I wish life was easy. I wish writing was simple. I wish I could just sit my ass down and write deep honest thoughts for hours on end - consistently. But the reality, is that I can't. I have limits, and I can't become everything. I'm realizing that especially now as I get older.
So why now?
Hell, I turned 25. It happened, finally. I've hit the quarter-century. I've hit the big 2-5. Who would've thought that it'd be a big deal? I certainly wouldn't have. But then, we got all the things in my life that I thought would happen by the time I was 25. By 25 I was supposed to:
1) Be Married (to the most awesome/amazing/beautiful woman to ever exist)
But in reality, I'm single AF. I just got out of a 'messy' relationship and my wounds around commitment, intimacy, sexuality, and the whole lot are bleeding all over the place. Gushing dare I say. I realize my brokenness is more apparent to others than to me (add another layer of conscious insecurity). Then top it off with the reality that this recent relationship was the shortest one I've ever had! (3 months! Keeping it holy like the trinity though). All that after being on a dating fast for like 3 years. Unholy shit! I got a thing for threes it looks like.
Maybe this means I'll be not-dating again for another 3 years (Hello ladies... when I'm 28!) or I'll just commit to celibacy (joke not joke). But honestly, I think the hope for this season of life is to break past 25. To say hey, I won't let these patterns continue (no more threes!!). But then again, its tough and scary cause I just don't know what life will hold. I don't know what God's plan is for me. But really, at the root of this it a struggle to embrace with the reality of God having a plan(?). But, I'm not here to deny the sovereignty of God. In fact, I believe it more than likely anything else outside of his love. Anyway, that's another struggle for another blog. Being 25 is basically coming to terms with the reality of struggle, and the other things I'm not.
2) Be Successful (in every shape way and form)
But in reality, I'm pretty "un-successful" according to most metrics. I'm working multiple part-time jobs, broke, in deep (read deeeeeeeeeeeeep) debt, and single AF (read above). On pretty much every traditional front, I've failed. I went to college, the prestigious University of British Columbia to be precise, and graduated with a lovely bachelor's degree in Applied Animal Biology. Am I using it? No. Instead I chose to work in the non-profit world, then take a design diploma that left me with even less funds than before, then after all that work a bunch of 'pointless' jobs.
Recently, I've gotten a chance to go to a bunch of weddings. I get to see how the man is supposed to be. Clean, cut, successful. "The perfect asian husband". I'm none of those things, in fact not even close. Yet, I got some weird sense of pride about being this unsuccessful edgy lone-wolf. Painful, yes I know. But in the midst of this, I'm come face-to-face with the deep tension of what I love about life right now. Using different metrics of success, I'm not doing horribly.
I have friends I love and care for deeply. These friends I've had for the past few years and I can say I love. Now I might not every be any of their 'first' choices. But, that doesn't matter. They are my first choices. Because of that, I have the privilege of having several first-choice friends. The difficulty is letting them deep enough into my life. It seems that I'm a predictable & shallow person (on the outside), and I guess that makes me a bit of a predictable emotional black hole. I get it, people have to deal with me. Yet I can't help but feel thankful that people would choose to. By this metric I think I have a decent one-up.
I have some stability with life. I can pay my rent and bills (for the most part). Sure lots of people have this, but damn let me take what I can get!
I also have youth that I mentor that I've seen grow like dandelions in the summer. These youth are kids that I love like my own. It's in its own way that it's been worth it. Seeing them grow, and seeing how much they've been able to make better decisions. I think this has been worthy. But when I contrast these metrics, they both have their merits and joys. They both have their rhyme and reason. I respect both, but basically being 25 is being able to sit in the tension again. I just don't know how.
3) Be a Super Christian (minus the weakness to green space rocks).
But in reality, I'm actively 'struggling'. Like I've learned to occasionally (read tastefully) swear. I drink lots of different beers, to the point where I can maybe blind-taste tell you what kind of beer it is (in broad strokes). Also, I've learned to doubt and oh! how much I love it. I love struggling and de-constructing. I come un-done and realize that most of my initial childhood belief aren't fully proper for my context. That in the Kingdom of God there is a certain degree of relativity, and a certain degree of flexibility. God ain't all that harsh black-white objective as I thought.
In this struggle, I've found myself uncertain about how to live. Honestly, how should I go about a day to day life? I've been trying to stop being the in-authentic evangelical that preached and not lived. I needed to get out of the world of ideas and into the world. Out of the 'theory' and into the practice. Do you know how much a theology can chance when forced to reckon with the lives and narratives of people? LGBTQ2(etc) seems to be an 'easier' topic to navigate, until you encounter people. Drugs, alcohol, sex, etc all these 'sins' and vices seems to be so easy to tell people what is "Godly" can what ain't. But then, I'm struck by the grey zones.
It seems that in my Christian life, I've found God's grace to be deeper than I thought, and the church to be a bigger bubble than I thought. In the midst of all of it, is now learning to choose to struggle and rest. I think I've come up with a newer (broader) image of faithfulness. Its to reckon with God, and rest with him. To encounter both the lion and the lamb, then with deep humility succumb to the reality that I don't know.
Altogether.... being 25 is a grace.
Even though I ain't achieved those 3 (or many more things). Being 25 is a grace. It's kind of amazing being allowed to struggle and nervously laugh about the imperfection of life. There is something hugely liberating about going about my day knowing that God is caring for me, and my life is a personification of a need to trust. Yes. I'll be making a shit ton of mistakes, hell I've already made tones. But in lots of ways, I gotta just say "fuck it" and keep going. Towards a broader image of grace, of holiness, of goodness. I might look back on this years from now, and realize that I was wrong about lots of things. But I want to look back and laugh at how gracious God has been. I'm 25 I have limits. I won't become everything I dreamed of. But thats ok, I'll become everything that God dreams of.
To be 25, is realize how much I don't know, how much i won't know, and how much I can't know; and at the end of all of that laugh and say "still God is faithful".
It's the first blog entry in a while, but I've often thought about writing. Now is one of those moments where I cannot help but write. The muse of the delight of the spirit gushes forth from my very pores. Worship takes no truer form, and love no further out. Because it is on this day, that I hear that someone I care about and love very much desires to know the Jesus who loves so deeply. But before I get to that short story, I'll begin a bit about my journey into delight.
Many of my readers don't know this (nor many of my friends!), but I've been intensely wrestling with Jesus over the past year. Me in my distaste of the imperfection of the world, often runs away into the land of idealism and fantasy. This leads of often less wise choices (e.g. balling out at restaurants, wasting time, etc). Now there is a place for the comforts of life. But in this I often journey into pleasure rather than delight. It may be that delight is present, but no such delight that takes my breathe away the way that Jesus often does.
In this space of inner wrestling and turmoil. I'm coming to terms with my need for stable employment and money to pay back my loans. I am feeling the weight of my decisions, and my mind boxing my dreams. I am fading back into my identity of shame, isolation, and despair. Yet in this place, yes even there, Christ speaks gently of His overwhelming delight. About how He shines his face upon me and smiles at the reality that I am journeying. That I push into the hardness of the life I've stubbornly constructed with the shovel of grace that He died for. Painful tilling of earth, outlined and consoled by the breathless delight of Christ.
Oh how wonderful the company of Christ. To know Him. To experience Him. Yet the call of Christ is always deeper still. That in those spaces I am overwhelmingly trying to figure out how to love Christ more. To allow myself to experience Christ in the communal context. To trust the Christ that calls me out onto the waters, that are beyond me. To embrace the Lord who smiles and re-paints the treachery of the open sea to the adventure of a life-long love. In this space, I know a deep delight, a breathless delight, a roaring delight, and whispering delight. I encounter the very heart of God that overwhelmingly sweeps my identity back into the space of the beloved.
But even in this space, I know of a delight deeper still. A delight that dare I say surpasses the momentary epiphanies and encounters. It is a feeling that outweighs even the moments where God reminds me I am beloved. The delight that draws closer to my heart is ironically the delight that comes from outside of it. It is a delight that assumes the overfilling of my heart. It is a joy that turns the very blood in my veins to laugher that fills the celebration of my soul. That my very mind, heart, and soul, cannot help but be over joyed. It is the moment when someone I love experiences Jesus, deeply, meaningfully, honestly.
That happened today, and honestly I cannot help but celebrate with tears in my eyes. Tears that emerge from feeling the very heart of Christ loving someone. To see the beautiful and divine romance whisper life into the caverns of the soul. I cannot help but be filled myself. Today, one of the youth that I love and care about openly expressed interest in hearing from Jesus, and praying for more relationship with Jesus. The youth is not one who has encountered Christ before, but to see that Jesus meets him now, is overwhelmingly joyful even if it wasn't me directly involved. God is faithful and used every moment the youth has had in his life, to meet deeply with Christ in the moment. I cannot help but celebrate that in this moment I am in relationship with a God wonderful as this. May he grow and love and learn more and more. May Jesus bless His journey and carry his steps. And may I remember what it is like to desire God as simply as this young man.
May God allow me to see more and more people meet Him in those deep spaces.
May God allow it to happen more and more as I venture the confusing lines of life.
Easter is usually one of the busiest weekends in my year. As a person who's worked in the church and for Christian organizations, I find the time leading up to Easter fraught with the logistical chaoses of event planning, and last minute invitations. Anxiety, restlessness, and tiredness accompany me, leaving me very little time (or desire) to tend to my own soul. I strive to make 'perfect' the images and situations for people to encounter Christ during this weekend, yet I fail to encounter Christ in my own busy-ness. Perhaps, this is part of the reason Christ leads me out of the full-time formal ministry world - to again encounter him anew.
This theme of Christ meeting me in new ways shouldn't be unexpected in this season, yet it continues to surprise me. In the weeks prior, during this season of lent, I found myself re-experiencing moments of my past. Living alone, really gives me few opportunities to truly run from my thoughts, and need to face them to some degree. I just never knew that there was so much unaddressed within me. Thorns and weeds sown years ago have taken root and grown into thistles and bushes, choking the good vines. So in this season I painfully, and slowly strive to seek the good gardener to tend to the harvest of my own soul. It's painful, and often I can stand only so long, before running. Yet, with each time that Christ touches my heart, a broader landscape of who I am is revealed. I then become convicted of life, and ways I've been living it wrong, and ways I need Christ all the more.
I see that I'm bound by coils of shame. It's especially hard to deal with given that I took the 'minister' route of life. A disgusting religious pride easily wells up in me that demands piety rather than honesty. Face, rather than vulnerability. Perfection, rather than salvation. In this twisted mindset, that stemmed from my childhood days, I was bound by the idea of perfection. I tried so hard to appear perfect, to say the right things, to do the right things, to be the right thing. I worked my way into the image of the kingdom of God, and avoided anything I thought was unholy. I saw God as a divine judge and slave driver, that demanded my perfection. After all, how could a perfect God deal with imperfect man? This stress brought me to resent God, and his ways. Lacking truth, joy, and gratitude I turned towards an inner pride, that bitterly bowed to God. In this twisted deception, I believed that I was somehow unfortunate for having met this God that demanded so much from me. Like a child throwing a tantrum, I would often rebel against what I knew in my heart to be right. It happened in many ways throughout my life, lacking integrity, being judgemental, and even envying the lives of those who don't have the burden of encountering an undeniable God. I had replaced the image of a good God, and make him out to be someone he is not. I've created an idol and served it while pretending I stood in the right path.
This is something I only realized recently however, and wasn't something I could articulate earlier on in life. I wasn't even consciously aware that this crooked reality was something I lived. I merely tried to see what I wanted others to see in me, this left me constantly insecure and working just as hard convincing others of my 'perfection' as convincing myself. This grew into a deep arrogance and judgemental attitude towards others. I demanded perfection from imperfect people. imperfect world, and imperfect self; and grew frustrated when I saw imperfection. It made (and makes) me a difficult person to deal with sometimes. I become a person painful to watch as they flee from reality, unsure of what I do and say. The sand (which I pretended to be rock) I built my house on starts to crumble. Yet, with me admitting this cesspool of imperfection in me, I again encounter the deep love and mercy of Christ. This Easter season, I was blessed to have the opportunity to not be 'in charge' of too many things. I was given ample space to reflect and receive. During the Good Friday service I was blessed to be struck by three thoughts: God's deep love for everyone and God's deep love for me.
The Good Friday service I went to was at the Anchor of Hope in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. It is an emergency shelter at night, and a church space on Sundays and special days. I remember being quite tired and wrestling with my shame. A friend earlier that day had asked me: What is the theme in your life that bring up the most hurt? My answer was belovedness. I fail to believe in my beloved identity and worthiness, and so pretend that it's true. I create and identity, rather than receive one. Because of this, I'm full of holes. I walked into the Good Friday service space, tired and wrestling with the burden of my hard-hearted life. I wondered, along with Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome:
"For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." (Romans 7:19)
Why is it that I cannot love others well, or enough. Why is it that I'm such a fragile human being? Why can I not ever be fully honest? Why am I prone to exaggeration and pretending? Why can't I control my lustful mind throughout the day ? Why can I not tame my slandering tongue? Why do I fail to be grateful? Why am I so imperfect, inauthentic, and broken, when others are anything but?
Everyone looked so redeemable, so loving, and so complete. It felt as if only I was broken, and wrestling. Yes, I know the common conjecture that reminds me that everyone has fallen short, yet my heart never understood. It was a moment of the good friday service that I saw God's deep love for everyone. In that room, I honestly had the courage to entertain the idea of 'what if everyone feels this weight of life?' that everyone has experiences of not being able to do the good they want to do, yet that which they do not want to do - they keep on doing. I think especially in the DTES this stood true. Near me were those actively wrestling with their addictions. They would stand, and fall in their wresting, yet before me they already stood redeemed - beautiful and loved by God. Before the cross, we all stood equal. We all stood loved by God. In this thought, I saw God's deep love on everyone, yet I felt a burning in my own heart. The ice had continued to thaw.
Then as I sat there, I turned and saw a baby from our church. She was a beautiful baby with bright eyes that gently stared at everyone. She wasn't afraid of strangers, and was doted on by everyone. Each person that encountered this baby would light up with deep joy and would be unable to resist blessing the baby in some way. I thought about how fortunate this child was to be so loved and blessed by so many. She would grow up as a child of blessing. A pain hit my heart, as I felt the holy spirit working. I suddenly invisioned myself as a baby. I remember hearing stories from my mother and father about how much everyone loved me. The photos, videos, and stories that showed people smiling as they encountered me came to mind. Even more so, much much did God love me? A deep sorrow filled my heart. "O how long have I forgotten this belovedness?" I was overwhelmed at the vastness and deepness of the love. How deep and wide is the love of God? I can say no more.
In all these years, though I journeyed in circles and often opted to serve a God of my own creation; he was merciful and never let me wander too far. God was faithful, and has been faithful. And, he is faithful to everyone he loves. So, as Easter approaches, let us remember the deep love of God, we sent Christ to the cross not sparing. Let us remember the depth of love that makes us all equal before the cross. Lets recall God's faithfulness, and triumphantly rejoice at the memory of his resurrection in us. And as we re-commit to our baptismal vows, joining with those being baptized anew, we remember God's continued arrival.
I'm an Asian Canadian writer, designer, and musician based in Vancouver.
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