“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
I am simply a jar of clay who has received new life in Christ. My everyday story is one of struggles to consistently follow Jesus in very ordinary ways.
My mother was kind and generous. She was also often depressed, sometimes seriously so. My father was very hardworking. He was also, it seemed to me, impossible to please and kept to himself, even within our family. At one point, when I was 8 or so, I screamed at my father in anger that I would never again try to please him… ever. I did try one more time when I was 16 or so. But when that was unsuccessful, I gave up.
My younger brother became chronically ill with kidney disease when he was 3. I really wanted him to get well, but I failed to develop a close relationship with him. He nearly died at least a couple of times. He was often in hospitals for long periods of time, and being a child, I was not allowed to visit him when my mother did. I remember playing in the Japanese tea garden in Golden Gate Park while my mother visited my brother at St. Mary’s Hospital near the park. I must have been about 7 or 8 at the time.
I would characterize my childhood as provided for but also neglected if that makes any sense.
I came to know Christ as Lord and Savior when I was in college – at a missions conference – Urbana 70. This began a slow up and down process of seeking to know Christ and his ways. Coming to know Christ is a slow up and down process when you are fearful and have a self-oriented understanding of reality. I thank God that he is so patient and gracious.
Forgiveness is very important in my story. I have forgiven my mother for not being there for me because of her depression. It was also very important for me to forgive her for taking her own life. It took me over a decade to really come to terms with her suicide. In the end, it was important for me to realize that her suicide was a wrong thing for her to choose to do.
I have forgiven my father for his detached, devaluing treatment of me. But until very recently, I have not stopped hating him. I have not hated him in the sense of wishing him ill. I have hated him by devaluing and rejecting the things he valued and his way of doing life. I rejected them as unacceptable and irrelevant to me.
The problem about hating people is that we cannot devalue and turn our backs on other people without devaluing and turning our backs on important aspects of ourselves. What we need to do instead is to devalue and turn our backs on sin while continuing to value the person. Now that I am no longer a slave to hating, I am free to embrace or not embrace things Japanese. I am able to play at something my father loved to do – write the Japanese poetry know as haiku. Haiku is “a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world.” My “haiku” is more freeform than the traditional haiku in both structure and subject matter. Here are a couple of examples that I would like to comment on:
I am not just skin and bone,
But wholly human.
Within and without,
Am hungry, starved for beauty…
Consumed by beauty.
I visited the site of a fellow poet – someone who visited my blog. She wrote extensively about her anorexia. Two things in her writing really stood out for me. First, even though she is anorexic, that does not begin to characterize who she is. She is a whole person in all the completeness and complexity that involves. It is important to connect with people as whole and valuable, and not be dismissive of them because they suffer from some kind of disorder. Second, she is not preoccupied with starving herself, rather she is a sensitive person who is preoccupied, consumed with an ideal of unattainable beauty. I am very sad for her. I pray that God might heal her and that she might know God’s love, because there is something beyond beauty… or fame or power or success:
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
I fail to see what’s in it for me,
But because you say so,
“Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’” (Luke 5:5)
It is difficult for me to admit, but my own understanding is narrow, self-oriented, and very often wrong – even when I am strongly convinced that I am right. As opposed to our earthly father, whose advice might be unsound, these words are full of promise and hope, “but because you say so, I will.”