Tired. I think that’s the best way to describe my state of mind lately. Not just because of the flurry of wrapping up college and making the most out of this last quarter, nor of being sick for the past week and half, but just this mental exhaustion.
Matthew 11:28-30 states, Come tome, all who labor and areheavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, andlearn from me, for amgentle and lowly in heart, andyou will find rest for your souls. Formy yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
This verse, to me, really reflects God’s power and sovereignty. He is the ruler of our lives and His plans are for our good. But I think somewhere along the way a part of me has almost stopped trusting in that sovereignty. I know He is good, but there is this constant wondering of what He is trying to teach me throughout all the daily trials and burdens. I ask myself if there is anything God is leading me to do as I watch helplessly my little brother fighting what seems to be a losing battle with his inner demons, or how I’m supposed to crush the deepest yearnings in my heart and get over the disappointment of so many broken promises and dreams. The future is a big blank right now, and I hope to paint the next chapter of my life with a season of growth and productivity as I prepare for life beyond UCLA. But I know I haven’t given Jesus my burdens, for I have not found rest for my soul. It’s hard to remember that I am not the main character in my life, and I just want to be able to trust that one day I will understand all the things that are happening right now. There have been so many moments when I refused to walk with Him, and He carried me lovingly anyway. But this time I want to walk, no matter how much I want to look back. I just have to give him the weight on my back, on my chest, and walk with supreme confidence in Him.
Today, more than four years after I accepted Christ into my heart, I became baptized into the family of God at Lighthouse. It has been such an incredible journey throughout my walk with God and I know, without a doubt, that this is the best family to be a part of, with Christ at the center of it all.
I waited a very long time to be baptized, desperate for my parents’ approval, convincing myself that baptism wasn’t necessary. But after today, seeing how many people were able to witness God’s work in me, were able to hear the Gospel proclaimed, I can safely say that baptism is absolutely critical in one’s walk with Christ. And I know that when times get hard I can look back on this magnificent day and remember how far God has taken me from my life of sin and how infinitely loved I am. I think that the timing of everything worked out pretty well; even though my parents were not there to witness my baptism, I think that they have been able to see more of my faith in the past 9 months or so than they were able to before. I am glad that my decision to get baptized, despite their reservations about Christianity, let them know the power of God in my life and I am thankful that they have been supportive. I’m so thankful I got to see people who have touched me from so many different parts of my life…HOC, TCHS, UCLA AACF and many more. However, we must not forget that while baptism is a beautiful testament to God’s work in a believer’s life, it is ultimately not about us, but about Him. He deserves all the glory; I have done nothing to earn my salvation and it is only by grace that I have been saved. The past four years have been filled with incredible highs and devastating lows, but God has been right next to me through it all.
To those who couldn’t make it, I’ve posted my testimony for y’all to read, without me in all my crazy blubbering/snot running down my face glory…haha.
Throughout my life I met many Christians who talked about how much they loved Jesus but were slow to forgive and very hypocritical. However, that opinion changed the moment I first stepped foot in church in October of 2009, during my senior year of high school. At the time I was dating someone who had grown up in church and wanted to introduce me to God. I remember being so nervous on the way to that Friday night youth group, scared of being judged or made fun of or ignored. But when I got there, I was welcomed with open arms. I was amazed to hear people pray for the first time, and found that these Christians had a real relationship with God where they sought to glorify Him rather than ask Him for a bunch of worldly blessings. I wanted to know this God. Throughout the next few months, I began to hungrily seek Him, reading about who Jesus was in the Bible. I was amazed at this man who poured out so much love on people who would ultimately reject Him. I learned about grace and love in a way I had never before; it was like a fire had been ignited in my very soul and it spread so rapidly. Throughout my journey there were so many people who encouraged me, answered my questions, and showed me how great the love of Christ is by loving me. Before I knew it, I had one foot in church, ready to commit my life to Christ, and another in the world. I struggled very hard in my mind to reconcile all of the concrete tangible things I had learned my entire life, of science and logic and evidence, with all of the things I was learning about God that I knew deep down were true. In February of 2010 I finally decided to take the leap of faith to accept Christ into my heart, and it was like seeing color for the first time after living out my entire life in black and white. Though I wish I could say that after I became a Christian that my life was changed to the point where everybody could see the beauty of God in my actions, it wasn’t so simple. I struggled with the same hypocrisy I had seen in those Christians I had encountered before, of thinking I was somehow better than my non-believing friends. It wasn’t until after I entered UCLA, that I truly began to understand what it meant to be a witness of Christ. I thank God for bringing me to Asian American Christian Fellowship, where I have made some of the deepest relationships with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether it was a casual conversation over lunch or a 7 hour discussion that lasted the entire night, I have been blessed by how much each person in AACF has taught me about God. Thank you to everyone who has ever encouraged me, prayed for me, cried with me, and pointed me to Christ, even during my darkest moments when I could not feel God’s presence in my life and started doubting even my own salvation. If it were not for AACF I would not have found Lighthouse, and would not be standing here before you today.
Throughout my walk with God the most important thing that I’ve learned, especially at Lighthouse, is to love unashamedly, deeply, without abandon. With God we never run out of love to give to others, whether it is our family, roommates, classmates, or even those most difficult to love. And it is comforting to know that God loves me unconditionally, despite having done nothing to deserve it. I will never forget the words my roommate Shela said to me a few weeks ago when I was feeling worthless of His love: “Thoughts that you have to ‘fix’ yourself or that you aren’t good enough are lies that you have to fight with truths God says about you because His standards are greater, right? He accepts you and there is nothing you can do to make Him love you more or love you less.” This truth is something I forget all too often, that we are made righteous before God due to Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross for our sins. However, we can trust that God will never abandon us, even in times of utmost loneliness. He is in front of me to guide me, behind me to watch out for me, beside me to hold my hand, above me to watch over me, under me to keep me from falling, and inside me to work through me. He has changed my life in every way I could ever imagine, and I pray that those around me could be able to experience the beauty of Christ, His magnificent glory, and His unfailing love.
One thing I really enjoyed about today was reading the notes that everyone in my class at AACF wrote me. And I’m really glad Esther reminded me of these lyrics from United Pursuit, which really had helped me get through some tough times throughout college.
I lean not on my own understanding
My life is in the hands of the Maker of heaven
I give it all to You, God
Trusting that You’ll make something beautiful out of me…
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open
So..to those of you who have walked alongside me in my spiritual journey, thank you for the prayers, encouragements, and even the rebukes/criticisms that were said out of love, to refine me. I have been challenged in so many ways thus far and there is no way I’m giving up this incredibly difficult fight that God has placed in front of me. And to those of you who aren’t Christian, thank you for the love and patience you have shown me despite my imperfections and times of hypocrisy. We may not understand so many things that happen in this world but if we proclaim Christ we will be united with Him in His glorious kingdom, the God of the universe. He takes away our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh, constantly refining us and making us into the people He wants us to be. God is a God worth trusting, worth believing in; He has never failed and is so, so, infinitely good.
Today I was talking to my discipler about a song I was listening to (“I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad, which I’ve posted before). She told me that she liked that song because it teaches one to be appreciative of what we already have in life, to be content and not yearn for more.
I cannot describe how deep that feeling of yearning in my heart is. And sad to say, it is not always that complete and utter yearning for God. Yet this yearning, this wanting of more from this life, spills over into everything, seeping into all the cracks and crevices of my life. Each movement and action is heavy with yearning for what I do not yet have or have already lost.
But my life is not mine. It is not mine. I have been bought with a price. Every drop of Jesus’ precious blood that spilled on the ground of Calvary was like every agonizing shekel that Hosea bought to reclaim his Gomer, who should already have been his. I want to yearn for God, to love the things He loves and hate the things He hates. To yearn for what is good, not for the earthly desires of my heart. Deliver me, O God; when I taste Your goodness I shall not want.
Whatever happened in the past is over. Do not dwell on past mistakes. There’s no point crying over spilt milk. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s what you learn from the mistakes, and promising yourself not to repeat those mistakes that matters. When you miss opportunities, don’t dwell on it, as there are always new opportunities on the horizon.
Being able to smile when being slightly misunderstood is good upbringing. When you’re wronged and you smile with calmness, it is generosity. When you’re being taken advantage of and you can smile, you’re being open-minded. When you are helpless and you can do a philosophical smile, you’re in a calm state. When you’re in distress and you can laugh out loud, you’re being generous. When you’re looked down and you can calmly smile, you’re being confident. When you’re being jilted in relationships and you can smile it off, you’re being suave.
I think recently a lot of things have been causing me to re-analyze my faith and what I believe in. So often throughout my spiritual walk I have thought, “I believe in God, in Jesus, because He saved me.” And while it is definitely true that Jesus saves all who acknowledge Him as the way, the truth, and the life, why should we believe in someone just because they give us good things? The love I have for the people closest to me isn’t because of the things they do for me. It isn’t merely because I have been treated well that I am called to love those around me. In accepting someone for their faults and foibles, even when they wrong us, we love them merely because of who they are.
Why do people place their faith in God? Why do I? Somewhere along the first 18 years of my existence without believing in God, I felt that initial tug that there was something more, something lacking in the worldview I had built. And I clung to Jesus as a young child blindly clings to its mother, unaware of why it should but only that it is right.
I think for much of my spiritual life that feeling of it is right carried through, mainly through the blessings that Jesus granted me, the answered prayers, the gifts and promises of heaven and eternal life. It wasn’t until one day when I asked myself what if salvation is a lie and what if I have been deceiving myself all this time did I feel what it felt like to be wrenched from that feeling of being inseparably close to God. And I can guarantee that the only thing that kept my flame alive, just barely, was that unshakable feeling that this was not a lie. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to not believe in God, to deny that Jesus gave up His life on the cross to erase the sins of man and to be brought to life to sit in glory at the right hand of God. Was it even possible to live for a God that wasn’t real? What was the point? Not only did the thought terrify me, but when I think about my sin, when I think about all the things I have learned in this short life of mine, when I think about the things that God taught the Israelites, what Jesus taught to His disciples, when I think of the Christian life as it should truly be lived, do I realize with sudden clarity that Jesus on the cross is absolute truth.
This is why we continue to live as witnesses of Christ, not to force people to believe they need to be saved from hell, but because Jesus said the truth will set you free. God has a plan and it doesn’t end with the cross. We are living out His truths each and every day as we wait for Jesus to come again. The Holy Spirit inside of me is real. And I think that these truths have become much sweeter after this realization.