Fighting Fire With Fire.

A bad habit that has been pointed out to me (and that I’ve noticed) is that I tend to put myself down in the few sermons I’ve given. When trying to understand why I make the self-deprecatory jokes that I do, my pastor wondered if it was because that was my way of dealing with my anxiety; I think there’s actually something to that. From my perspective, I’m no worthier of delivering the sermon than the people seated in the Chinese Evangelical Free Church of Santa Barbara pews (err, chairs), and those jokes are my way of being honest about how I feel positionally before God’s people.

As of late, I’ve begun to feel quite a bit of anxiety about what lies ahead. I am planning to apply for PhD programs in philosophy, and the same feelings of unworthiness seep into the potentially fruitful (though rarely utilized) downtime I have as a grad student. Instead of making self-deprecatory jokes to a congregation, however, I internalize the sentiments and begin to feel less and less qualified to even think about applying to the programs. Just this evening, I spent 26 minutes in a wild mental scramble, looking at different culinary programs and seeing if they would be financially responsible. I ended up stepping back and reach out to my best friends in the program (you know who you are, love you both!). As the delirium faded, I woke up to the fact that maybe I was so easily pulled towards something so drastically different because it was something in which I still felt competent. The philosophical tool of “running the reductio,” as some call it, led me to see that I would likely feel the same, if not more, incompetence upon enrolling in culinary school.

And that’s when I realized that philosophy has been a gift that God has given me. I don’t mean this in the sense of God making me a gifted philosopher, but God has made me a son with gifts. Knowing the nature of my heart, He provided me with the right kind of tool to see just how deceitful the heart is above all things, and how desperately sick it is (Jer. 17:9). It’s not so much that He desires for me to master (or doctor) philosophy or become a leader in a particular subfield of it, but regardless of how things all turn out, He saw that it was a way for Him to minister and speak to me. Philosophy—though it largely has not been reassuring—can be therapeutic; the anxiety that came from feeling inadequate was remedied through the same thing I was anxious about. It led me to remember my first desire in studying it: to show, by my works, my faith in the power and reality of the Gospel.

I recently purchased a “Morning and Evening: Daily Readings by C.H. Spurgeon” devotional, and today’s morning passage said this:

You carry the cross after Him. You have blessed company; your path is marked with the footprints of your Lord. The mark of His blood-red shoulder is upon that heavy burden. ‘Tis His cross, and He goes before you as a shepherd goes before his sheep. Take up your cross daily, and follow Him.

Do not forget, also, that you bear this cross in partnership. It is the opinion of some that Simon only carried one end of the cross, and not the whole of it. That is very possible; Christ may have carried the heavier part, against the transverse beam, and Simon may have borne the lighter end. Certainly it is so with you; you do but carry the light end of the cross, Christ bore the heavier end.

And remember, though Simon had to bear the cross for a very little while, it gave him lasting honour. Even so the cross we carry is only for a little while at most, and then we shall receive the crown, the glory. Surely we should love the cross, and, instead of shrinking from it, count it very dear, when it works out for us ‘a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’.

“The world behind me, the cross before me; no turning back, no turning back.”

Advertisements

Halfway Done, Halfway Full.

As the youths say, it’s been a minute. With the last “Submit Assignment” button I’d ever see during the Fall 2017 semester, I continued to breathe normally. No sigh of relief, no deep inhale of accomplishment. Perhaps it was because I realized that this semester was a balance between guilt, apologies, and hard work to get my mind off of the first two.

I numbed myself quite a bit to what I was going through this semester. I tried to bury my experience of anxiety, stress, and insecurity beneath more work than I could handle. Many times, waves of guilt and fear would pass through me as I wondered about the health of my friendships, especially with those who lived farther away. Would they even notice if I couldn’t keep up with them as frequently? Would they understand? Would they care to check up on me once in a while? Oftentimes, it felt like I was forgotten. But for those of you who remembered me (you know who you are), I love you all, and I honestly couldn’t have gotten through the darker parts of this semester without you reaching out.

There were moments when I felt like my pursuits were entirely self-centered; nothing was harder to listen to than hearing my old Chinese school principal’s wife tell my mom that she had many years of hard work ahead of her because she saw that I wouldn’t be able to provide for my parents. Each dinner with my parents that I missed made me feel like I was just a tenant in the house rather than a son, and it was no fault of my parents’. They have been beyond supportive, encouraging, and understanding during this time, and if I ever make it to parenthood, I hope to be half as loving as they are.

I thought about how I ought to apologize to my professors with the work that I was turning in, unwilling to rely on excuses about having four classes (three of which were philosophy classes) but secretly hoping that they might understand my circumstance. At times, it felt like I needed more time, but at others, it felt like there wasn’t enough time in the world to help me out of my predicament. It felt like I needed to find my way to more fortitude and just stop being a baby about things; people have worked far harder than I have and have done far better despite their circumstances.

Beyond all this, this semester has made me grateful for the friends that I’ve made at Biola. Shoutouts to Heritage Cafe—there are just too many great people who have passed through those sliding glass doors. It won’t be the same without some of you, but I do hope to see you around! Come visit me at the RSA desk in the library if you can. To Pity Hugs: you’ve been a constant anchor for my mental health, indulging the moments when my sense of humor would betray the helplessness of my perceived situation. I’m excited for what y’all are going to do in the years to come. To Carl: thank you for mentoring me without even trying to; I find myself constantly thinking about how you would respond in circumstances where I’m interacting with people, and it’s a blessing just trying to see the world from your perspective. To Luke: I will never forget the legend of the Friendsgiving Turkey and the moment I received the gospel of brown butter. Really excited to see where you end up, and if all does not pan out, just wait for me a little and we’ll start that coffee&beer place. To Tim: it’s always amazing being in your classes. Thanks for being gracious and encouraging all the time and for teaching in a way that is clear and straightforward. Your passion for the truth really does come across in your teaching.

Despite feeling like I had my soul snatched by the sixty-plus pages I had to churn out, reflection has given me a chance to be grateful. God has been faithful in walking alongside me this semester, as He always is, and He’s brought me into a deeper appreciation for spending time with Him as well as being with His people. This has been the hardest semester of my life, and yet at the end of it, I feel a quiet confidence that the Lord knows what He has planned for me. Through many moments of going through the program for myself, He has been gracious to bring me to a place of mindfulness both of Him and of His will for me. As I look onwards to what He has, I just pray that He continues to keep me faithful to the path He has set me on and reveal His mercies to me day by day.

Hebrews 13:15-16 “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

Journey to the Center of Reality, i.

Having finished up my first year of studying philosophy at Talbot, I thought it would be helpful to write out a few takeaways from the year.  It’s been a challenging academic year, to be sure, but I can confidently say that every moment has been rich with experience and learning and humbling and grace.

  1. Taking school seriously is actually kind of fun.
  2. People will talk to me differently because I’m in seminary.
  3. I’m a poor evangelist, but that is not my identity (it’s just an accidental property I have heh).  I am conscious of this and I need to bring it to God. He will be faithful in guiding me to those He wants me to reach.
  4. There is a way to disagree without offending the other party.
  5. Spiritual disciplines are legitimately helpful.
  6. Philosophy is a mind-molding kind of subject; it often does work in the background of the mind (if such there be).
  7. Church must be far and away greater than what we think it ought to be – in more ways than one.
  8. Old friendships are real anchors.
  9. New friendships are constantly surprising.
  10. Family is so often taken for granted.
  11. I’ve become really self-conscious about the content I produce and rely less and less on a blog to just introspect externally; this is not a positive trend.
  12. Calvinism is not the only theology (gasp) but it IS the best one 😉 kidding! Theological perspectives, in some respects, are held in virtue of personal experience of relationship with and to God.
  13. Being kind is not reserved just for non-Christians (as surprising as the idea of speaking with a kind Christian seems to be nowadays); we must also be kind to the brothers and sisters we meet with regularly lest we take them for granted (see 10).
  14. Pastoring is a serious, thankless job; a special level of maturity and spiritual discernment is required for it. Love your pastors! As humans, they’re trying the hardest and battling the most within themselves to examine their own lives first and be faithful to what they’ve been called to.
  15. There are frequently moments where God opens the eyes to exceeding beauty – how many have I missed?
  16. Granting things in a discussion and still finding a way to make a case is more powerful than complete and utter blindness to the opposition.
  17. The library is actually a wonderful place to be, especially in the study rooms
  18. I’m running out of things (even though there are probably sooo many more), so the last one that comes to mind is: reality is a big thing – I’m gonna need an Atlas (heh). Grateful for professors who have allowed me to come to office hours with very few intellectually rigorous questions, but have grounded my continuing in the program.

Looking forward to seeing what the next year will hold!