I’ve heard a preacher recently say that “pain will always seek pleasure to ease the pain” in which I would also add to escape or forget: “Pain will always seek pleasure to ease, escape or to forget the pain.” If I’m honest this was why I started to do drugs and what kept me addicted to drugs. In this life we will experience all sorts of pain, but what will either make us or break us how we deal with this pain. God promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5) which means to me that whenever I suffer pain, He promises to be with me in my pain and the Bible tells me that if God is there, He will work all things for my good (Romans 8:28). This is an amazing truth. And it is in the midst of embracing this truth that we can being to imagine a life free from all the pain and suffering that a broken and fallen world filled with selfish and sinful people have caused us. This why I love this song so much because it speaks of this kind of hope the presence of God brings to a broken life.
One thing that has kept me going recently is the reality that “God will not give up on me!” That He was, is and always will be faithful until the very end. I don’t know about you but when I am in a challenging season, I need to many reminders because the negative and discouraging thoughts just keep coming. But, God is faithful and He will often bring a song in season that speaks out the cry of my heart and encourages me in what I need to be reminded of in terms of God’s character.
Sure as my life is in Your hands. Sure as Your sacrifice has set me free. When all is shaking, Lord Your love stands firm. Your spirit calms my heart and steadies me. (x2)
You’re the anchor that’s holding me.
I’m sure of Your faithfulness. I’m sure that You will never change. My Lord, You won’t give up on me. (x2)
Matthew 28:20b (NIV) “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age!”
Hebrews 13:8 (NLT) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
by Gerald T. Ching
As the days creep on in their persistence
I walk along a lonely stretch of earth, gazing.
In the distance, Your lone figure breaks the horizon,
the vaporous heat exhales itself from the ground
blurring and shimmering.
Heavy, persistent, burdensome thoughts
weigh upon my fevered mind. With the sun high in the sky,
I make my way towards You. Sweat flows freely
from the pores of my skin, tiny snowflakes of salt form
as I slowly dehydrate in the heat.
Crackling lips longing for moisture
burn with the passing of the hour, Your figure
still an oasis within my eyes. Throwing
each apathetic foot forward in a mechanical shuffle,
I am bound to this mission until my death.
Shriveling like a prune, I become
like sand with the passing of the hour.
My fate flashes before me
as I fall with the setting sun into deep slumber.
Within this peacefulness,
I find a wellspring of hope.
Tears well as the seal is broken
to this resource of unending strength.
Filled, refreshed, and rested
I rise with the dawn. As the day’s heat
starts its relentless onslaught, red fills my vision
as I slowly open my eyes.
Focusing within these fleeting first seconds
Your Holy Spirit encompasses all – reassuringly steadfast.
With the last bit of my own strength seeping away, I fall
into Your arms. Within Your arms I curl
like a newborn longing for security.
Questions rise to my lips
but go unspoken – Your Voice
resounds in my mind, answering all.
For in my weakness
Your strength carried me to You.
This long journey back home ends
with a blinding lightning show
as tiny rain droplets fall from a clouding sky,
refreshingly washing away
the memories of a painful life apart.
Together at last, the mission complete,
You envelop me completely,
giving me sweet refuge.
What happens when fear, anger, disappointment and loneliness are left to grow unattended in a child? For me, these emotional states of being began to shape and form an inward and outward hatred and vengeance both towards others and myself. What does this look like? Let me start off by describing the people I began to admire: bikers, mobsters and gang members. From my perspective these where the types of people that people thought twice about messing with and that’s what I wanted. But, even more – I wanted to be the one who doled it out, instead of the one who always took it. At the root of this was the desire to be in control. If, you’ve ever been picked on then you’ve felt that powerlessness and loss of control.
So, at a young age I learned that lying was more than just a way of getting out of trouble, but also a way of being in control. As twisted as it sounds, I enjoyed lying because in my young mind it was a source of power: I controlled what people knew about me. But, lying was too narrow of an outlet for the deep reservoir of growing hatred and vengeance within my heart. So when I was in fifth grade (10 years old), stealing entered the picture. Again, stealing was another way for me to feel like I was in control, but it also provided a way for some payback. More often than not, the people I stole from hadn’t done me any wrong, but in my mind someone needed to pay and everyone was fair game. By the time I started HIGHschool, I was quite the lying kleptomaniac who had the criminal record to show for it. But, lying and stealing just wasn’t enough of an outlet. That’s when drugs entered the scene. Compound all of this with a growing inferiority complex and this hatred and vengeance also began to turn inward.
Why is all this important? Every single person is born with a voice. We all have this inherent need to be heard. But, when this voice is smothered or even stolen from us seeds of fear, anger, disappointment and loneliness begin to take root and as is evident in my life and countless others has the potential to breed hatred and vengeance within the heart. I can’t stress enough the importance of mentoring. But, what is even more important is allowing children (and all people for that matter) to have a voice. Sure we still need to help nurture and shape them, but we must also allow them to feel secure enough to express themselves: to lay claim their own voice. I understand that this is the harder road. It’s always easier to superimpose our passions and desires onto others, rather than taking the time to nurture and shape them into who they are becoming according to their personality, interests, talents and passions. But, this harder road is also the better road.
Very early on after I came to faith in Jesus, what has always resounded so loudly within my heart and mind has been the reminder that “love takes work.” Now this journey of love has definitely been a difficult one because if done right: “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT). Now that’s a pretty tall order in which I have fallen short many a time. But, what comforts me is the reality that I’m not alone in this. Jesus has given me the Holy Spirit, who lives within me, to empower me to love as He does. I mean if I believe in a Triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) then I can say with complete confidence that divine love literally lives within me. So maybe it’s not so much about trying to generate a selfless love on my own, but about leaning into the selfless love that already resides within me through the Holy Spirit. The more I’ve leaned into God’s perfect love the more I’ve been able to find and reclaim my voice because it’s in Him that I’ve discovered who I am and why I was created.
Trying to live between two cultures is much like being in my own cult. The lonely feeling of ostracism is almost palpable at times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wrestled with my internal editor about you name it, we’ve debated or argued about it. You see, my internal editor identifies more with the Chinese culture while I tend to identify more with the American culture. I’ve struggled with this inner conflict for as long as I can remember. I believe it was because I was racially teased and bullied as a child that I learned early on that to fit in, I needed to be American rather than Chinese. So, as a young child I became ashamed of my Chinese heritage and learned to disconnect from that part of me and voilà! My internal editor was born.
It wasn’t until after I came to faith in Jesus, that I became aware of how much this inner conflict has effected the way I live and see myself. Jesus has blessed me with a greater self-awareness where I’ve begun to literally hear the inner dialogue between the two cultures living within me. He has also helped me to reconnect with my Chinese heritage and embrace my internal editor rather than being combative with him. You see, what I always thought I needed to do was to just continue denying that I was Chinese and just become more and more American which only created more disconnectedness rather than healing. What I am learning today is that I need to embrace that I am Chinese, but to also embrace that I am American and allow God to redeem all that is good in both cultures. This has helped me to see being bicultural as a blessing, rather than an annoyance or even a curse.
Why I feel this is so important is that the burden of this inner conflict was one of the factors that pushed me towards drug use in the first place. Because if I consicously knew it or not, I wanted an escape from the inner struggle of trying to understand myself. It was just easier to stop dealing with it. Inwardly, the pains of rejection and the failed attempts of fitting in only fueled the growing inferiority complex that was first birthed in my heart through the racial teasing and bullying of my childhood. I feel like I am really only beginning this journey of becoming who God created and redeemed me to be. I am learning more and more everyday that He loves that I’m a Chinese American and wants me to embrace all that is good in both cultures. It’s who I am and I need to begin to celebrate this because when I do I also embrace and accept how God sees me. I feel like I’ve spent most of my life asking God why – rather than simply telling Him thank you for creating me and giving me life.
9 “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,
‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim,
‘How clumsy can you be?’
10 How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father,
‘Why was I born?’
or if it said to its mother,
‘Why did you make me this way?’” (Isaiah 45:9, 10 NLT)
I’m learning Lord, I’m learning… ~Gerry::also posted at The Slanted View: reflections on faith, brokenness, culture and manhood from a Pan-Asian American perspective::
I will be attending my last official class of seminary tomorrow. It has been a long arduous four years, but I will have finished all the coursework for the Master’s of Divinity degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I truly am amazed at where God has taken me. Twenty years ago (1989), I was just beginning my journey into the drug lifestyle. Fifteen years ago (1994), I was hopelessly addicted to cocaine and soon to be heroin, ecstasy and speed. Ten years ago (1999), on the verge of despair, God entered my life. A year later Jesus becomes my Savior and Lord and I am filled with the Holy Spirit. Five years ago (2004), I finally become comfortable in the Body of Christ. A year later I enter seminary and here I am today, writing a blog on a website dedicated to praying for those struggling with drug addiction. In many ways you could say that I have come full circle.
Whenever life begins to overwhelm me, it helps for me to think back about just where God plucked me from. How His Spirit came into the deep darkness that was my life and brought me into His loving light. Whenever my pride rises up trying to claim glory for itself, it helps for me to remind myself that the target age that I was living for was 30, if I made to 30, life accomplished. It truly is only because of Jesus that I am alive today. Whenever I reach a place of discouragement where thinking back on God’s faithfulness in my own life isn’t enough to break me out of my funk, a scene from Jesus’ life serendipitously flickers through my mind.
It’s just after Jesus teaches the masses that He is the Bread of Life (John 6). Many of those who hear Him have a really hard time grasping what Jesus is saying and what happens is that many people begin to complain that the teaching is just too hard to understand and start leaving. So, Jesus turns to the twelve disciples and asks them if they want to go as well. But, Simon Peter tells him: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (vv.68, 69). Peter’s words give me great comfort because they remind me that no matter how hard life may get or how difficult this journey of faith may be or how painful surrender becomes. If I really think about it, where else am I to go? Back into the world? No, been there and done that – the world holds nothing for me. Jesus has the very words of eternal life: His words have the power to bring me into eternity and eternity into me. “There is no other place for me, but at the feet of Jesus.”
Now, if you asked me anytime in my life if, I ever thought I’d be here right now in this moment, saying those words. I’d have to say “No.” Never in my wildest dreams (and I have had some doozies) would I have ever dreamt of this very moment, which makes it all the more incredible that: I am truly living this dream of amazing grace. My life is a living testimony to the grace and mercy of God and because of this, embodies the Gospel. As Paul stated about his own life, so I: “But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace” (1 Corinthians 15:10 NLT). Go God!
Over the past 10 years, God has taken me on a pretty amazing spiritual journey. But, in reality it has been more than just a spiritual journey because my whole life has also been transformed. It all began the day I gave my life to Jesus Christ. On that day, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into me and the way that I saw the world was forever changed. Life became more real because the missing spiritual dimension of life came alive to me. The way that I experienced life changed because the Holy Spirit became the driving force in my life. I learned to live, move and have my being in Him and began to see the world from an eternal perspective.
Since that day 10 years ago, God has been untangling my heart from the drug lifestyle that was my comfort zone. Drugs were my security in life. Now, it has been a knock down drag out fight to break me free, but it is truly only by God’s amazing grace that am I living a drug-free life with a bright future ahead of me. But, very early on in my faith journey, God let me know that He had bigger plans for me than to be just another productive member of society.
Over these last 10 years God has been showing the importance of walking at all times in the strength of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Now this has been a huge challenge in and of itself because nobody likes to admit that they are in constant need of help. My pride fought every step of the way. But, God was patient and kind with me. Everyday He purposefully moved me forward on this rocky road of redemption as He purified my heart and mind of all my twisted perversions and selfish aspirations.
Fast forward to today. I feel like I’m coming to a new juncture in my faith journey. I feel like an explorer who has come to the edge of the civilized world and is now looking out across a vast unknown land. But, even so, the Spirit of God who dwells within me is reminding me that God is with me, that He will never forsake me and that I need to be strong and courageous. The Word He is bringing to mind are God’s words to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 2:9). This is a good reminder that: it’s not about me trying to do all this on my own, but about embracing my weakness, and leaning on God’s strength to help me endure the many coming hardships.
So, I am filled with both a little bit of anxiety mixed with a whole lot of excitement as I take on this endeavor to make a difference in this world for Jesus by prayerfully standing in the gap for those who are in bondage to addiction. I feel like this 420 Prayer Movement is a gift from the Lord to me that touches the very depths of my heart, the very depths that God entered into with His loving light and powerful truth in order to redeem and restore me from my own addictions. But, it’s more than just a passion. It’s a calling that God has placed on my life. Overall, I am filled with the hope that comes from knowing the truth of the Gospel and the light of Christ. Soli Deo Gloria.