Portraits of Grace: Hee-Jung (2 of 2)

Portraits of Grace is a snapshot into the lives of the people at King's Cross Church. As "kingdom minded, kingdom people," we recognize God's work in every detail of our lives. We invite you to meet the people of our church.

The Bible says we need to fight sin to its death. “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:4, ESV) How am I going to be able to fight to the point of shedding blood and break the sinful pattern of anger? Sometimes, I even can’t bite my tongue for two seconds. When I need to make an active choice to not react in anger, it brings forth a bitter agony touching the core of who I am. It hurts. It hurts my ego. I’d rather suffer the consequences. My ego screams, “If I lose, let me lose!” My willful sinfulness is strong and deep, but the Word is clear: If I don’t resist sin to the point of shedding my blood, it will get me. Just as a prominent 17th Century theologian John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

I had to admit and confess my desire to be in control of everything and my angry reaction when reality resisted this desire. I confessed this willful, habitual sin against God and against Ben and Eugene (my closest people). Since then, God has continuously brought my sin into light and granted me a new desire to fight and hope for change. I want this sinful anger in me dead. I want gentleness to grow in the place where anger died. In his book, The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis describes God’s unceasing pursuit of holiness in us as his “intolerable compliment.” In his “intolerable compliment,” God pursues us until he accomplishes the good he’s willed for us. God’s unbounding, ceaseless love embraces me and constantly transforms me. How many triumphs have I achieved? Not as many as I would want. The struggle is ongoing. The challenge is present. The battle is still on. But God will love me and be with me until the end (John 13:1; Matt 28:20). I hold on to this truth. And the hope I have in this truth keeps me fighting.

Portraits of Grace: Hee-Jung (1 of 2)

Portraits of Grace is a snapshot into the lives of the people at King's Cross Church. As "kingdom minded, kingdom people," we recognize God's work in every detail of our lives. We invite you to meet the people of our church.

“If I lose, if I lose, let me lose.” Gillian Welch

When I am angry, it feels like nothing really matters but my feeling at the very moment. It feels like my whole being is swept up into one big black hole of anger. Even if I have to lose, I will lose. I want to lose. I am willing to lose. If I lose, let me lose. That’s how I feel when I get angry and how I lose my battles with anger. One of the terrible effects of this sin is I become numb to the people and circumstances around me, insensitive, inconsiderate, incapable of thinking of the feelings of others. I give in to the rushing eruption of this monstrous emotion. In the midst of that moment, losing control of myself doesn’t matter because that’s what I want: I want to sin. When the moment of anger passes, I realize how sinfully I reacted to the situation. I regret. I make my apologies and ask for forgiveness. But somehow it’s too late. The explosion has occurred, the damage is done.

I didn’t realize my anger problem until I married (I have been married for 5 years). During the first year of our marriage, we had to go through a great deal of personality clash. It was tough. Many times, in frustration, I reacted in anger to the challenges we faced, which was having a great and negative impact on our relationship. My anger kept me from having constructive communication with Ben. Thus, our relationship was not growing in depth. I remember Ben called me out one day and told me that I have to seriously reflect on this issue and make changes. At first, I quietly dismissed his advice in my heart because I believed my anger was legitimate. My reasons were not nonsense. My anger was reasonable and even righteous. I was utterly blinded by sin.

Ben’s reminders helped me think about the underlying problems and see the pattern of my sinfulness: how much I enjoy being in control, sought this control through anger, and how much I didn’t want to give it up to God, because having control felt really good. I repeatedly gave in to this false sense of euphoria and power, which was enslaving me. Seeing my sin, even dimly, was only the start, of course, the pattern of sin continued and I struggled and felt defeated by it. One day, my three-year-old son, Eugene, asked me when I was raising my voice in an angry tone, “Are you a good mommy or a bad mommy?” I couldn’t answer. I needed to fight this sin and fight hard. But how?

Today is Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday: the beginning of the Lenten season. We don't officially practice Lent at King's Cross but if you'd indulge me anyway with some thoughts on the season.

For those of you (like myself) who did not grow up practicing this because it was too formal/dry/dead or had the perspective, "Isn't Lent for Catholics?!"... Lent is a season of lament, intended to help the church posture herself in repentance to anticipate the cross (Good Friday) and the resurrection (Easter). Just as we prepare for anything in our lives (wedding, job interview, certification, exam, etc) with practices of anticipation, Lent helps the church prepare together... to form us together. So here is one reflection for us to consider as we anticipate the cross and resurrection:

You may have noticed people in your offices, or on the subway, or walking around carrying the ashen mark on their foreheads. There's a line from one of my favorite psalms that I love: "For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:14)

How often do we live or serve the church on our own strength, forgetting that we are dust, animated by the breath (Spirit) of God? (Gen 2:7) We forget; but David reminds us in the psalm that He knows our frame. God does not forget. The wise sage who authored Ecclesiastes reminds us: "All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return." (Ecc 3:20)

Being of dust reminds us that we live in a neighborhood that lives in brokenness, and we are part of that brokenness that needs restoration. We lament with the poor because we are also poor. We lament with the weak because we are also weak. We lament with immigrants because scripture reminds us we are foreigners who were invited to be natives of the Kingdom.

And in Christ coming, he who lived in perfect splendor came down to be dust with us. (John 1:14) So today, if you are so inclined, join your heart with me and many others all over the world (just as we recite the Apostle's Creed every Sunday), to remember who we are, and that this symbolic smear of ash on our foreheads remind us that we are dust. We lament the state of our lives and the state of our world. But it is being fully immersed in this lament (not trying to avoid it or fast forward it til we get to the "good part") that we can better see the beauty of the life we've been given through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As we are exploring Gathered & Scattered, how can we lament well and join our hearts *with* and alongside our neighbors? Let us seek to understand and know our community, our church, and those who've been entrusted to our care and friendships.

Lord, remind us by whose power we live and move and have our being. Give us eyes to properly see ourselves and more clearly see the brokenness of our lives and community. And give us hearts of love that models after your heart: that you came and dwelt among people like us. Empower us by your Holy Spirit to show forth the Gospel in all areas of our lives. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes

As of now, King's Cross does not follow the liturgical calendar too strictly. However, both Norman and I wanted to share a few thoughts on this day that many will be observing around the world.

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, which is the solemn preparation for the church to move toward the reflection and consideration of Jesus Christ’s passion—especially his crucifixion and then, subsequent resurrection.

The significance of the ash on the forehead, which many “high-church” or liturgically heavy churches practice are demonstrative of the reflection on our own human brokenness. Ashes or dust are commonly poured on one’s head in the bible as a symbol of mourning. Why all the soil and detritus? It’s because of this “earthy-curse” that came from our defiance of everything that God is and loves, we are relegated to a destiny of dust.

Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes.

Therefore, by placing the ashes on our foreheads, we’re identifying with the frustration and futility that our one common end will bring. Rich and poor, small and great, we all inherit the same thing in the end... dust and ashes. 

However, while the journey of Lent begins with dust and ashes, it brings us to a much fairer end, a much finer destination which we cannot miss.

The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that upon Christ’s brow, he bore the symbol of that “earthy-curse” (Gen 3:18,)—a crown of cruel, piercing thorns while he hung on the cross. However, after rising anew, we see the arisen Lord in Revelation 19:12, which says, “and on his head are many crowns...”

Through Jesus’s triumph over shame, sin and death— he’s not simply reversed the curse, he’s greatly multiplied the inheritance we all long for. In Christ, I no longer am destined to dust and ashes as my eternal reward—but he places on my head his own reward and inheritance, it’s often referred to in the bible as “eternal life.”

Is it good to put ashes on our forehead? Sure. But only if it leads you to deeper mourn the brokenness of how the curse of sin has embittered much of which should have been sweet, and ultimately, must lead you to confess yet again, that your only hope and salvation and glory... is in Christ Jesus. 

I’ll leave you with this. The story of the God’s redemption ends with our foreheads—much like how it quickly began with shame and contempt marring the minds and thoughts of mankind. Revelation 22:4, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” What could this mean? It means that better than dust and ashes, better than even a crown—we belong to him. It’s adoption as children of God. He’s kissed his name upon our foreheads, to ever be his beloved children. Thank you Jesus for bearing that crown of thorns on your brow so that we could have blessing on ours.