Confession: I can’t say that I’m proud to be Korean.
This isn’t a reflection of my feelings toward my heritage or country, but simply, it wouldn’t be accurate.
I’m not proud to be Korean. I’m thankful to be Korean. I love being Korean. I appreciate our history, our struggles, our mistakes, our victories, our language, our food, our strange ways, our awesome ways, our kpop and kdramas ~ I love the beauty of my rich history, culture and ethnicity, and I’m thankful that they’re a part of me.
I’m not proud to be a woman. I love that I’m a woman. Love that I have curves, a womb, a softness and a strength that only those who’ve understood what it’s like to push against rigid lines and make a place for our sisterhood, our voice, our femininity, our diversity and our beauty, can understand; and that is ok. I love that I am not a man, but that I can give birth to them, can love them, champion them, follow them, believe the best in them.
I’m equally not proud to be an American citizen (ha, ok loaded sentence there). I’m thankful to be an American citizen, to have grown up with a unique child-of-immigrants experience and perspective; I appreciate being a member of this…strange…democratic experiment, and it’s something that I neither take for granted, idealize, nor flaunt.
Instead, I acknowledge the intentional, precise, purposeful and good plan of my Creator to have made me an ethnically Korean female born as a US Citizen in the 20th century who creates art and poetry. I know there is absolutely no mistake to the circumstances and facts of my birth, my passions, my talents, my dreams.
But these words—Korean, American, woman, artist, poet, missionary, leader—these aren’t the core of my identity; they are beautiful facets of my identity, like the many cuts of a diamond, or the petals of a flower. But they’re not the whole, nor are they the center, not the light that is within; they are what embellish and stem from my center. They are windows through which to see my light, through which to view the One who sits on the throne in my core, the One who exudes all the colors and frequencies in the universe.
Offense is a great measure of when I’ve clung to these petals and facets as my core. Someone tells me kimchi smells gross, I get offended and withdraw my care from that person, hate them for their ignorance—I’ve made “Korean me” the center of my identity. I’ve placed myself on the throne, I have become my own god.
A less silly example: I am offended and angry at the lack of honest Asian female representation in the arts and media. Why am I offended? Whether it’s an entirely personal reason or because it’s yet another expression of oppression that I have to fight in order to ensure a better and more holistic future for younger Asian females, it still begs the question–but why am I offended?
Fighting oppression and pursuing justice can only succeed when offense is pulled out of the equation of transformation. When offense is present, I have made it about my ego—and a self-centered justice is doomed to fail because it is not rooted in love and truth. Goals. To fight like love.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t things that anger, grieve, or please me; doesn’t mean I don’t have nor express emotions, opinions, original thoughts, a sense of humor, or a personality that may have in large part been formed by the facets of identity. I don’t deny any of these things. I have them, I feel them…
but any emotion, thought, or opinion that isn’t in alignment with the Word, Heart and Spirit of Creator God, then I try not to act upon them because, honestly? True authority and power comes from the Author of Life, and life in His Spirit is about putting to death any oldness, fleshness, worldliness, and soulishness that wants to claim sovereignty in my internal world. I’m not always great at this—especially when my insecurities & ego start entitling—but I’m committed to getting better.
The conviction of self-idolatry—of clinging to the facets of our identity as core so that we are no longer flowing in a Christ-centered identity—is not comfortable by any means. I think most of us ignore when this subtle conviction begins to tug. Instead we get offended, we remain offended, we feel entitled to our offense, justified in our offense, we silence the Spirit’s conviction with a rhetoric of righteousness that simply masks our pride and self-righteous religiosity.
We look externally for justification of our willful ignorance, and so flock toward those who share our idolatries…or ideologies; we don’t even realize that we’re worshipping dead philosophies, preaching another gospel, or clinging to sacred cows and violating love and relationship in the process. And our spirits begin to starve, our souls begin to decay, our minds twist, our love grows cold, our light begins to wane. (Wow, that might be one of the most depressing lines I’ve ever blogged).
Another example: I’m offended and angry that a self-proclaimed bro/sis in Christ chooses to support or become involved with a movement, person, organization, event, album, or [insert anything here] that I have deemed un-Christian, un-loving, un-just, intolerant, ungodly, or [insert any adjective here].
I advocate having our own convictions and do believe there’s obvious healthy standards to our decision-making, as well as consequences to all our actions. We can be mad about the negative consequences. We can be upset about the ill effects of terrible choices.
But judging and condemning each other is ultimately foolish & unproductive because we can’t ever truly know what’s in another person’s heart. Why? Simply cuz we’re not their Maker. We can’t really know the motivations and reasons for someone’s choices, especially if we haven’t even asked them–and asked them with the genuine purpose of wanting to understand, not to entrap them into a “this confirms why you suck/you’re wrong and I don’t/I’m not” position.
Jesus said that by our love for each other, all would know we’re His disciples (John 13:35). A litmus test of love, honor, & Christ-like character: will we still stick around, maintain healthy relationship, and listen, really listen to each other with unoffendable hearts, even/especially when we disagree? Even when we think the other person is obviously, absurdly, totally, and completely wrong wrong wrong? I’m not 100% there yet either. But I’m trying.
Here’s one more: I’m not proud to be a Christian.
I am humbled, convicted, honored, sober, thankful thankful thankful, overwhelmed, and excited for the grace to follow Christ; that He has claimed me as His own, that my name is written in His book, and that His name is written on my bones.
I’m thankful to be trusted with the command to love Him and to love others. To love unconditionally, which will require me to die to my ego. I’m pretty desperate for His grace to empower me to keep following Him, to keep what is eternal as my center.
Pray for me, pray for each other, pray for those who’ve offended us, pray for those whom we consider enemies—that we would not replace what is eternal inside of us with what is temporal. That our light would not be darkness; that Christ would be our center, that we ourselves would not be our center. That sacrificial committed love would be our modus operandi and our goal and our lived expression as we all labor to create a more beautiful, just, and true today and tomorrow.
Dying to self is the only way to live that eternal life now.