Posts tagged ‘Faith’

March 15, 2012

Turning tables

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A couple months ago, I was manning the counter of my parents’ dry cleaners (as I usually do when I go home).  It was approaching closing time and I was the only one at the store.  The only thing I had on my mind was closing up shop and making my way home.  An elderly man walks in with nothing about him that jumped out at me, so to me, he was just another customer to get through before I punched out.  But the strangest thing happened when he started engaging with me in conversation:

Man: You must be their son.  Giving your parents the night off, ey? [Hands me his ticket for his clothes]

Me: Yeah, they could use one every now and then. [Retrieves his clothes and rings him up]

Man: What do you do now?  Are you still in school?  [Receives his change and lingers]

Me: I’m currently in grad school.  Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the North Shore of Massachusetts.  [Taken aback by his lingering and awkwardly standing there]

Man: [Smiles] Do you know John 3:16?

Me: [Even more befuddled at this point, stumbling:] … Er, yes.

Man: [Smiles even bigger] Good.  We need more people like you.

Me: [Pretending to do shuffle through the day’s tickets and cash register to seem busy] Thank you.

Man: [Turns to leave and exit the store] God bless you.

If you couldn’t tell from my stage direction, I was somewhat uncomfortable by the entire conversation.  But as I took time to reflect more on the episode in the following days, I began to wonder, “Why?”  Why did that conversation feel so awkward for me?  As someone going into ministry, it shouldn’t have been that unnatural for me to engage in such confrontations.  But there was something very evident about the fact that I wasn’t the one asking the questions in the conversation.  For someone who is used to doing the evangelizing, to be the one evangelized to was new territory.  On top of that, we were away from my comfort zones of the church and/or college ministry setting.  The tables were turned and I immediately felt that I was in a position of vulnerability.

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Gospel Connection: As Christians, we are all called to follow both the Great Commandments (Exod. 20; Deut. 5) and Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20).  The growing concern I’ve seen in the Church, and something I struggle with myself, is an overemphasis on the former over the latter.  Many Christians are comfortable with their faith because they’ve privatized it to their relationship with “me and God.”  But there is a distinct difference between a “private” faith and a “personal” one.  While everyone’s faith walk is personal in their own unique ways, it does not merit us to keep them private.

The beauty of the Church is that it is a body of confessing sinners.  Men and women of different cultures, from different background, and in different circumstances, can come together to worship the one true, living, and Triune God.  Despite what sins we may struggle with in our “private lives,” the Great Commission enables believers of Christ to be outwardly-minded and not inwardly focused.  My encounter with the elderly man helped remind me of this.  I was uncomfortable with his exposing my faith and wanted to hoard it for my own.  But what he did was show me the self-centeredness of my sin, and conveyed his own faith in utter humility and compassion.  Even as a future pastor, my own heart needs to be preached the Gospel every now and then (in most cases, everyday).

With the inceptions of iconic Christian figures like Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin into modern society, it has been easier for younger believers to step forward in their faith.  But we must be careful not to claim our allegiance to such influential figures of popular culture, and see Who it is that they are pointing to themselves.  What is personal about your own spiritual journey?  In what ways are you “un-privatizing” your relationship with Christ within the Church and beyond?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Romans 1:16-17 

October 4, 2011

Misaligned

Anyone who knows me or has met me in person knows that I have back problems.  Now when I say I have back problems, I mean I have BACK problems.  Most people who think or say they have back problems, are actually just referring to some aches and pains experienced the morning after a rough night of sleep.  That’s not exactly what I’m referring to here.

In high school, my parents insisted that I go see a chiropractor because they were fed up with having to constantly nag about my slumping posture.  I’m pretty stubborn and am more than positive that there’s nothing wrong, but I myself was fed up with their nagging; so relent to their wishes.  When we get to the chiropractor’s office, we take some initial X-rays to see what the “damage” was.  The results left me speechless.  There are a couple moments in your life when you’re proved wrong, you know you’ve been proved wrong, and you think in your head “GG pwn.”  This was one of those moments for me.

I wish I still had the X-rays around to prove to you that I wasn’t lying, but my spine honestly looked like one of those game board paths that you see in Candyland or The Game of Life.  My lower back jutted one way, the upper back was curving another way, all the while my neck was cocked on an angle that I was pretty sure it wasn’t suppose to.  The doctor looks at me and says:

“This is a problem.”

My doctor said that luckily we caught the problem early (I was a teenager at the time), or else it would have caused serious problems later down the road into my 40s and 50s.  The next ensuing months consisted of weekly meetings where my realignment therapy took place.  He would lie me on his table and crack my back and neck in specific places (which I enjoyed a lot because I grew to be a “bone cracking” junkie by that point in my life).  Beyond our once a week meetings, my doctor “prescribed” some at-home exercises and postures that I could practice to help slowly straighten out my back.

Although I haven’t seen a chiropractor again since high school, I constantly find myself in a slouching position and having to intentionally straighten out my back and shoulders.  For me though, my slouch is my natural and most comfortable stance.  I’ve been made fun of so much for it.  The best way I can describe it is if you’ve ever watched any of the MIB: Men in Black movies (starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones) and know who the Worms are (pictured above), that’s my slouch at it’s finest.  Often people ask me how tall I am, and when I reply with a confident: 5’9″, they either laugh or give me a dirty look.  Sadly, my slouch causes me to lose about 2 or 3 inches than I really am, so I fall back into the “average Asian guy” height category.

While I’m studying at my desk, driving in my car, or if a cute girl happens to walk by, I have to mindfully straighten out my posture (haha, that last one was a joke… probably).  I default to my slouch, and a correct posture has to be made on a proactive level from my part.  Why bother to share all this?

Gospel Connection: For those of us who grew up in a Christian background, “the Gospel” is a term that is loosely thrown around.  Most people know that it literally means “Good News” and refers to the Bible’s account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  However, in the banality of our daily grinds and drawn-out familiarity with the Christian message, many will say, “Sure, I know the Gospel.”  When in fact, it is in the moment that someone says that very phrase that they find themselves in- what I’m deeming as- their “faith slouch.”  If we are to truly comprehend the implications of the Gospel, there has to be a constant, intentional, and proactive realignment of our lives to its message.  The paradigmatic nature of the Incarnation, the scandal of the Cross, and perpetual hope we find in the Resurrection are each things that transcend human capacity.  If we aren’t daily straightening out our faiths to the contours of its content, we are left with nothing but a lazy, crooked, and no-good-down-the-road slouch.