Lent 2022: Surrendering Defenses & Debts

Today is the anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings. Anniversary feels like a bizarre word to use for something horrific, but I’m mentally too exhausted to find a better suited word.
What does it look like to fast my armor and surrender my defenses today?
It looks like feeling my feet on the ground, and remembering the space I get to take.
It feels like forgiving myself when I’m not smiling even though it’s spring warm temperatures.
It feels like not being apologetic when I’m angry with rude people.
It looks like not smiling.
It feels like taking a chance at feeling joy today whether it’s from being grateful for the time to write or having the financial access to buy this too-expensive cold brew.
If feels like hoping that things will be better, even if the world throws lots of sad and bad at us.
It feels like trusting that there are good people in this world. There are many good people. I like to believe most people are good.
It means forgiving others when they forget the pain I’m in being an Asian woman in this world.
It means forgiving myself when I forget to love being an Asian woman in this world.
It means forgiveness.
It means taking deep belly breaths and being present, even if that feels extra full.

Lent 2022: Surrendering the need to punish

Nothing gets under my skin more than when evil and rudeness occur and perpetrators get away from it. From Putin’s ruthless egotistical war to Florida’s ridiculous laws against freedom of speech and sexuality to the men who never move aside and assume YOU need to move, I want to scream. I want heaps of coal to befall these evil doers. Underneath my demand for consequences is my lack of faith in God’s Justice and grace. I don’t fully believe God sees our hurt and our harm. I don’t fully believe that God has our back. I don’t even believe he fully forgives me when I’m the perpetrator of bad.

To believe in mercy is to believe in Justice

To hope for renewal and redemption and repentance is to hope for grace

To demand others be better is to demand for myself to be better. Can I trust that my grace and forgiveness and surrendering my need to retaliate will return to me, strength, love and greater clarity of the human condition?

Lent 2022: Under the Banner of Annoyance

I came home after a 16 mile run and I’m running behind to go to church service. The last thing I want to find is an occupied bathroom, and worst a roommate who takes his sweet time in it. I’m seething in my spirit, aching in my body, and positive he’s taking longer because he knows I need the restroom.

^^What do I gain by thinking that his bathroom usage was a personal affront to me? What do I gain by thinking that folks are not mindful? What do I gain by thinking the world is out to get me?

It gives me permission to be PISSED. It gives me permission to not be as kind as I should be. It gives me permission to armor up and fight the next person who looks at me wrong.

I am highly sensitive and I get irritated so easily. Because under my quickness to get annoyed is my grip on control — things need to be according to MY timeline, people need to act according to how I THINK, in my brain.

I wish I could say, now that I know, now that I’ve verbalized my flaw, I am ready to let go and surrender. Quite the opposite, now that I know, I feel myself doubling down on my need to control and my fear of surrender. I’m afraid that when I let go, I won’t be able to put the lid back on. I’m afraid that if I surrender my agenda, and the story that the world is against me, I’ll need to show up even more. When you show up more, you risk getting hurt more… but you also risk more joy and discovery.

I think I loved the pandemic emotions because I was allowed to be sad and scared without having to explain myself. I mean, look outside. But now that the pandemic is falling to the background and the world is opening up again, I see myself putting on the mask of happy and gratitude, when I’m just desperate to be sad and be disappointed. I believe you can be sad and disappointed without self-pity, and I want to be that, without having to explain myself, without having to first give a disclaimer of joy.

I love my sadness and fear because I’m sensitive and vulnerable and easily affected by the feels of the world. Now I want to be comfortable to exist in that without the gearing up to fend off people that want to fix me or make me feel better. I want to be confident enough in myself that how you see me isn’t as important as me living honestly.

Lent 2022: How’s Your Spirit?

A friend just asked me, how’s your spirit?

I respond: I’m fine.

She follows up: Are you really?

I think and respond: I don’t know…

I do know, but I got scared to say it because I didn’t want to disappoint her or tarnish her idea of who I am. I think she assumes I’m really strong and courageous. I am those things, but I’m also often really terrified. Because what I wanted to say, or actually, let me give myself some grace. Maybe I really didn’t know how my spirit felt, but after the breath and the pause, I do know.

Without self-pity, I feel like a disappointment. I feel like a loser. I feel like I’ll never live up to my potential. I feel scared. I feel lonely. I feel like my ship has sailed. I feel that my self-sabotage is too strong for me to break. I feel that my self-judgment is too thick for me to tear down. I want to feel confident and patient. I want to trust in god’s timing. I want to be fully seen.

Lent 2022: Underneath the anger

The art of removing my armor and laying down my defenses requires that I first acknowledge and maybe even allow myself to experience the anger of being hurt/attacked. Even if that’s not anyone’s intention, and I want to believe it’s often not, my perception can overpower reality. Perception can become reality.

So then first, allow for the anger. I can’t run from it, I cannot pretend it’s not brewing and written all over my brows. I cannot ignore my anger. And it too shall pass when I’m too spent from living in that. And after the exhaustion and after a peek into another way of seeing the world, then, there’s a chance for something softer.

Then in my breath, I see my fallibility and tendency to push others then. Then I can see my survival tactics. Then I can see my fear that, if I don’t stand for myself, no one else will! That’s the lie: that we are alone and no one has our back. That’s the lie that’s been passed down from the beginning of time: that we must fend for ourselves because no one has a plan for us otherwise. That’s the lie I’m trying to let go.

In seeing how I have wronged when I feel wronged and when I have offended in my defending, then I can forgive myself and if necessary, ask for forgiveness. The latter is hard and I suck at it. The former is harder, and I overcompensate by doing more, working harder.

Maybe I’m best when I’m too exhausted to defend myself while at the same time, wise and compassionate enough to see everyone around me is just simply scared as well. We are all scared; now who acts out of love still, is the bravest of us all.

Lent 2022: Fasting my defenses

…and surrendering my armor.

I have spent most of my life feeling like I need to protect myself, and showcase strength in a manner that feels on my skin. I have been taught and I have experienced a world that doesn’t have my life and presence as things of importance. Well, then let me show you I’m worthy to be respected. But this actually has only pushed people away, built my own guilt, and encouraged me to build narratives of fear & separation.

Can I trust that my worth is secure by surrendering my need to self-protect? Can I hear all the words and see all the actions from eyes of compassion and grace? Maybe they are not against me. Maybe they are simply hurt and you came across their path. Maybe your lack of defenses will be a connective strength…

Today a man was very rude to me, and I felt my body tense and go into anger. My thoughts built tales about him. I was so angry that he got away with being so mean to me. Already feeling like I missed my fast… I took a breath, and slowly let go. What was under my anger and within my stories? My sadness. My fear. My ability to still hope and still go about life not expecting rudeness. That was an exception. That was not about me. My response is about me.

Easter Sunday: I gain it all

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords o the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and you will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 58: 6-14

We can trust this sort of fasting and this level of giving up, because we are founded on the hope of Easter. Easter is proof that hope, love, renewal, fulfillment have the last word. Easter is proof that our pain is never in vain. Easter is proof that the sun will rise again. Easter is proof that death is not the end.

We do not give up in vain.
We are not pressed to live radically in vain.
We are not called to share, surrender, speak up for injustice in vain.
All of our giving up, our stripping away, our faithful generosity, our faith-led moves that make no sense in a capitalistic man-eat-man world MAKE SENSE if we know that God does not exist in vain.
God is for our good.
God is for our justice.
God is for forgiveness, repentance, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness.

We give up so we can gain God.
We give up the things that hold us down so we can see on the level of God.
We give up the things that keep us small and that make us feel unworthy so that we remember who we really are in God’s eyes.

You are beautiful.

You are enough.

You are destined to change this world, care for your neighbor, speak out so love wins.

Your purpose is great so give up all the things that don’t align with that. Give up the things that make you hold tighter on the world. Give up the things that turn you away from soul work.

Give up the world. Gain your soul.
Give up your former ways. Gain a risen way of being in this world that needs it.

I give up for God. I give up for you. I give up for me. I give up knowing that I have already gained it all.

Holy Saturday: I give up and Wait

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23

Between the giving up and the receiving, is a moment of waiting that can feel terrifying. Will the giving up be worth it for what’s to come? Will what I expect to come actually manifest? The quiet between the surrender of Good Friday and the fulfillment of Easter Sunday can feel so big. Doubt can seep in. Fear can take hold. Our identity can be questioned. What if in that quiet, I choose to simply notice without judgment?

Can I befriend that doubt and learn about what I really believe? Can I befriend fear and learn about what I have my hope in? Can I see the parts of my identity that are being shaken and see the other parts of me that will always hold true? I am loved. I am a child of God. I am not alone, never alone.

Good Friday: God gives up for us

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53

God offends all of us. To take this message as wholehearted truth — that God willingly died for us so we can be whole again — means we have to accept uncomfortable parts existing together. That we have wronged/wrong God. That God dwelled/dwells among us. That God willingly gave themselves up for us by enduring unjustifiable capital punishment. That we are why God had to die.

If I try to make sense of every detail in this story, my mind will explode. Maybe God’s ways cannot be contained by my human rationale. If I try to convince all of me to believe that Jesus literally died on the cross after being tortured in front of the people who said loved him, my body freezes up and my stomach churns. Maybe the depths of this pain and sorrow are too much for my already fragile body to accept, when I can look out my window and in the news the countless deaths that are taken unjustly. If I really believe that I am the reason why God had to die, I am stopped at my tracks. But not because of guilt. God died to demonstrate their love for me. God gives themselves up so I know I am not important. I want my being to understand the gravity of this infinite love.

I condemn torture and capital punishment, and I believe the Word of God does as well. It has been weaponized to destroy too many innocent lives, especially black lives, especially people of color and those deemed inferior under white supremacy and colonialism. To have God endure such physical and visceral pain is one way God demonstrates they know our pain. They have been through it as well. They have accepted it. They have been put on the witness stand to be stripped, whipped, defamed and crucified. God knows the pain of having their dignity stripped. God wears those scars on their body.

I choose to believe that God did walk on this earth and continues to dwell among us, and in us. I choose to believe this because I need to know that I am not alone. I need to know that there is not one thing I have or will go through that God cannot resonate with. I need to know that God is with us and for us. My clearest sense of this truth is with the story of Jesus. Jesus lived and grew up among us. Jesus was a poor refugee who had a day job as a carpenter. Jesus was a good friend. Jesus lived with purpose. Jesus loved the people society pushed aside. Jesus spoke most against greed and religiosity. Jesus was here to break the systemic structures that held a small group of people up and most people down. Jesus never forgot the goal and the why for existence. Jesus gave up everything for humans to experience God’s love and nearness. On Good Friday, Jesus said we are good enough, we are worthy, we are the goal. On Good Friday, Jesus was good, willing and vulnerable. On Good Friday, I remember that the depths of love are deeper and more unfathomable than what I could ever humanly imagine.

Lent Day 44: I give up because I am Loved

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 58:11-14

I can give up because I know I will be picked up. I can give up because I know who guides me. I can give up the parts of me that I have put my identity in because I am making room for a better and more exciting purpose. I can give up my grip on the results and outcome because the Word of God promises hope and renewal are the final say. I can give up and fast and give away because God never gives up on me, because I have been given much and because I will always be provided for. I get to give up. I get to give up the small dreams. I get to give up the small outcomes. I get to give up the need to win today because I have already won. I am not alone. I am loved. I am enough.