Finishing Strong

Yesterday I left the house before my dad got up and hopped on a train down south to Kaohsiung, where I had made plans to get another tattoo from this amazing traditional artist, Horiking. He is the tattoo artist that did my other arm piece in 2013, and I figured while I was out here to get some more. It took 11 hours, and we finished, but boy I was hurting bad. We went from 2pm to about 1:30 in the morning, what an adventure. Anyways, I am back on the train now headed back North. I’m doing a lot of reflecting as I’m writing, it’s been such a wonderfully strange, difficult but ultimately beautiful time. I know less than ever. I will probably keep saying this, but it truly feels like I have way more questions now - about life, about family, about God, about who I am and also the powerlessness we sometimes feel to make a difference. I think I left yesterday without telling my dad because I didn’t want to have to deal with more harsh words or cornering conversations. 99% of me can’t really do it anymore, but there is definitely that 1% that I’m trying to live in. I was definitely planning to avoid him as much as possible before going to the airport tomorrow morning. The full scope of the dynamic between us would take quite some time to explain, but my father will use his words to guilt and manipulate people. Most times I have been vulnerable with him, he has used what I said against me. For example, the first day we were here I told him that I wanted to change the world through music and art. Now, every time I make a mistake or don’t do what he thinks is right, he will bring up what I said and say, “You can’t change the world by acting like that,” or “I can’t believe someone like you could change the world.” The safety of relationship -Trust, encouragement, mutual interest, love seem so far right now. 

Horiking doing his thing

Horiking doing his thing

I feel bad that I left the city without telling him. I definitely should have said something. But I was so tired of hurting too. Another gray crossroad. Most decisions with him I don't know really what to do because I want to protect myself but also honor and serve. In this case, it seems almost impossible to do both. But I am open and what to learn how. Last night he continued to text our family group, tearing down my mother and me, saying he couldn’t believe he raised someone like me and that my mother was to blame for how I turned out. He tore down my life, saying I wasted all my time in college to get a degree and not work in the area I studied. He told me to not bother coming back, and told me I was abandoning the family. All this time, I’m reading these texts as I’m getting the tattoo, a piece that I wanted to serve as a reminder for the beauty of life and God’s faithfulness amidst my imperfection. This overwhelming heaviness came over me. I began to hear the voices of shame again. You are selfish. You are dishonoring. All you care about it yourself. I felt strangely hated. I felt like my own dad hated me, and in that moment, I honestly felt like I hated myself. I was so frustrated with the circumstance and tired of reading all these words, all this death. I felt hope leave me in that time. 

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After we finished the tattoo, I went and stayed at my uncle’s house. It’s now 2:30 in the morning. And I’m sitting here in this room, at this desk, alone, thinking about everything. Questions race through my mind. Is this a colossal failure? Did I mess this up? Can my decisions destroy what God has in store or what He wants to do? For a moment I resent the tattoo because, to me in that moment, it felt like this one amazing thing caused all this shit to unfold again. I felt like I made the wrong choice and somehow it messed everything up. But in that time, after talking to mom and Kerb, who were so amazing and helped me see the fuller picture, I began to take up courage and hope again. There is something so amazing about the breaking moments, when you are on your knees, on your face, where you have a choice to get up, look up, and walk again. I was so defeated and so full of shame, but as I began to ask the Lord to reveal himself to me, I was able to be free from those words from my dad yet again. There were like weights on my soul, speaking death to my heart, but as I turned my face to the Lord, He began to answer. I am no failure. My life truly is beautiful. I am loved. I am a friend of God and the world, not an enemy.  Something deep began to shift, and I began to understand grace even more. God’s holding me, God’s holding this situation - and though it is really tense right now and really really difficult, I somehow believe Him more than ever. 

What do we do when we fall? We must get up and finish strong. I am on the last leg of this part of the journey, and I felt like I  caused all these things to unravel. But I only have two choices now, run towards what is right, or continue to bury it. I am running towards the light. This morning I booked the first train back to my dad’s place and am going to apologize for leaving without telling him. He’s pretty furious at me, so I’m a little nervous as to what will be said here in a couple hours. I am expecting the same words that are aimed to control me and tear me down, but I am somehow filled with the grace and wisdom to understand that these words are mere words, powerless against the inner music of Jesus in my heart. I am crawling to the finish line, but I am resolved in my heart to finish without regret. To finish with honor, with strength, with actions I am proud of. I want to hear my dad say “well done” but have made peace with the fact that he might never say those words to me. More than anything, I now know, I just want to him to see my life and be proud of who I am. But I see now how much his pride and his past have blinded him and disabled him from loving or even being loved. But in my Christianese world the words, “God loves me,” have lost their power. But would they powerful now again. Would they be the life within and the power to face the most impossible circumstances with grace, faith and courage. 

Last night, after the lowest point, at around 4 in the morning, I laid down and prayed one last time. I even smiled at the ceiling, thinking, “what a wonderfully strange and beautiful life we live. Thank you God.” I do not understand so much of this situation, but I am beginning to see the deep purpose of it all. It’s not just for me and not just for dad… But it might just be for everyone. When we face trials of many kinds, might we count them joy. Would they become laughable. Would they not overwhelm you, You have God in your corner - So fight twelve rounds if you need to, let Him take care of you when you get hit and when you fall, finish strong, and don’t forget to smile along the way. We will be more than ok.