Like the artist He is, His unmistakable mark has been indelibly etched on my life. There is no doubt about it – this could not be construed as anything other than what it is – this is the work of the Master Artisan. There is no greater author that could have penned my story. No one could have predicted my path. Every event and nonevent – a subtle, stroke of genius; each gentle, guiding touch – essential in helping me piece together the mysteries of my life, which would lead me to this very point.
If you were to ask me a few years ago the likelihood of me returning to school, let alone a Christian college, I wouldn't have had to give the question a moment's thought. I had no desire whatsoever to further my education. I had felt that that part of my life was thankfully over. For all intents and purposes I was done with school. I was done learning and ready for earning. The career I had chosen was to be my one and only – for better or for worse, I was a Civil Engineer. It was finally time for me to put all of those arduous years of education to practice. It was finally time to start my professional, adult life. But as I came to learn recently, life is never simple and you never, ever stop learning.
For as long as I can remember, I have considered myself a “good Christian”, even though I did not truly understand what that meant. When I was little, I did not argue with my parents when they told me we celebrated Christmas because Jesus was born, and I did not question them when they told me that Jesus died for us and was reborn at Easter time. Much like the many other queries little kids have, like why an uncovered yawn is as contagious as an uncovered cough, or why we eat soup when we get sick, or why we should refrain from sneezing when we eat saimin, the actual answers were too much for us to comprehend at the time and were best left to the rationale that our parents just knew what was best. I had no reason to not believe them; they loved me and wanted only the best for me. So when my parents told me that Jesus’ sacrifice was to free us from our sins and for that we must behave, for the most part, I didn’t whine or complain – I did what I was told. I didn’t really care too much to know why the skinny man with the beard wanted me to behave and who he was exactly – for as long as my parents loved me, the jolly, fat man gave me presents at Christmastime, and the bunny rabbit hid me colorful eggs to find during Easter, I was a happy, well-behaved little boy.
Thus, I grew up quiet and humble, loyal and obedient, not caring too much about the details concerning why I was doing the things I did, but knowing I was doing the right thing. I was studious and serious, reticent and reverent – the exact opposite of most little boys my age, but that observation would go overlooked by me until much later.
As I grew older, the frail veil of innocence began to wear thin. I started to see just how different I was from everyone else. I saw how others bended and broke the rules. I saw how others mistreated and misused their fellow man. I saw how others did whatever they needed to get what they wanted. And yet, I saw how these ‘others’ seemingly remained happy. My family continued to operate within the laws, respect others, and help and accommodate their family and friends unconditionally, while so many others did as they pleased, without any regard or respect for anyone else, and still they seemed to prosper. It was as if they somehow had it better than us and that things were so much easier for them, whilst my family struggled and was constantly being stepped on. I was no longer that happy little boy who didn’t whine or complain. I became frustrated and depressed, and I finally started asking ‘why?’.
But of course asking questions without seeking their answers wouldn’t solve any of my problems, but that’s what I did. Instead of looking to where I needed to fix my outlook and address the issues, I turned inward and looked downward. My life became breeding grounds for discontentment, self-pity, and loneliness. I had a slight inkling that the answer to my “why’s” lay with the skinny man with the beard, but it didn’t make any sense to me. Why did he go through the things that he did? Just what was he thinking? I tried half-heartedly to poke around at the Bible, but it just felt like an archaic collection of stories with lessons. My few appearances at different churches didn’t do much more to sway my mind either. Those churches just seemed like places where people pretended to be nice and holy for one day of the week. I saw that some of these so-called, self-proclaimed “Christians” behaved just as the ‘others’ did instead of being the beacons of light, hope, and love I thought they should have been. Thus, I remained in darkness and despair for several years to follow. However, despite my despondent attitude, I remained considerate and obedient, trying my best to do what was right while clinging to a small shred of hope that one day, someway and somehow, I would begin to understand and finally put my weary mind at ease.
Slowly but surely, over the past four, maybe five years, I noticed changes in my life – some small, others significant. I didn’t always notice them right away, but looking back I see just how much of a difference they made on my life. Some people and incidents broke me down, while others built me up, changing my heart and perspective and making me stronger in character as well as in faith. This could not be passed off as just some random happenstance. There was no doubt about it – this was God’s distinctive hand on my life. He started chipping away at my rough and callous exterior and removed the rather large chip that resided on my shoulder, and then built upon the foundation of humility and respect that He put in place long before. Subsequently, He started developing a voice where there once was silence.
This timid boy who previously had no opinion and nothing important to say, felt he finally had something he needed to tell people. As I began putting to paper my thoughts, my past, my present, the people around me – all became pieces of a puzzle that began to fit together, revealing more and more the masterpiece that God had painted of my life’s journey. I started to understand my “why’s”. I started to see that others were just as hurt, frustrated, and lost as I was and that they were just seeking fulfillment and happiness in terms that they understood. Although I didn’t have a complete grasp and understanding of my faith and I didn’t yet have the relationship with God that I wanted, I saw a faith, reasonable and rational, that made sense of the wild, wild world around me. I saw a better way, and I wanted others to see what I was beginning to see. Before long, my words came to life: my passions, my perspectives, my personality – all that He brought together inside of me – became relevant and relatable, so that I may try to reach out to others. Whimsical musings, thoughtful reflections, and a vivid vocabulary flowed from my heart. I never had an interest in writing before and though I did decently in my English classes while I was in school, I never really cared for most of them. In spite of that, as I became more and more passionate about what I had to say, I started growing more and more passionate as a writer.
So now, here I am... my story: uniquely my own. My faith: unlike anyone else’s. Some people’s faith ignites with just a few sparks. Mine required a little more time to develop. Molded and formed with a loving purpose, I showed some early signs of a humble servant, a man after God’s own heart. However, it was not until I started to mature and grow in the Lord that I began to understand the “why’s” of life and see what His plan for me entailed. Each step – critical to making me the man I am today. Each trial, each struggle, although so painful and trying, has given me more faith and strength to persevere. It could have only been God’s uncanny know-how, His impeccable timing, and His perfect blueprint that could have gotten me this far. A very specific, unalterable chain of events had to occur that would wear me out, break me down, and ultimately, get through that thick, nearly impenetrable skull of mine. I wouldn’t be standing here today if things happened any differently. It was the only way God could reach me – only under His meticulous regimen and close care could I have ever hoped to be cured of my melancholy mindset. Like a bone that has to be broken again to correctly heal, He had to fracture my life so that He could fix it properly. I had to hurt more before I could ever begin to heal. There had to be a breakdown before there was a breakthrough. I had to be lost in order to be found.
Your story may be different from mine, but maybe my perspectives could speak to you about your life. I know what it’s like to be lost. I know what it’s like to feel hurt. And I know how frustrating life can sometimes be. This world can be a very cold and lonely place and so much of the love and happiness that we hope for, strive for – that we count on to bring meaning or completeness to our lives – turns out to be fleeting or false. It is understandable that we feel disappointed or upset, but, in all actuality, the blame lies mostly with us. We have come to believe that the most important person in this world, or any other, is ourselves. Ever since that first forbidden fruit was picked, our egos have stifled the full potential God had hoped for our lives. With the rise of reality television, Twitter, and, yes, even Facebook, it has become apparent to me that we actually believe we are celebrities and superstars. We really do think that we are much wiser and in more control than we really are. But like when we were kids, we still lack the capacity to grasp the actual answers to the big questions in life. We have been given free will and the privilege to make our own choices, but like a child who has found his father’s gun, we do not realize how dangerous it can be in our hands. More often than not, we end up hurting ourselves or others. It’s always been best to defer to our parent’s judgment – for they know best. When I decided to defer to my Father – our Heavenly Father – I started to recognize the rationale and compassion of that skinny man with the beard that I heard about all those years ago. The answers I had been longing for all along lay with Jesus. He had the heart and understanding that could fix my dismal view of the world. And whatever your view of the world, I’m sure there’s at least a thing or two Jesus can still show you. He knew how to live. He knew what was important in life. And He knew that we hadn’t the slightest clue what life was really about. He also had the right attitude and heart for a world such as ours. Instead of cussing us out for our idiocy and foolishness, Jesus, while nailed to a cross, asked for forgiveness on our behalf because He knew we couldn’t comprehend the wrongs we were doing. Jesus willingly suffered and died for our mistakes, for our sins, and ultimately, for our salvation.
From the very beginning, it was God’s purpose for us, His creations, to be good. Unfortunately, we have all fallen far from His grace. Some have fallen further than others, but there’s always hope for us all. We were not put on this planet to become celebrities or superstars in our own mind’s eye, nor was it our purpose to strive and compete to be better and have more than those around us. God never intended any of that for us. Just because we broadcast the “highlights” our life stories to our friends and neighbors, or the complete strangers on the World Wide Web, doesn’t add any validity to our lives or make us any more important than anyone else. On a similar note, just because our lives aren’t as sparkling as those seen on TV, doesn’t mean we’re valued any less. Appearances are just that – the way things appear on the outside. Oftentimes, it’s the things that are unseen that matter most. Our value is not measured by how popular we are or how many “friends” we have on Facebook, nor is it the amount of ‘bling’ we wear or how ‘pimped’ our ‘rides’ are. In the long run, building a “rep” and maintaining our status and image amongst our peers is petty and inconsequential. What matters most to God is not the size of your house, but the size of your heart. Each of us is precious to God. Each of us is a masterpiece-in-the-making, and He is trying to grow each of our smallish Grinch-sized hearts to three sizes greater.
You may not understand what He is doing in your life. You may not be able to feel His presence. You may not even believe in the Lord Almighty Himself, but start by believing this – you are not an accident. You are here – in this time and in this place – for a reason. It may not be apparent now. It may not be apparent twenty years from now. Because we have been given the freedom to decide things for ourselves, the choice to follow God’s plan is entirely ours. You can blaze your own trail and find your own definition for life, fulfillment, and happiness. But don’t be surprised to eventually find yourself wallowing in the pits of self-pity and despair or endlessly wandering through life, lost and alone. When appearances fade and superficial friends aren’t around when you need them, you may have to reopen that dictionary of yours and redefine your life once again. What will be your new passion in life? What will be the new “lord” over your life? It’s an endless cycle that is so sad and pointless, but it’s often what we must go through to find the optimal version of ourselves – from iteration to iteration, from struggle to struggle, from heartache to heartache – until we finally say “enough is enough” and cry out for our Father. How many roads must we walk before we all admit we’re lost? I’ve walked many a roads before, but they all led me back to the skinny man with the beard.
I cannot claim to know your life or your story, but take an honest look at your existence. Can you claim, with all certainty, that you know what’s best and understand what life’s really about? If you have your own set of “why’s” to life that you want answered, choose to wholeheartedly seek out Jesus. If you are still skeptical of Jesus’ “story” from the Bible, the annals of History can clearly show you that His existence was factual. Being a Christian is just simply understanding why He existed and allowing the Truth to affect you. If you allow the Truth into your heart, His Words and His Story will begin to speak to you and fill in the mysteries of your life. And as you allow your heart to be changed, you will gradually start to see how His delicate Hands have been carefully and caringly shaping you all this time.
As I continue to grow, He continues to stretch me and surprise me. I am still very much that meek and muted boy from before, but God wants much more from me and for me. I may not understand why, but I trust His judgment – for He knows what’s best for me. I can no longer hide in my office, behind a desk. I am a beacon of God’s light, hope, and love. I am God’s boldly drawn boy. I have a powerful and wondrous voice that I can use to be a writer, a speaker, a singer, an actor – everything or anything He wishes me to be – as long as I am willing to boldly walk with Him. I may still be a work-in-progress, but whatever my Maker has in store for me, I will abide and obey. I hope you will choose to do the same thing too because I can’t wait to see what He’s drawn up for your life as well.