& silence

Apologies for the silence for the past month-ish. Nothing new has really happened, though the down time has provided a good opportunity for a lot of thinking. Most of it is good thinking. And most of it happens on the treadmill (or whatever form of cardio I’m doing).

I’m still churning through a lot of these thoughts. To help them along, I’m trying to read a bit more philosophy, just to give these thoughts some kind of grounding in the world. You can’t compare something if there’s nothing to compare it to.

I understand that reading through philosophy’s going to take a long while so I think that a lot of these thoughts I have now will take a long time to solidify. In the mean time, I’m going to try to write my thoughts in a private document until they take a more coherent shape.

To give you a little taste of what I’ve been thinking about, it’s mainly stuff about ethics and morality. The thought came to me because I had a random thought, “I know a lot of non-Christians who are a lot more charitable and generous than I am. Dang, gotta pick up the slack, Moon.” Then I realized that I was being motivated to be charitable and generous for not the best reasons (i.e., “I need to be more moral than non-Christians”) and so I had to scrap that thought. Then I realized that often times, I view Christianity as something that makes one more moral and as a result, believers should be the most moral people in the world. But is morality what defines us? Is that the sole measure of our faith? Is our perceived lack of morality what makes us look like hypocrites to the world? If so, then how does the world measure and view Christianity?

So yeah, stuff like that. The “right” answers are really simple but if you deconstruct it and pull away the immediate answers that come to mind, it gets a little more complicated.

I think that it’s the stuff that I had thought about my junior year (my brush with apostasy)  but hadn’t quite resolved yet. I knew that when I was affirmed in my salvation, I was doing some of it out of blind faith, not being quite satisfied with the logical/philosophical reasoning (or the lack thereof) at the end, but I was so exhausted at this point that I grabbed at any glimmer of assurance.

I will say that this could be the beginning of a rough and testy time. Though I really doubt it, I can’t rule out the possibility that I may come face to face with apostasy again if I’m unable to find resolution to some of these answers.

I know, though, that logic alone doesn’t define or arrive at faith. I think that was a major breakthrough for me my junior year. This is something that my dad and I discussed a couple of weeks ago over dinner, actually. He brought up that point independently of my saying anything, so it was nice to have some kind of external validity to my reasoning there– not to say that my dad is the source of validity, but you get my drift.

It’s gonna be an interesting journey but ultimately, Christians ought to be students of the human heart. As my dad said: truth is something you need to work hard for. I wholeheartedly agree. Time to stop dilly dallying and time to roll up my sleeves and work for it.

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Do you pray?

I had a heftier entry I was working on but thought I’d write something else while waiting for the melatonin to kick in (yes, insomnia is backkkk).

I have never really been a praying person. I’d have seasons where I’d be pretty awesome at it but then I’d have reeeeeally long seasons where the only prayers I’d pray were either before meals or the spontaneous kinda prayers. Never been good about those hearty, deliberate prayers that I knew was a mark of a mature, healthy Christian.

One thing this year has taught me so far is not just the importance of prayer but the urgency of prayer. During my last week living in LA, I was really stressed out so I asked some friends to pray for me (or they offered to pray for me… haha I don’t even remember). Well… the next day, I was texting a couple of them and I told them how people have been helping me feel better, etc… and they both responded, “That’s exactly what I prayed for!!” It was crazy to see how God answered their prayers in such a specific way; they did not tell me what they prayed for prior, btw!

And this isn’t the first time it’s happened. I’ve been asking for prayer a lot more these days because I feel so helpless in my circumstances sometimes… and when I see some of these prayers get answered really quickly, it gives me so much confidence in praying.

That’s because honestly, there are some times when I’m praying for something I’ve been praying for for years without seeing any fruit of the prayer… and it starts to feel like I’m talking to the ceiling.

That’s where perseverance comes in. That’s where the genuineness of one’s salvation and faith shines through.

And then I think of how prayerless I’ve been all these years and it makes me wonder at all the missed opportunities that there were for prayer. How would things have turned out if I had prayed for them? Admittedly, there are some things I prayed very consistently for but haven’t seen any changes in. Am I ok without that immediate gratification? Will I continue to come before God on my knees (my favorite praying position, if the location allows), trusting that he hears all my prayers and sees all my tears?

So do you pray? I hear that in my head often after reading A Call to Prayer but it’s poignant. It’s something I’m asking myself a lot more frequently these days.

So let’s pray more deliberately, more specifically, with confidence and anticipation, trusting that our Abba hears us & loves us, that Christ intercedes for us, and that the Spirit aids our bumbling mouths.

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Funemployment

I graduated roughly 2.5 weeks ago. The ideal situation would’ve been to have a job lined up as soon as I graduated. And I tried– I applied for jobs starting from winter break and a bit sporadically during my last quarter. I interviewed but still haven’t heard back, which isn’t alarming since it is government we’re talking about here haha (I did follow up and they said they’d let us know for sure, it was just that things were moving slower than anticipated). I’ve since been applying, but not frantically.

When people ask me what I’m doing now, I respond with, “Funemployment! Except, it’s not fun.” People often respond with, “Enjoy it while you can. Really.” Maybe it’s because they’re working and envy that I can roll outta bed past 8 AM and only have to be concerned about appeasing my mother by going to the gym. But I also know that it’s true– I still remember those mornings where it was hard to wake up when I worked 40 hours a week. And work was stressful sometimes!

I realize, though, that not only am I starting to have a lousy attitude, I’m also being a sloth!!

The funny thing about the lousy attitude is that I just did the 30 days of thankfulness to curtail that… sigh, guess I need to keep learning the same lessons over and over agin.

Ultimately, I want to use this time of unemployment wisely and in a God-honoring way. Seriously, all I’ve been doing is eating, going to the gym, maybe walking the dog, and watching things on Netflix. I haven’t even picked up FF7 again because the thought of having to actively engage in it makes me feel tired.

So during this time, I want to be able to get to know all these people at LBCSJ who came during my time away so I can get back in the loop. I’m really available right now, creating the perfect opportunity to hang out! I also want to be able to read more. I have this book on the seven biggest religions in the world that I wanted to take a crack at– now would be a good time for it! (I did get started on the Buddhism chapter.) I also want to craft/watercolor/knit again. Maybe knitting, since that yields the most useful end product haha. And last, but definitely not least, I want to finish FF7 already!! This is the perfect time for it! I’ve given up on FF10 and the ending is too difficult and heartbreaking for me anyway so I will now devote all my RPGing attention to FF7 haha.

So yes. No more being a sloth, Moon. Redeem this time and make it funemployment!!

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Given as a guarantee — a testimony to God’s faithfulness

I realize that I’ve never shared my brush with apostasy my junior year. I’ve only ever alluded to it and sometimes, I almost forget that it ever happened.

It happened so insidiously. After I got saved my freshman year in college, I struggled a lot that summer with legalism. Why was I reading my Bible every day? And why did it start feeling like a chore? I was trying to do the word for word exegesis like I was taught to do but it felt so dry and difficult.

My dad had also fallen away from the faith a few years prior but was getting more vocal about my involvement at church. He had squandered away his time while a high school student by completely neglecting school for church. He was afraid that Lighthouse would do that to me as he perceived it to be fundamentalist and too extreme. I had a lot of heated discussion with him about it but ultimately, I wasn’t even a year old in Christian age and I already struggled with being patient with my parents.

The summer after my freshman year was a time of introspection, but the grudging type. I had finally gotten Christianity right after all those years of trying to figure it out in junior high and high school so why bother touching it now? I knew that I was to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, also craving the pure milk of the Word so that I could grow in respect to my salvation through it. But goodness, I’m saved. Isn’t that enough?

Sophomore year was a continued struggle. I was getting more involved at Lighthouse and was regularly attending CCM. I was still wrestling with legalism. Little be known to me that small seeds of doubt had been planted in my heart over the summer. I secretly feared that what happened to my dad would happen to me. After all, our minds worked frightfully similarly. Why wouldn’t it happen to me?

One day, I walked into the kitchen to look for a snack. I opened the cupboard door and as I did, a thought ran through my mind: “Moon, you know that if you were to die today, you’d go to hell, right?” It was as random as it was disturbing. I was just trying to look for something to snack on… where did that thought come from? I thought nothing of it and after failing to find a snack, I returned to my room to study.

Little moments like this started to accumulate and I began to wonder if I were just in a spiritual slump or if I was doing something wrong. Why doubt something so basic and elementary? I had shared my testimony in front of the church that year and had gotten baptized. What was there to doubt?

Eventually my junior year during small group, I finally confessed this doubt that was growing in my heart. It was embarrassing, to say the least. I seemed to be doing fine. I was on the new visitor’s team and greeted people at the door every Sunday morning. I had had two years to figure this out. Why was I having difficulty with something as simple as faith?

In a stroke of God’s providence, I learned of another sister struggling with the same thing as me. We discussed our struggles together and even tried to memorize Scripture together. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one shaken up was immensely helpful, as terrible as our situations were.

I tried to read my Bible in search of something. I met weekly with my discipler who would just try to encourage me, probably unsure of how to handle the situation herself.

Spring quarter, I was so close to walking away. I was so sick and tired of feeling so miserable every day. Everyone who knew of my struggle approached me cautiously and I always felt tense, wondering if I was in for yet another interrogation or brain picking. All I wanted at this point was to be left alone and to be able to find something that could jolt me out of this slump. I prayed short, desperate prayers: “God, if you’re there, let me know.”; “God, I don’t know what to do.”; “God, I feel so miserable.” I wasn’t even sure if there was someone on the other end of that prayer listening.

I wanted to give a timeline for how long I could tolerate this for. Maybe up until senior year? The end of college? Regardless, I didn’t know how much longer I could stay in this limbo for. It was a strange kind of purgatory– being in one world but packing up and preparing to leave for another. Sure, I knew that there would be a lot of judgment and troublesome meet ups with people were I to leave but at this point, I didn’t care. I just wanted to get out of this hazy zone.

I’ll admit, when I applied to study abroad, it wasn’t purely out of the best intentions. I think I just wanted to leave everything behind and live somewhere else for a while. I entertained thoughts of living as an unbeliever in Tokyo, since, after all, studying abroad is about new experiences, right? I thought about just cutting loose and reinventing myself and comparing how my time as a Christian vs living as a non-Christian was like.

By God’s grace, I somehow wound up at a small church in Kichijouji. A good, solid, Bible-preaching church with welcoming and loving members. I also had the privilege of being one of the first attenders of an on-campus Friday night worship night. On top of that, there were a few believers in my program– I attended worship night with one of them every week (lol they also recruited him to lead praise while we were there).

As I met believers from all around the world and witnessed Christians worshiping in a largely pagan nation, united in the same gospel, I couldn’t help but realize that God is so much bigger than I had ever imagined. People from different continents all meeting in a small room at ICU, singing praise and sharing testimonies– this wasn’t just some psychologically rewarding system to participate in.

God was so faithful in keeping and protecting me during my time there. I wound up at that church because I happened to meet a Japanese PK on the train and she referred me to that church. That particular believer friend of mine got me involved with the worship night. Even down to meeting a Christian ramen shop owner who was trying to evangelize to my friends and asked if he could sing some hymns for us on his guitar– I never thought I’d have a conversation about Jesus in Japanese with a Japanese stranger!

I came back from Tokyo with a struggling, but renewed faith. I was excited to be back at Lighthouse. There was always a nagging sense of guilt for feeling all the doubt that I did but Romans 8:1 kept me grounded the whole time. I would often think back to my testimony and be reminded that no, I did not seek God but he sought me. I believed out of faith and not just because “it made sense” to be Christian.

Since then, life hasn’t gotten any easier haha. In fact, life has gotten much harder and the resilience of my faith has been tested. It’s often hit me where it hurts most but when I look back at my life as a Christian so far, and even before that, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with God’s staggering record of faithfulness.

Sometimes it’s still hard. I feel like once you wrestle with doubt seriously, the thoughts will never go away. I’m ok with that, though. It does make for a noisy brain but it also strengthens my assurance in Christ all the more. It makes the gospel that much more precious and dear to me.

I can’t say that this won’t happen again. I want to, because it was so miserable. But whatever happens, I know that truth will win out. It always does. After all, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Please feel free to ask me questions about this period in my life. I think that I’ve definitely had some experiences in my Christian life that are off the beaten path but if it’s to minister to others and ultimately, to glorify God, then it makes it all worth it. Thanks for reading. :)

Posted in assurance of salvation, Christian living, christian testimony, fears, God's faithfulness, gospel, hope, keepin' it real, lessons learned | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Home

It’s been three full days since I’ve been home. It feels weird because it feels like after a couple of weeks, I have to head back down for school or something but as I’m moving my things back into my room, which had been primarily used as storage for the past 1.5 years, I’m realizing that no, I’m here for the long haul.

Sunday was such a happy day. People kept on asking, “So, are you just back for break or… for good?” I can’t tell you how many excited responses I got (from them and from me!) when I said, “For good!” It was quite the homecoming. Seeing A’s face light up when she saw me. Her sister, L, giving me big, big hugs (I love that she can only still wrap her arms around my legs). Seeing the babies and knowing that I’ll be able to watch them grow up.

I also realized that I missed Grace Church and my friends there. Then realizing on Monday that school was starting again and I wouldn’t be able to run into my friends in the hallway or sit through two hour lectures with them. I left a bigger piece of my heart in LA than I had thought.

Tonight, as I drove back from a dinner with some of the Sola folks from church, I cruised back home unhurriedly, under a clear, crisp night sky. I thought about everything that happened in LA and how, in a matter of 1.5 years, my life had changed so much.

It’s nice to be back home and to know that I’m here, finally, for the foreseeable future. But I don’t want to think that this is the culmination of my time spent in So Cal. They were rough years, sure, but that doesn’t guarantee that home will bring the respite that my heart longs for. Heaven will bring sweeter rest.

I’m home, but my “just for now” temporary home. Lord, may I not grow too comfortable here and forget that I’m a pilgrim.

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Saturday, before the dawn

The confusion and fear that must have been running through their minds. Weren’t they welcomed into Jerusalem just a few days before, with fanfare worthy of a conquering king? How could it be that a few short days later, those same people would be crying, “Crucify him!”

I doubt they slept on Friday night. The sunrise on Saturday morning must have looked menacing, as if it were mocking them in their crushed dreams of victory over Rome. Their hope of salvation was gone, hung on a cross for all to see. And how humiliating it must’ve been, for their master and teacher to be shown publicly as a criminal, like a piece of meat in the market.

To pour their hopes and dreams into one man and his vision, how he drew the crowds and performed miracles. They must’ve had no doubt in their minds that he was the one to deliver Israel from a foreign empire’s hands.

The silence on Saturday. Little did they know what news would come to them the next day and the true salvation that they would have through it…

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1 day!!!

I can’t believe this day is here. When I started the countdown, I seriously couldn’t even imagine feeling this free and packing up my life here in LA.

I’m bummed about not being able to go to the Good Friday service at Grace Church but I really need to pack, since I wasn’t able to start earlier this week.

Today, I’m thankful for everything that happened during my time here. I know, sounds like a cop out reason. But I don’t know how else to sum it up. I have never been under so much stress and anxiety. I hadn’t been hit with depression this badly in a long time.

All in all, LA acted as a sort of testing grounds– everything that I had learned the first time around, be it through theory or through experience, was thoroughly tested again during my time here. I felt such a range of emotions and had to deal with all sorts of things that I never thought I’d ever encounter. It was so, so hard. I seriously could not see any light at the end of the tunnel– it didn’t even feel like I was in a tunnel. It felt like I was digging straight down into the middle of the Earth.

But it’s through these intense times of trial and testing that I’ve really had to do things out of faith and not out of sight. I had to rely so heavily on God’s promises and trust that he is ruler of all still, despite circumstances unraveling and coming apart.

So LA, these were some of the most miserable years of my life but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The Lord has used this city and all those I met in it to teach me, mold me, grow me, stretch me, discipline me, and encourage me. Though I really don’t want to go through something like that again, I’m thankful for the wounding… and the subsequent healing that the Lord will bring.

Can’t say I’ll miss you as a city, LA, but I definitely am leaving a piece of my heart here with the people. See you later. :)

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