I don’t have to leave anymore
What I have is right here
Spend my nights and days before
Searching the world for what’s right here
Underneath and unexplored
Islands and cities I have looked
Here I saw
Something I couldn’t over look
I am yours now
So now I don’t ever have to leave
I’ve been found out
So now I’ll never explore
(Islands by The XX)
2012 was marked with many emotions, but most of them leading to what this song iterates… a remarkable sense of peace and gratitude. Always looking, ceaseless searching, restlessness, and discontentment were major movements in my life but they started to subside this year. Maybe it’s because I’m turning 30 in a few months, or because I’ve never really felt settled anywhere since before middle school, but I feel reassured knowing that I’m right here. Running away from parents, from responsibility, or running into professionalized ministry, I’ve never really had the chance to just be. I think if I hadn’t shown up at CAN two and a half years ago, I might have never uncovered who I am, and what my life means in its disparate parts. But I think I have a chance now, with the help of this congregation and especially the youth and young adults, to the making of my whole self. “I’ve been found out, so I’ll never explore.”
Several revelations were shown me this past year and they have helped start the process of integrating pieces of me into wholeness. Through my understanding of God, ordination, and family I have come to a fresh idea of faith and ministry.
First, much of my reality surrounds the notion that God is either perfect or dead, Western Dualism at its finest. As much as I would like God to be perfect, God is human in all our failings as well, because Jesus is human. I have seen just how much this community loves and cares for me in everyday living, not holding onto my bad-boy past or my heroic future. I have come to see that God is love in times of brokenness and frailty as much as in times of hope and confidence. God just is, and I am thankful for that in this moment. I offend others and others offend me, but God is still God. To be faithful, is to have the courage of knowing that God is the foundational relationship of my life, which grounds every other relationship on this earth.
Another moment of God’s self-revealing came in the way I was expecting an old ordination (orderedness) but was surprised by living into a new ordination. At the intern retreat I saw that my aspirations for being an ordained minister included exclusion of those not formally trained, competition with those who were denominationally affiliated, and a complete dismissal of those who weren’t a part of the system to begin with. This meant I disavowed non-seminary trained lay members, congregants who didn’t grow up PCUSA or part of the mainline/Reformed tradition, people of color, women, and other Korean-Americans in the process of formal ordination. The very people I’ve been called to love and care for, I have been treating as less-than because of the way I saw my own calling in the old order. The old order, our denomination and its structures both physical and figurative, will crumble. But I realized that day, that I am eager to be a part of the transition as the new order in-breaks even now. It is going to be very difficult, but to be a part of the new orderedness, means recognizing my privilege as I prepare to enter into the old order, a formal PCUSA ordination as a male. It also means I admit that the seminary system is privileging its students to think and act like men, which I benefit from. I see more clearly than ever before that I cannot be “neutral,” but that I must be actively against sexism, racism, and prejudices and injustices of all kinds.
God showing Godself to me, I have begun letting go of my old narrative and living into a new one. Mainly, I have started to believe in God. I have begun to follow after Jesus rather than idolize my parents or a cultural project. I am thankful that this church helped me destroy these golden calves of my life, and continue to do so in a loving and gracious manner. All of these revealings have direct effects on how I embody faith and ministry at our church.
Most pertinent is seeing ministry as friendship, and being a pastor as being a friend. I truly believe that Jesus meant it when he said that he calls his disciples his friends, because I have had the privilege of leading my closest friends at CAN in a deeper sense of discipleship both youth and young adults. With our young adults I reframe the narrative of purity from the messy sinful world and the church being an oasis, to being resilient followers of Jesus Christ in a crazy world. I ‘walk with’ our youth in our regular rhythms of life seeing our church as the heaven here and now, and the world as a place to practice the inbreaking kingdom. Both are asking the question, “Who am I, and what is the purpose of my life?” They are asking the question of vocation and the answer is always discipleship. How can I minister to show our younger members the intersection between God’s people (follower of Jesus Christ) and God-given talent (charism)? This has been such a joy to see played out in our life together.
“What is the source of your discontent/restlessness?” has been the question I have been asking regularly to our young adults, as anxiety is most present with those who are out of college and exiting the field of influence of parents. Yet, when we, as spiritually empty and emotional adolescents, are left with our own devices and worries we are absent or violent with those around us. Much of my ministry then is listening and letting anxieties be present and being invited into the world in which they came. It is a continual emptying of the junk our families and cultures of origin have dumped on us, by loving and caring in the midst of hurt and betrayal. We continue to work, relate, hang out, and enjoy life together in the midst of this playing out, and those who choose to stay have a new narrative in which to live into just as I have.
“Why did Jesus come and die for us?” asks one of our youth with the deepest sincerity. No matter how I answer I know it would not be adequate unless I could embody it. I realize can facilitate the safe space and the allotment of time for our youth to be fully themselves, but I cannot do anything unless the youth invite me to do so. I still have my super-pastor complex, and I want to save our youth. I still feel the need to be their hero and to impress them with my giftedness, or lack thereof. But what gifts can transform a life? None. Without the Holy Spirit moving in our youth’s heart, and without their earnest questions of life, I am nothing. The teachers and I can help put language to our youth’s experience, but nothing we do or say is as important and as powerful as listening to what they say and living our lives faithfully as fellow sisters and brothers, following Jesus Christ.
I am yours now
So now I don’t ever have to leave