ministers of children know that it’s not about how much information kids know that’s going to change their lives… and yet, for some reason, many seem to be hung up on assessing spiritual growth by how much kids know about God, the Bible, Jesus, the Church, etc…  I really struggle with this concept because I grew up knowing a lot about God and Jesus… I knew bunch of stories from the Bible, and pretty much, I knew almost all the right answers to the questions teachers asked at church… but that had absolutely nothing to do with the condition of my heart and my life.   Don’t get me wrong… I don’t mean to minimize the importance of memorizing verses nor knowing Bible stories.  Of course those are important… but where I have trouble is that we often equate knowledge with spiritual maturity in kids… and where I have trouble is the mere fact that we, as kidmin leaders, feel the need to even quantify children’s faith.  Maybe I’m the crazy one here (I often feel like I’m on crazy pills… go figure…), but I think we need to let go of control, be faithful in leading and helping kids love Jesus, allow the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of these kids, and loosen the grip on trying to measure the faith of children in our ministries.  Once again, please don’t misunderstand me… we need to know where our kids are coming from and their knowledge of what we’re trying to teach… but what I’m saying is that we need to stop equating spiritual growth with head knowledge of the Bible, Church, Jesus, etc…  (forgive me, it’s midnight, and I’m awfully tired… but just need to get this out while it’s in my head…)

I recently heard this story (paraphrased for space-sake):

Dad (talking to his 2 children 7 & 10 years old):  How am I doing as your dad these days?

Kids:  Okay, but sometimes you’re impatient with us… or don’t spend enough time with us…

Dad:  I’m sorry.  I will try to do better.  (Dad write and signs a covenant with the kids… promising to be a more patient dad who spends more quality time with them.  At the end of the covenant, he writes down few practical action plans, and promises to owe them $10 every time he fails in those areas).

7 yr old:  But Dad, isn’t forgiveness enough?  Why do you have to pay us $10 if you break your promise?

Wow… I don’t know about other people’s reaction.. but to me, this is evidence of child’s spiritual growth… She had been taught that we forgive when someone wrongs her just as Jesus forgave all of us… She’s trying to apply this to her life.  She may only be 7 years old, but even 7 year olds like money… but she’s trying to see how what she’s learned about forgiveness fits into her real life… that’s evidence of her learning and applying Biblical truth… and to me, this speaks louder than 20 verses she can recite verbatim or naming all the disciples.

In short, I don’t think we can necessarily measure a child’s faith… but for me, stories of what kids genuinely say and do tells me that they’re learning, loving, and growing in Jesus… (I’m really hoping this is coherent when I re-read it in the morning…)  time for bed…

 

Identity

I was born in South Korea, and immigrated to the US as a nine-year old.  Although my dad and I first stepped off the plane in Los Angeles, I was dropped off in Olathe,Kansas within a month to live with my maternal grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousins.  I had to try my hardest to learn the language and the culture right away.  Surprisingly, this came very easy for me.  I quickly picked up English and found myself assimilating to the midwest culture.  No matter how hard I tried though, there was one thing that I couldn’t change–that I look and still carry some Korean culture within me.  When you’re nine, the last thing you want is to stand out as being different (although everyone else at my school embraced me… almost like a novelty!).  At nights, I would scheme up ways of how I could look “more American”–bleach my hair and I prayed for color contacts to be invented by the time I got older.

The summer after 7th grade, I moved back to Los Angeles to live with my dad.  By then, I pretty much had adapted myself as an American. However, on the first day of school, the only girls that would talk to me were Hispanics and Asians.  I had absolutely no interest in being friends with them.  I wanted to be friends with the “white-American girls.”  However, I learned quickly that in order to survive in school, I would have to make friends… and began to hang out with a group of mostly Asian kids.  In LA, I quickly learned that the different ethnic groups are more segregated than assimilated…  Now, the new name for me was “Asian-American” or “Korean-American.”  Since then, I found a place to belong with other Asians who didn’t quite have love for “our own people.”  We identified ourselves as 1.5 Korean-Americans… and we could make fun of “the fobs” or other old school cultural things.  As time went on, I started to reject Korean culture more and more because I’ve had SO MUCH negative experiences with Koreans that really irked me.  Don’t get me wrong–I’ve, for the most part, come to be comfortable in my own skin and be proud of being bi-cultural.  However, I would look down upon other Asian-Americans.  The irony is… I still have and hang out with A LOT of Korean-American friends.  When I resigned from my last church, I told God that I would go anywhere but to another Asian-American ministry.  I’ll save this conversation with God for another blog.

Well, it took my trip to the Dominican Republic to realize something big about myself.  It’s really, really easy for me to love everyone whether they’re Dominican, African, other Latino, European, etc… but it’s really hard for me to love Asians, and especially Koreans.  One of my conversations with one of our translators was about his love, compassion, and pride for his country, people, culture, and life.  At that point, I was deeply ashamed that I didn’t feel the same way towards my Korean heritage.  If anything, I’m often embarrassed by the Korean culture.  After that conversation, I began to converse with God about my feelings toward Asians… and I was convicted of my need to forgive, let-go of my old hang-ups, and embrace Asians-Americans, and especially Korean-Americans.  That was a big challenge and a turning point… and funny that it took a trip to the Caribbean and a simple conversation to really make me think…  this is just the beginning of my crazy journey.

By the way, upon returning from the DR, I had to fly out to Loveland, Colorado, another place where I stand out as the only Asian in the room.  So I had been away from LA for close to 2 weeks when I went to meet my friend for lunch at a Korean restaurant, and upon seeing a crowd of Asians, I stopped on my tracks, gasped, and took a DEEP breath, looked up as if to say “here I go, God!” and walked into the restaurant.  This journey continues… so stay tuned!

where is the love?

One day, I was hanging out with a friend, and she said something that really got me thinking.

C:  Gloria, I can’t believe that I’m friends with you, a children’s pastor.

Me:  Why?  Why does it matter whether I’m a children’s pastor or not?

C:  Because you’re a devout christian, and you like serve in the church… and you’re the only one who is still friends with me after I stopped going to church.  And I don’t feel like you judge me for not going to church.  You’re like really my friend.  And it’s not like you’re a different person when you’re at church from when you hang out with me.  I just never thought I’d be friends with someone like that.

Me:  (confused…)  uhm… I think that’s a compliment, right?  Why would I judge you?  I do wish you would go back to church, but I can’t make you do stuff… and why would I stop being friends with you just because you stopped going to church?

C:  Because everyone else has…

Me:  (speechless…)  that makes me sad… I’m sorry…

It’s been over a decade, and I never forgot this conversation.  Should I be bringing up Jesus in our conversation more?  Should I be happy and satisfied that she finds a good friendship in me?  Should I apologize to her on behalf of all christians and churches that have hurt her?  Should I rebuke or correct our friends that have abandoned her?

Some of the recent events have led me to think about my conversation with this friend.  There’s been a lot of debate over Rob Bell’s book about hell, and then there was the whole Judgment Day debacle.. and I came across this blog titled “An Open Apology for the Church” by Joe Boyd which got me thinking about how Christians have made a lot of errors along the way.  Of course, Christians are imperfect humans; and the reality is that Christians will make many mistakes, even hurt people (hopefully unintentionally.. otherwise that’s just mean).  Christians want non-Christians to know that we are just as imperfect as anyone else and that we need forgiveness and grace.  However, when the tables are turned, I am not sure if we show as much grace and love to others.

When “Love Wins” by Rob Bell was under hot debate, I was more disappointed and saddened by hurtful, unloving words that were publicly exchanged between pastors and theologians.  When the “Judgement Day” came and went, I was more disappointed and saddened by sarcastic, patronizing words that were said, tweeted, and posted by Christians.  And I am just as guilty of this… afterall, sarcasm runs through my blood (you should meet my dad, apparently sarcasm is an inherited trait).  I’ve joked around with friends about Harold Camp and his predictions.  I’ve snickered and rolled my eyes.  But the more I thought about this, I realized that once again, we weren’t responding to the situation in love… and as far as my non-Christian friends could see, we were poking fun just as much as anyone else, if not more.  It’s no wonder that we send a very mixed message to non-Christians… and they often associate churches with likes of Westboro Baptist.  Today, I read a tweet by Anderson Cooper:   “That’s not a church, and I don’t think about them ever // RT @____ what r your thoughts of Westboro Baptist Church coming to #Joplin”  I agree, it’s not a church that Christ had intended… but many people don’t have a clear understanding of what church is suppose to be, and they just see Westboro Baptist as a bad church.  😦

I respect that many Christians want the truth to be told and understood.  But sometimes I feel that our love of knowledge of the truth gets in the way of responding in love.  Perhaps that just means we know the truth, but we don’t practice the truth.  And when non-Christians see the way we react to various situations, how are we exemplifying the love of Christ?  How did my friend feel the love of Christ when she felt abandoned and judged by those she thought were her friends after she left the church?  How did believers of May 31 Rapture feel the love of Christ when Christians poked fun at them instead of helping them to see the truth with gentleness?  And what did children and youth learn when they saw “exemplary” adult Christians respond in such ways?  Seriously, where is the love, the love of Christ?

Something to think about… by the way, yes, I know that Black Eyed Peas sing about this very subject…  and yes, I still keep in touch with my friend via email after she got married and moved across the country.  She’s still seeking…

learn to forget things…

There’s been so many things that I’ve experienced, seen, and heard in the past few days… I contemplated blogging about each thought… However, I’m slightly aware that when I blog, I’m inviting the public to read my thoughts… so I feel responsible to process my thoughts before I put them in writing–at least enough to be somewhat coherent.  So here goes my first somewhat processed thought…

I went to go see a one-man play this week.  My old roommate had tickets she couldn’t use… so thankfully I was the beneficiary of her kindness and her schedule.  Well, of all shows to see, it was about sports…  and of all sports, it was about baseball… and of all teams, it was about a former Dodger player… I can watch baseball, but I’m not a huge fan, and I’m especially not a fan of the Dodgers.  If anything, I’ll root for Kansas City Royals only because I’m loyal to the team that won the world series back in 1985 when I lived in a small town in Kansas (I know that the Royals really suck right now 😦 ).  Anyhow, the play is called “Juan and John.”  It’s one man’s account of how Giant’s Juan Marichal came to hit Dodger’s John Roseboro with his bat on August 22, 1965, at Candlestick Park.  (by the way, I have been to both Dodgers and Giants games, and I have been to both Dodger Stadium and Candlestick Park… so I wasn’t all that clueless!)  The play touched upon baseball history (which I was somewhat clueless about), racism in the 60’s, the Watt’s riot, black-on-black violence, and the narrator’s struggle with his own catholic upbringing and guilt he felt for his daughter as he goes through his own divorce.  Goodness gracious, there were a ton of issues that could be touched upon here… While there is a lot to be digested, this was my ONE take-away…

There were events that led to build up in tension between Juan and John.  There are reports of what happened, but no one knows for sure exactly what words were exchanged that led to Juan hitting John over the head with his bat.  Long story short, after years of bitterness, they eventually played together and made public appearances together.  In short, they became good friends…  I was curious so I googled (i know, the nerd in me) and read some conflicting reports on how close they became…  However few quoted Johnny Roseboro as having said:

“There were no hard feelings on my part, and I thought if that was made public, people would believe that this was really over with…  Hey, over the years you learn to forget things.”

Wow… I don’t know why but this left a huge impression on me… If someone had hit me with a bat that left a 2-inch gash that needed 14 stitches, it’d be hard to forget.  Yes, it did take years… but for him to come to a place where he can forget, and not allow that bitterness to continue… wow… and then Juan Marichal was quoted for having said the following at Johnny Roseboro’s funeral:

“forgiving me was one of the best things that happened in my life . . . When I became a Dodger player, John told all the Dodger fans to forget what happened that day. It takes special people to forgive.”

I think about this thing called “forgiveness.”  It’s an easy word to say, but a very hard thing to really do in your heart.  I think we’re all broken and hurt… and as humans, we retaliate and hurt back.  In the words of my friend Susan Lawrence, “HURT PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE.”  Ain’t that the truth!  But all the more, I find that forgetting is sometimes harder to do.  I struggle with forgiving certain people in my life… and that struggle comes from the fact that I can’t forget how they have hurt me.   I need to learn to forget things…

One of my favorite quote comes from my favorite TV show, Criminal Minds:   Scars remind us of where we’ve been, they don’t have to dictate where we’re going.  Juan and John’s relationship is a good example of how they’ve been able to let go of the hurt they had caused in the past and move on with life.

By the way, how random and crazy is it that of all things, I would be blogging about what I learned from sports… and baseball of all things… God’s sense of humor cracks me up!