The Good End

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:23 pm by Administrator

today is the 5th anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. it’s also the day of the boston marathon, which my buddy won ho is running. for these reasons and more, it’s an important day for me. it’s enough to make me want to write, though i’m writing with some unease. i’m like Lyra, after she lost her connection to the alethiometer. i’m learning this thing all over again.

two months ago, i developed deep feelings for a woman who was not my wife. experiencing this, and sharing this experience with my wife, has changed me. i could use different words for change. i could say that it transformed me. i could say that it destroyed me. or that it scarred me. all of these words would work. but they are not the right words.

it has taken me a long time to write these words. i haven’t wanted to. and even despite being who i am, a man who divulges details, i feel incapable of going into specifics. i don’t know if it suffices to say that i have changed. but i believe that i have. many of the things and the people that once mattered to me don’t matter to me anymore. i might even hate some of these things, some of these people. but hate is a strong word, and i know that when my feelings settle out, hate will not be the right word. too many of the words i have written and spoken have not been the right words. i look at the words i have used here in this blog to describe myself over the years, and i know that many of these words—loathing, self-doubting, and at times self-justifying—have not been the right words either.

this Easter season passed me by. i would have been content to let it go by without reflection, had it not been for Romans 5:10. the verse was embedded in something that i was reading for a bible study. there is a difference, you see, between being reconciled to God and experiencing salvation. i think this is because the former points to a matter of forgiveness, while the latter points to life-giving relationship. to be forgiven is not necessarily to be in relationship. one can forgive an enemy without restoring relationship. i think that in this life, God forgives because He seeks relationship. we receive this forgiveness because we believe that through this relationship we will experience real life.

it has not been enough for me to receive my wife’s forgiveness. we’ve had to look for life of a certain kind, a life that we have not previously shared. it is a life of passion and of mutual submission. this ought to have been a difficult thing to find after seven years of half-hearted searching. the remarkable thing is that it was not difficult to find. i just had to stop caring about other things; i had to put my attention into just the one thing. i had to let go of something; i had to give myself fully to something. i had to be me, in one distinct and very real sense of me.

i would call it rebirth, but is rebirth too strong of a word? i wonder at Jesus talking to Nicodemus, and i think now that Christ used so many hyperboles and parables not simply to confuse but also to give us the best metaphors for what we would experience on His account. i have experienced something like rebirth.

yesterday, i think God asked me what i think of Him now. it was not a rhetorical question. i took my time. i thought about how i answered this question ten years ago. ten years ago, i told God that i despised Him, because i felt that God was not good. this is an answer i will never entertain ever again, simply because i know Him better now. but neither can i say, here in the aftermath of my suffering and humiliation, that God makes me glad. God has exposed me, and yet He has restrained me from my customary self-loathing. He has forced me to look at what i am with my eyes wide open—this man who has always craved deep emotional connection because of a lifetime of alienation. He has forced me to look at what i was, so that i could know myself, and so that i could let some part of me go. it is gone. it is gone now.

God is good. i do not feel this goodness right now. but i know it, in a manner of knowing that pervades my being. there is no economy of rights and wrongs, blames and debts. in my life, there is simply the drama unfolded, and everything before has set the stage for everything present, and what came before only has meaning now in light of everything i now have. but was i wrong, in every manner of wrong? was i evil in what i was, in every manner of evil? yes, and yes. enough to wish to die. but God restrains me, so that i cannot abandon myself, as i have been abandoned by others. i must face myself, i must carry that man, and i must change.

last night, i prayed for the first time in a month. and in the midst of the wreckage that is my life, God shared with me His wish for my friendship. i was again confronted with the Christ that cannot be contained—the love that cannot be understood. we stood side by side and looked at the world together, and i felt no loose ends in my life anymore, no troubles left to be explained. you are my pleasure and my life, i said to God. on one end of my life is the thing i am losing; on the other side is you, the Good End. and that which lies in between is now drawn so tight that should you pull me quick i will break; but if you draw me, i will surely come



Posted in Uncategorized at 5:22 pm by Administrator

twenty-five years ago, i was baptized. it was a big moment for me, because up til the moment i was baptized, i wasn’t sure if salvation was guaranteed. after the water was sprinkled on my head, and after the church service was over, i ran outside to the church parking lot and sat on the curb. it was starting to rain, and i let it rain on me. i thought to myself, the more water the better. it was one of the happiest days of my life.

i could look back at that time and feel some humor about it, about my misinformed sense of soteriology. but i’d like to not do that. because my heart tells me that as little as i knew God then, and as much as my religion was based in a fear of eternal hell, the moment of my baptism was precious to me when it happened. and i think now that regardless of what makes the moments special, it is the special moments that make life memorable and worth living. after all, what else do i remember of my 11th year of life? that memory is the only one that survived.

back when i was in residency, i felt stripped bare of the luxury of rumination. i had before me the daily spectacle of people dying in all kinds of disgusting and horrific ways, and the panorama of suffering and death was overlaid on the general darkness of my pervading fatigue and loneliness. it was ten years ago when i cut through the theology of ideas and looked intently for the god who is real—the god that actually matters. i did not find him at Johns Hopkins Hospital. i did not find him in baltimore. i did not find him anywhere. what did theology mean to me then? was i going to convince myself that despite the godlessness i was witnessing, there was sufficient logic and ideological structure to support the idea of God? was that enough for me, to obstinately continue in some kind of religion?

this too was a special moment in my past. because i felt far from God, and i deeply misunderstood Him, but i knew what i was looking for from God. as precious a memory as my baptism was, this moment too, marked as it was by bitter resentment, was precious.

and here too, i recognize that i’m misinformed, theologically misguided, and grasping at straws, as i always have been. it’s not for lack of self-exploration that i still struggle to be truly self-aware. it’s that my meandering and my failure is part of a process, and the conclusion remains elusive. i’ve come to appreciate a God who, despite being static in perfection, chooses to prove Himself through change. and i see that my life, terribly confusing as it is, is a swirling canvas upon which the perfect moment is drawn. i sense that the perfect moment is upon me. and as usual, it is happening when i am not strong and collected but rather at my very weakest.

my thoughts about you God are different now. i have no philosophy to explain why i believe in you. i have no proof of your existence. i seek connection with you all the time, but i have changed, and the connection i seek is different. whereas once i wished for you to touch me, now i wish that i might just catch a glimpse of your shadow, from a distance. i have no ambition to impress you, nor is it enough for me to be consumed by shame. if oldness is a sorrow that cannot be shaken, then i have grown old with you. every year i have approached Calvary, and i’ve relived that cruelty and its implications, and now the pain and the hope alike have settled in me, in a manner that makes me incapable of feeling. i am silent now, before the cross. i am silent now, in your presence. i do not ask for the revelation anymore. i just sense it, that the moment i have waited for has now arrived


Father friend mentor

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:34 pm by Administrator

[a one-way chat, with my friend carl]

1:15 PM me: yo
my boss out of the blue gave me a cigar today, to congratulate me on roselia
and very oddly, the first thing that went through my mind was that i wished i could puff it with my dad, on the back patio tonight
1:16 PM except that i wanted my dad to be a different version of my dad
it was a very striking image
and i realized that i’ve just been through a terribly intense period of my life
maybe one of the hardest experiences i’ve ever had
1:17 PM and i just wish i had someone to sit down with, who could know what i’ve been through, and whom i could trust as a mentor
and just help me understand
for a long time, i think i’ve recognized in an abstract way how much i’ve wanted a mentor over the years
but today was the first time that i saw what i wanted
1:18 PM i want to be that for isaac
i wish my dad was that for me
there is no one in my life whom i could see in this role for me
1:19 PM and when i realized this, i thought for the first time that maybe i really do need to leave my church
and find another one
not that i want to leave my church
1:20 PM but i can’t think of another way to find a mentor, really
except to find it at my church
i think that it has to be a specific kind of person
1. a man over the age of 40
2. successful in a management-type role
1:21 PM 3. married and with children
4. with leadership ambition
components of this, at least
1:22 PM like, jim collins, or andy stanley, or stephen covey
somebody like that, lol
i guess everyone wants a mentor like that
eh, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t need to be someone that huge
i wish it were my dad
but just a slightly better version of him
1:23 PM keep his basic personality, but remove all the grudges, the anger, the entitlement, and the stubborn opinions
all the stuff that completely invalidates in my mind all the advice he gives me
1:24 PM it saddens me though, to realize that most all of my friends probably lack the same thing
a consistently wise father figure
i think andrew lam is literally the only guy i know who has this
and this explains how/why he’s so thoroughly functional
1:25 PM well, i can think of one another dad
he was the father to my pseudo-cousins
1:26 PM in any case, i pulled out isaac’s first tooth last night
and it was sort of a special moment for us
even though he was spitting up blood and i had to run out of the bathroom to get pliers
1:27 PM at one point
sandy didn’t seem to care much about the tooth
but i cleaned it and put it in a special place
and i realize right now that the reason i did this is that one of my fond memories with my dad
was having him take out my teeth
1:28 PM how sure he was
how much i trusted him, despite the fear
i do wish i could puff this cigar with my dad
and i also wish i could puff it with my son
1:29 PM but i can do neither right now
so i will puff it alone tonight, on my back patio