in the belly of the beast, Oct 2016

November 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

Lord God, what do I do when I feel so immobile? It’s not that I don’t want to feel or that I don’t want to process. It’s not even about wanting to stay steady emotionally. What I want is to think rightly, my thoughts grounded in truth. Sure, if such sobriety comes at the cost of heart feeling stuck at a mourning stage one, so be it. But I do want out. I want my wailing to come out because I think there’s more afterwards. I think that if I get all of my mourning out your healing & strategy can come more quickly. I believe so your word says there’s a season for everything. When we finish crying over the pain, your kindness must come in a greater & more effective healing measure. Then I would be more competent in doing the work at hand, no? Did I get it wrong here? Is everything happening simultaneous? Does the work encompass staying in the place of wailing? But I don’t like it!!! I don’t enjoy the fire shut up in my bone. Who likes this stuff?! Isn’t this why the prophets continually complained to you? About the terrible state they find themselves in for being chosen by you? Is that not a cost of being called? Because if so then I must make peace with exactly what I’ve asked for. I only remind you to keep comforting me.

Yes, comfort me Lord God. I am unsure about what I exactly mourn at this point. They’re so tangled; there’s a gut-pulling, heart-wrenching, overpowering and soul-crushing weight of love. Yes, love. Tender to the bone, flesh, raw, bloody messy love for humanity. We are terrible. O my God we so deserve all your punishments of old covenant, every bit of wrath you declare through the prophets for over the crooked, adulterous, cruel and callous ways. Yet it’s your cry that Israel would turn to you. It’s your tortured heart of love towards your people that we turn and be forgiven. I feel a little bit of it. I am constantly given away to anger–‘Burn us all up! Yeah! Let riots take the streets and people see the fullness of what we’ve brought upon ourselves. Blood for blood, eye for eye, life for life.’ I am exasperated with this world. Tis love that walks the fine line between judgment and mercy. And I feel like a crazy person. This is your heart. I know you’re kind enough to share with me. But it’s also killing me God. I don’t know how to pray. I don’t know if I can cry or kick or scream or utter coherent sentences. I need your Spirit.

There’s sorrow mingled in there. I guess love really covers the entire human emotional spectrum. I feel something like jealousy; I feel something like shame; I feel stuff I normally don’t touch when strictly thinking about myself. But they’re all in there, this tangled ball of dense intense feelings, what can only be described as wailing. I feel it in my gut: the deep deep deep wailing. I can’t tell whether it’s mine at all. I think they come from other people and even past generations, people I have not known but somehow been awakened to intercede on behalf of the Spirit in this moment–all because I’m saying I open myself to your leading. So you show me stuff I never would have access to see in the natural. Why? Though it all sounds like crazy talk, what I’ve come to believe is that your hand is in it and I must search for you. Holy Spirit light and guide the way, for I shall be utterly lost without you in this dark journey into the belly of the beast. I won’t be able to find my way out if you don’t take my hand. I remember our moment like three retreats ago. You asked me what I wanted. And I answered that I wanted to go to the deepest place on the earth: the depth of the ocean where no light penetrates the weight the pressure the depth of the water all around. But I wouldn’t be afraid to go with you. If you are with me I won’t be afraid. So here I am.

So here I am, in the belly of the beast, the depth of the ocean where light has not entered, no feet have treaded, where sight and vision fail. Here I am. You’ve brought me. Is this not where you were Jesus? For three days & three nights in the tomb? Between life & death, between heaven & hell? Where Jonah stayed for three days & three nights? This is where you’ve led me. Thank you for your faithful hands have been with me the whole time. I am not left abandoned.

Lord God I stand in the gap and plead mercy. This stiff-necked people, this unruly and rebellious and deplorable people, my people. You’re certainly in the right to judge us, punish us, bring all kinds of calamity upon us. You are right, vengeance belongs to you. Just as Mama said there shall be a day of judgment for all the blood we’ve shed all the wrongs we’ve brought all the terrible terrible things our hands have committed that we cannot run from. O I believe in your righteous judgment Father. And I pray that it comes quickly and swiftly, without mercy or relenting. Yet I stand and pray that you, in your great compassion & kindness, lead your people to turn from our wickedness and repent. Lord I pray that the white supremacy grossly mistaken as evangelicalism, religiosity of the US churches married to the spirit of this empire be broken. Break the ties. Break the neck. Break the yoke and deception and pride of this demonic force in Jesus name. Set people blinded by history free. May your kindness bring us to repentance. I put my trust and hope in you, all you, nothing else. Don’t put me to shame Lord. I believe that you are who you say you are. And I am just a human. Even if I spoke every mystery and saw the future accurately and declared doom to the nations, you’re still the Judge. You’re still the Savior. You’re still God. And thank God that you’re good.

You’re good.


I don’t read autobiographies

July 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

Barack Obama in Americanah: A Novel. A chapter of it is a dedication, like to a lover in the middle of a serious novel. I wasn’t really a part of that campaign trail his first run for the presidency in 2008. But I lapped it up nonetheless. I couldn’t stop the tears welling up inside and dripping down my face. It was a sting, a familiar and dangerous ache. I pictured my campaign headquarter where an army of true believers like Ifem and Blaine and all his friends holding their breaths: their eyes glued to the TV screen showing an impossible race of reds and blues; their personal smartphones ablaze with Tweets and Instagram and Facebook status updates; their headsets for phone-banking still on or maybe quietly set aside, markers and butcher papers and Post Its everywhere, half drunk coffee and stale chips and leftover snacks also everywhere. I could picture it all, the horrors and the sense of belonging in any campaign. I craved it in my bones and I knew all too well that I couldn’t have it, at least not in my foreseeable future. I gave that life up.

And maybe that was part of the tears, mourning for what could’ve been. But there was something else: the person of Barack, the man to whom I had not paid close attention until the trail became hot, to be honest. It came back to me, the conversation I had with my parents the first time I gave them a proper tour of the UC Berkeley campus. It would be a different thing altogether, my dad said, for Barack to win because I do want to be able to say that America is not just for a white man.

How could we know, Korean immigrants–only exposed to the sins of racism in the context of Rodney King beating, the ’92 Los Angeles riot–the fullness of what a black president could mean in 2008? But he did win, and the passage describing the main character’s wonder at what America could be was also my wonder: the possibility of hope, of change, of somehow this one man who should never have made it were it any other time in history, carrying the hopes of a continent, a people group, a history owing lives that cannot be given back for four hundred plus years. We were both wondering, Ifem and I, in that moment of jubilee and elation and an abandon to celebrate what none of us would dare to speak of, even though everyone knew–all of us knew–that it would not last. Of course it couldn’t last. Things could not become that easy that soon.

I sat reading and aching and praying for this last year of the man’s presidency. I ached for his two terms of heavy debt fiscally and historically–the debt of human brokenness multiplied a million times that America cannot afford but has been borrowing forever–how this weight must have aged him, crushed him, made him less human maybe. I prayed that at the end of it all he would walk away with something. I was, and am, thankful that he was not assassinated on the job. Hurl your insults at how calculating and political he’s become, the policies and stances he adopted, the way he spoke or didn’t speak for Black & Brown people. I would not be so quick to be cynical this time though.

I can’t get over the image of this man, this skinny and tired looking and much aged man after eight years of the weight of the world on his shoulder, not trying to start another world war, not trying to let down the hopes of his people–I know he thinks about that, his people. How can you not? When your skin is black? I can’t get over how much a person like me who has nothing in common with him physiologically speaking, has benefited. I have been touched; I have been made to feel connected to this land because of his life. There’s a sense of gratefulness still there. I can’t quite name it. There is not a United League of the Oppressed, though maybe there ought to be one. I can’t get over it, as I now sit here feeling the ache of all the Black lives lost, as we witness the election day drawing ever closer. And I wonder.

Do you believe still?


a little rusty, but i must

November 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

Last night didn’t have the end the way it did. But even as I was awfully, impolitely quiet in the ride back to Berkeley with my friends I love, I thought of how much it hurt to not feel intimate with those you want to find out. That’s what I want, to find you out, to be found out by you. And that you has yet to materialize. It took me a short moment to distinguish the unnamed desires from the ones I think I know. But the love that’s to be fanned into flame is not in the room. He was not in the room. Nonetheless I would have liked to seek out depth of a person, two people, three friends.

You shouldn’t say stuff like that anymore, I thought about telling him. You know he’ll say whatever is true at the moment though, which is why I love him.

I know you, he says.

And he does. It’s nice to hear another’s words & voice carry your heart out loud. Slightly foreign, but mostly familiar.

You’re not fully satiated, I caught those words, I bet he learned them from me.

I’m hypersensitive, he says again.

You mean intuitive? I asked.

No, sensitive around you. Not everyone, just you.

I want that knowing. because I realized that I didn’t have that with my friends I loved. There really are very few people whom I’ve allowed to know me, to stick around long enough to find me out, to be patient and persistent through the dry periods when I don’t know how to be vulnerable, to poke and probe me. I must not believe the lie that I am a difficult child, that I’m hard to love. This is not true, but I also know myself to not give away easily. There’s just so much in me, too much, for words. One hour? Two hours? Maybe a couple weeks? How long will it take? Sometimes they don’t come for months at end. Half a year is usually how long I process one idea. And they build on top of each other. I’m still fleshing out what I’ve envisioned for community in Oakland, April 2010. Longevity matters in a friendship with me.

So, a room full of friends: I love them; I really want to pursue many of them. I want to find out, and in the process I’m hoping that I’ll be found out too, that those I seek out will not only open up to me but expect me to do the same. As I listen patiently and ask good questions–because I’m a pro at this–I’m hoping they will know how to unlock the maze, because I need them to open me up, I don’t know how. When I will myself to say things inside me, I have not the words. They always feel forced; I get flustered and say the third closest thing to what’s actually on my mind. There’s no way of knowing what is actually in me unless you ask. I need others to open me up. That’s the knowing I want. That’s the question I need asked. That’s the depth I find myself staring into, longingly, every time.

Come find me, I thought, wherever you are. Whatever you’re doing right now, come find me. There’s a chasm I have never looked into closely enough, not necessarily for the fear of finding out what’s there, but because it requires more than one person looking. There are things inside me I’ve not experienced or named. I have an inkling of who that woman may be, what she’s like, where she treads, how she prays. You with the right words will unlock her, I know it.

to love fully, without regret

January 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

most of my adult life i’ve returned time and time again to memories of goodbyes. goodbyes to memories too. on christmas eve this past year, i wrote something for the billionth time. and a few days ago, cleaning out my purse post kolkata, i read it again–like childish scribbles on sand, we repeat words others have used over and over across time, washed away and forgotten, only to be written again by familiar hands. i know this all too well. yet the words read differently this time. i felt a close. they looped into a circle of sort; every other writing in the past about this goodbye finally ended. and by the last sentence it wasn’t about those people at all but one man. it’s always been about that man, the one i fell in love with ever since i laid my eyes on him, the one i saw again in india in a whole new light, this beautiful man.

[…] i’m having a moment with this rosencran guy and his wife’s story of moving away from paris.

maybe it’s because i haven’t had to say goodbye to anything or anyone in a while. and saying goodbye always sucks. always. right now i’m mourning every little and past goodbyes i ever had to do. and it’s not fair. i know it’s not fair. there’s no way that i’ll ever get over saying it. no matter how many times i say it, no matter how far the past has passed. it is absolutely the worst.

i can’t seem to get desensitized. every time i said goodbye to someone, even if nothing has changed for that person, i can’t help it. i mourn. my heart feels too frantic to stay put and i can’t stop those damn emotions running 500 mph.

when aaron took off to aussieland, when i left sam in hohenfels, when steve quit, when christina moved out, when hosea got married, when dumbledore died. every fcking single time. and now the baldwins clear out of their paris life without actually saying goodbye to anyone, not even to bruno!–because they simply can’t bear it.

but what i have come to believe and experience slowly is that when we say goodbye to the good, we get to see the better. it’s always been true.

i loved each and every person i mourned. i really did. and that love doesn’t go away. it doesn’t disappear. and those people don’t become any less important just because things change and life moves us in different directions. they don’t. my love for them makes me who i am now, able to love fiercely and without regret.

when push comes to shove and everything is said and done, if i had to do all this again. i would in a heartbeat. i would love all these people all over again. i would make those mistakes all over again (maybe not every single one…) if i were given a do-over, even if nothing were to change, if all still ended in heartbreaks. i would. again. knowing what i know now. i will love again. no regrets.

on the plane back to stateside, in a half dazed, half awake reflection, i knew i had done well the past three weeks of kolkata because i gave all my heart to each person i had met. Jesus told me clearly i would receive a new level of fearlessness when parting ways. i wouldn’t have to keep myself at 99% with some small and subtle dread of having to say goodbye at some point. so i took him at his words and recklessly poured out, nothing held back. the last day, up until the very last minute we got into the cab to head to the airport we blessed and prayed and spent ourselves for the people in india. i lost nothing, i mourned nothing, i regretted nothing. and in my heart i know i’ve conquered: i know how to love fully, without regret. there’s no fear in love. it’s not something new i’ve learned, i’m just made for it. everything about me has been fashioned for giving away 110%.

it’s the only way to live.

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