New Blog!

Hello friends!

You may have noticed this space has been quiet for quite some time. Some of that was due to a whirlwind of change–marriage, new job, moving. But some of it is because I’ve been creating a new space for my writing.

Patreeya + Nate's wedding

I began Unearthing Joy to update friends & supporters of my ministry almost 10 years ago (wow–has it really been that long??), and since then it has evolved into a space that has meant to encourage others and evoke conversations around topics I was personally processing. In light of this, I decided it was time for an updated space!

For those of you who have been following along, I’m so thankful for you. If you’d like to continue the journey, you’ll find me writing at www.patreeya.com and can subscribe to receive new posts here. There’s a few things I’ve been working on that I’m excited to share, so I hope you’ll join me!

with love,

Patreeya

Keep Your Enemies Closer

“Chink.”

It wasn’t even muttered under his breath. The word carried over the sound of a busy Berkeley street, broke through the jackhammers of construction and the noise of commute, and hit me squarely between the eyes. My stereotypically-small, almond-shaped Asian eyes.

I was walking to my birthday dinner, flanked by a few non-Asian friends. Despite a full day of being celebrated and loved, this word thrown out on a whim felt like someone had shoved through the crowd to stab me in the heart. It was a word meant for violence. It was a curse, maybe one that would’ve gone unnoticed by others or even by me in earlier years. But this time I felt it.

And in that moment, I had no empathy for the man whom I had smiled at a second before. No empathy for his bedraggled clothes that carried telltale signs of a weary traveler. No empathy for his frenzied voice shouting at people who walked past him that was a sign of a soul in distress.

All I could think of was how he had managed, in one word, to dehumanize me and make me into a caricature. All I could think of was the fact that people like that cause so much pain and violence in the world.

People like that.  

It’s a euphemism, really, for “the enemy.” Whenever we use that phrase, whenever we lump people together and distance ourselves from them, we are trying to make sense of the hurt or fear that we’ve felt from the outside.

So we disassociate. We draw a circle around the cause and stay far away. We prepare speeches and a defense in case it comes for us. When these barriers don’t quite seem like enough, we begin to build an offense too..

Continue reading…

I Feel You

“I’ll be fine,” I told her. My friend and I sat facing the Berkeley marina, the wind slapping our faces, and the sun glinting off the water. I had suffered what was perhaps one of the most significant blows in my life a few days earlier, and when she asked me how I was doing, I put on a brave smile. “Terrible, but I’ll be fine,” was my answer.

A good friend knows when to let a matter lie and when to push a little deeper. I’m thankful she knew underneath my smile was pain that I didn’t know how to express. “I think what happened was awful,” she said carefully. “I’m angry that it happened, and I think it’s okay if you’re angry too.”

Anger? I felt sadness and disappointment and fear. But anger felt far off, a small thread that poked up here and there through the seams of my emotional landscape.

My friend began to gather rocks. I wondered if this was her version of Jesus’ drawing in the dirt (John 8), playing a game of emotional chicken to see if she could outwait my evasiveness. Then she pulled me off the bench (literally) and placed a rock in my hand.

“I want you to say or shout or scream one thing you are angry about while holding this rock, and then you are going to chuck it as hard as you can into the ocean.”

I laughed, initially, at her assumption that I possessed upper body strength. But I gave it a try. It was slow at first, racking my brain for reasons, trying to pick at that small thread of anger. And then it began to unravel.

One after the other, I threw those rocks into the ocean. One after the other, I shouted my grievances to God. My anger grew louder as my arm grew tired. And for the next few days, my predominant emotion was rage.

It was terrifying.

Continue reading…

Unlovable

Two and a half years ago, I published a blog post that was, in essence, my manifesto on dating. It was reposted by Relevant Magazine, shared by friends, and actually quoted back to me. In it, I boldly declared:

“I don’t think we can really win [at love] until we are willing to fold, to leave the game and remember that love is much bigger than a power struggle. Maybe I lose, and maybe that’s okay.”

And then I lost. Pretty badly, in fact. The specifics are unimportant, but the result was a deep cynicism towards my very own words. It is easy to be high and lofty in your ideals until you are elbows-deep in tissues. I felt foolish my ideals had led to pain and loss.

Did I still believe those words–that love is not defined by wins and losses, but in what is given? I wasn’t sure.

///

I imagine for many, Valentine’s Day is a day defined by loss–by what you don’t have. Marked by the pain of what you’ve given away. At least, it has often been so for me, despite how much I rolled my eyes or tried to channel the confidence of Beyonce with a baseball bat.

It has been a day that declares it’s about love, but which usually makes the lack of love we have that much sharper—whether that is the love of a romantic partner, friends, or family.

In Thai, the word for “cute” is na-rak, which directly translates to “worthy of love.” “That’s not cute” is often used to discourage kids from whining, making faces, having bad hygiene, being impolite to their parents. “That’s not lovable” is the literal refrain.

And isn’t that the refrain that trains us all? We are constantly fed information about what is worthy of love and what is not. There are statistics and charts and literal buttons that reinforce what we love and what we do not. It forms us and what we believe over time.

The way you look in that dress? Not lovable. Your face? Not lovable. Your body shape? Not lovable. Your personality? Not lovable. Your lifestyle? Not lovable. Your choices? Not lovable.

I have spent many years trying to fit the mold of what I thought was lovable, a carefully defined outline of a person that grew narrower and narrower with every wound received, with every critique given, or with every loss. And, like a preschooler hyped up on sugar, I’ve learned that despite my best efforts I can never stay within the lines. It defeats the purpose, trying to become perfectly lovable, because the person loved ends up not being me at all.

But on Valentine’s Day, the social media posts and flower shops and couples arm-in-arm seem to ask us: “Are you lovable?” And even though we know the “right,” self-assured answer is yes, loss and loneliness and dissatisfaction may whisper, “Are you sure?”

///

Last year on this day, during my morning coffee routine, I reflected on the loss I’d been grieving and if somehow my lack of love meant I was destined to be alone. Was there something wrong with me that consistently led to disappointment and pain in love?

These words came to me in the quiet space of my living room, like a scribbled note pressed into the hands of a friend:

Love is defined by the one who gives it. You are not worthy of love because someone chooses to love you; you are worthy of love because of what you give away.

///

Whether or not you believe the Christian faith, this is how love is defined. You are not lovable based on your ability to attract the perfect partner or avoid heartbreak. No, love is defined as what is given away.

“God is love,” it says in 1 John. Love is defined by the One who gives it away freely, knowing it may never be reciprocated, acknowledged, or fulfilled.

The Christian faith also says that our ability to give love is tied to our ability to receive the love that Is already given to us. Often the most unloving people are the ones who have experienced a lack of love or fear, deep down, they are not loved.

This year has been a long journey of trying to remember those words: that love reflects the capacity of the giver, not the receiver. Especially in moments when I feel unlovable. And especially in moments when I find myself unable to give love to someone I think is unworthy of it.

I am trying to break ties with the voice that asks, “Are you lovable?” And to befriend the voice that tells me, “You are loved. Will you receive it?”

So know this: if love feels synonymous with loss today, it is actually a sign that you are worthy of love. You gave love—to a significant other, a friend, a family member—and maybe it wasn’t given back the way you hoped. It always takes courage to love.

But there is also love out there that is waiting for you to receive it. There is Someone out there who deems you lovable, to the uttermost. Not because of what you have or haven’t done, what you look like at your best, or all the behaviors and niceties you’ve learned to wear. But who loves you because He is love itself, and He gives it without reservation.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another… We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4:10-11, 19

Related Posts:

Losing at Dating

I Still Believe in Chivalry

Questions in Seasons of Heartbreak

Healthy Relationships

Curiosity is Love

I sat on the plane en route to Mexico City, mourning all the things I hadn’t checked off of my to-do list. My four years of high school Spanish had yet to resurface, and I had only made it to “Él es un muchacho. Él bebé leche” on DuoLingo. My list of “Things to Eat” only had one all-inclusive bullet point: tacos. I hadn’t begun Sandra Cisneros’ Woman Hollering Creek—a book I have owned since college, purchased for some class, and never opened because, let’s be honest, in the deluge of assigned reading, SparkNotes became my dear friend–like the one with all the extra meal plan points at the end of the semester.

But what I mourned the most about preparing for Mexico City was that I hadn’t read about any of its history. I hadn’t taken the time to learn its story.

The nature of history is that we forget it, move past it. We especially want to forget the painful parts. We tell people we’re sorry to be a “downer” when those pieces spark fresh emotion. We say we shouldn’t let history define us, because it feels easier to move on if we have a blank slate.

But none of us are blank slates. We are stained, cracked, and scribbled on. And the beauty of redemption is that God takes us just as we are and uses those marks to make something far better than a fresh start.

A memory I had long forgotten recently resurfaced in vivid detail. My parents owned a printing shop, with huge windows in the storefront. I wasn’t often allowed to have play dates, but when I did, it was a huge deal. And on one of those rare days where we had cajoled all parental parties into letting my friend come to play at the shop, there was a thunderstorm.

I remember staring at the dark sky, watching the clouds roll in and the lightning flash. With a sinking feeling, I watched out of those big, glass windows and told myself that my friend wasn’t going to come. I sat preparing myself for what I felt was inevitable.

“Why did you think that?” my counselor asked when I told her about the moment.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Besides the storm, I didn’t have any reason to think that. I just didn’t want to be disappointed when she didn’t show up… If she didn’t want to actually hang out with me.”

“Before that, had you had experiences of people not showing up or changing their mind?”

“Yes,” I said, and recounted various moments to her, a friend breaking a promise, a reluctant invite to a birthday party, lunches spent eating alone—small pricks in a finger, but to a child, establishing a pattern and an expectation. One that became further solidified as I grew older.

“Ah, so you did have reason to believe she wouldn’t show up. There was history. That’s significant.

And it struck me that this piece of history, long forgotten, somehow shapes the way I see the world today. It framed my expectations of people in fear—an expectation that they would bail as soon as they got the chance.

It lived in my subconscious, and until I acknowledged it, I couldn’t see how God was working to rewrite it. I let it write the ending for me.

History gives us understanding, so that we can learn from and not repeat its mistakes. One of the reasons I’m not ashamed to tell people about how helpful counseling has been is because I’ve seen the power of not letting history unnecessarily dictate the future. The more we run from the past, the more it controls us and we are inevitably doomed to repeat it.

There is a reason God chooses to include so much mess in the Bible. You have people’s mistakes. You have the things that looked like discarded Plan A’s. You have the twists and turns of everything not turning out the way you would have written them. Because it is all part of the story. And God delights in turning the hardest parts into the richest parts.

My friend recently told me about an incident that happened before I met her, involving a guy who had had a little too much to drink and friends who wouldn’t take her side. “That’s why I don’t want to date. I don’t think I can feel safe.” It made me love her all the more, to know this piece of history, to see what she has had to walk through. To see her fighting, still, this history that has been written for her in order find a thread of redemption.

The power of history is that it makes the story richer. We feel shame at the parts in the story we would have written differently. We fear we will be judged or defined by it. We want unblemished. We want a straight line. We want progress. We do not want to be judged for our mistakes. We fear we will never live up to our triumphs.

How much more beautiful is the present when we see all the moments that have been lived, experienced, even survived, to get here. When I learn about history, I understand a fuller picture of who a person is, where they have come from, what has led up to this point.

For every person we meet, there is a history we do not know. For every place our feet land upon, there is a history we do not know. And yet, to know that there is so much I do not know keeps me humble. It plants me in a bigger story, one that I cannot know all the elements of, one where I am still learning about the characters—including myself.

The small child sitting and watching the thunderstorm had no idea that she would go on to make some of the greatest friends or experience moments of healing when people kept showing up when they didn’t have to. Remembering that piece of history gives me hope that my pessimistic mind cannot predict the next chapter of the story. It puts the pen back into the hand of God.

I want to know the history. I want to know the story. I want to see the hand of God writing redemption into the brokenness of this life.

We become masters of small talk, so good at filling silences while the gaps of our knowledge about someone remain glaringly large. “Curiosity is love,” I told someone recently. Curiosity is what stops us from assuming we know everything about our neighbor, from making assumptions about others, from seeing statistics and stereotypes where there is story and soul.

It takes a great deal of courage. At the risk of being seen as “awkward” or “nosy,” let us love those around us by being curious. And, at the risk of feeling misunderstood or unseen, let us love those around us by sharing a piece of who we are, something they might not think to ask. In doing so, we create opportunities for history to turn into redemption and connection.

And remember, wherever you go and whoever you meet, for better or for worse, you are a part of shaping someone’s history today.


Questions to cultivate curiosity with those in your life:

What have been some defining moments in your life?

What is an accomplishment or possession or characteristic you feel proud of?

Where have you lived so far, and how have those places shaped how you see the world?

What do you remember your family talking about when you were little?

What lessons have you learned from your parents?

What were friendships like for you when you were younger?

What have been some of the defining relationships of your life?

[This post originally appeared on BerkeleyCru.com]

The Table

I watched Crazy Rich Asians exactly a week ago, and after the movie, I found myself alone in the bathroom overcome with emotion. After taking the past week to reflect on why such a fun and upbeat movie could fill me with a mix of emotions–joy, pride, shame, sadness, isolation, belonging–here’s why this movie is so important to me: 

I grew up in a town that was predominantly black and white. Communities were separated this way. Even my classes were separated this way. As an Asian immigrant, it felt like there was no category for me.

I grew up with the turned up noses at food my mother lovingly made for me, food I then turned around and rejected because it made me feel even more like an outsider. 

I grew up with a teacher who gave me preferential treatment because she “loved Asian babies” and a teacher who called on me last because she didn’t. 

I grew up ashamed of my own name, pre-emptively apologizing for it being “hard.” cringing and saying nothing when it was mispronounced in school assemblies and misspelled on school documents. 

I grew up with kids who told the teachers I was cheating on tests when I got A’s, backed by the argument that I was “Asian and it wasn’t fair.” I grew up learning how to use my fingers to make my eyes even squintier, laughing along with the people who mocked me, because at least if I could be in on the joke it would hurt less to be the joke. 

I grew up never thinking I could be beautiful because the definitions of beauty I saw exalted, the girls who were popular, the role models I adored, the celebrities I admired… none of them looked anything like me.

Summer of my sophomore year of college, a friend of a different race called me beautiful. And that night I cried because I wondered why I found it so hard to believe her. This was the world as I knew it, a world where seats at the table were doled out depending on where you were born, the color of your skin, your level of education, whether or not you spoke with the local accent. A world that was obsessed with defining who belonged by pointing out who didn’t.

BUT. But…I follow a God who says that in heaven, there will be people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Every single one. And not until everyone is there will we be complete. I follow a God who says that we are incomplete without one another, that no singular expression of culture, beauty, or theology is complete. That each carries an inherent integrity, a mark of their Maker. That, without everyone, we are each amateur painters trying to capture the complex majesty of a sunset, equipped only with our three-shade palettes of greens or grays.  

I follow a God who says that, in a world that draws lines and pits us against each other, we must sit down at the table where no seat can be earned and partake in a meal that none of us can claim credit for. I follow a God who, in a world that feels so driven by scarcity–a scarcity of resources, of seats of power, of justice–is creating and empowering us to create more resources, more seats at the table, more just systems. Not so that only some may thrive. Not so that some can experience pride at the humiliation of others. 

In some ways, Crazy Rich Asians is just a fun movie that is well-crafted and entertaining. But to me, it is creation: the separation of dark and light, heaven and earth—so that something can grow and thrive. In a world of scarcity, it is creating space to celebrate and to be. To me, and to so many others, it is a message that says: “There is a seat for you here. There is space for you. And that seat is not the token seat. That seat is not the butt of some joke. That seat isn’t even a pity seat. It is a seat that is yours because you matter. Pulling up a chair for you might make things around the table a little more uncomfortable for everyone else, but you are worth it. This world is incomplete without you. Heaven is incomplete without you. You belong.” 

And that is the kind of message I want to spend my life communicating to the people around me–especially to those who may not be around me because they have been told there is no space for them. 

Come At Me

I am a person of calculated risk. My mentor once suggested I break some plates as a means of dealing with pent-up anger and grief. She pitched it like a dramatic reenactment of a movie scene, me alone in a parking lot, only accompanied by the cathartic crash of ceramic on cement.

 

Desperate to try anything, I drove to the dollar store and bought plates. I recruited a friend to come with me, because alone in a deserted parking lot sounded like a different kind of movie scene. And we made the necessary preparations: we went to the corner closest to the freeway (so the noise wouldn’t disturb anyone), put on swimming goggles (because I pictured shards of plate flying into my eye and an emergency room visit), and brought a broom, a garbage bag, and a cardboard box which I had convinced her to break the plates into (because, you know, less clean up). I’m a very practical sort of dramatic.

 

Deep breath. Raised plate. And then… thump. The evening was filled with the less-than-cathartic thuds of our plates bouncing off of cardboard. We laughed at the ridiculousness of all our safety precautions, yet I was unwilling to let go of the contingency plans we’d made. Not quite what I had in mind, my mentor said.

 

I am a woman of calculated risk. A J on the Myers Briggs. An over-analyzer. A chronic over-packer. Someone who decides before taking off who she’d recruit to help her break down the cockpit door in the event of a hijacking, or hides scissors near her bedside table for the unsuspecting burglar. I like to know what I’m getting into. I like to know what could go wrong. Sometimes I take my headphones out and pay attention to the safety procedures because I like to know where the nearest exit is at all times (keep in mind, it might be behind you).

 

I recently took a trip to Mexico with my friend Jenny. And although we had decided months ago that we were going and booked the tickets and the AirBnB, life happened as it often does and all of our plans to research, carefully map our days, and practice our Spanish were forgotten and hidden away with my unfolded piles of laundry. It was a wonderful trip, once I shook the feeling of being woefully unprepared.

 

But life lately has felt like an assignment for which I am woefully unprepared. The last six months have been like getting to the airport an hour later than planned, boarding a plane to a place you vaguely learned about in geography class, and showing up in a country where your knowledge of the language is limited to phrases like, “Where is the bathroom?” and “Two churros, please.”

 

So much change, in almost every area I can think of. Some I’ve chosen, some that simply happened, some that has yet to happen. Some painful, some exciting, some wonderful. Change coming at me whether I want it or not. “I feel like I’m hanging on by my fingertips,” I texted the same friend who had participated in my ridiculous plate-breaking. “Luckily, you have very strong fingertips,” she replied.

 

I lamented to another friend over coffee this morning about how unprepared I felt in every part of life. “I see God moving things in your life,” she told me. “God is preparing you for something. He’s giving you what you need before you know what you’ll need it for. Things are changing, but He’s given you anchors. Don’t forget that.”

 

Isn’t that the constant threat of our lives–to let the fear of not having enough rob you of the joy of what you’ve been given? To allow the fear of the unknown steal your confidence in what you do know? To spend all of our days warily anticipating the future and completely missing the present?

 

James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

 

We are commanded to consider the things that come at us and the places we find ourselves as “joy,” because there’s a whole lot of other things we could consider it. I usually have a lot of choice words for what I’d “consider it.” But James reminds us that we can embrace all the events of our lives–the unexpected and inconvenient, the wounds and the tragedies, the joys and the blessings–with more faith than fear.

 

Because all of those things, they are what God is using to prepare us. I don’t need to be prepared because God is completely prepared. And He has prepared me, is preparing me, will prepare me for all that I cannot yet imagine. He will tell me what I need to know when I need to know it.

 

The Bible actually defines faith as confidence in what we know to be true–despite being unable to see it in the moment. Faith is not a blind leap. It’s not a lack of reason. Faith is a choice to focus our attention on what we know, in the face of what we do not know.

 

While I was in Mexico, I thought about what I wish I’d known at the many crossroads of life thus far…what would have prepared me. Especially when I was making big decisions about career and life and community and future. And I wrote these words to 20-year old me, words I wish someone had said to me (and probably were said and completely ignored because hey, I was 20 and practically ancient and knew everything), words that I need now, and maybe that someone else needs too:

 

“Hey you. Don’t worry so much about having all the answers. You don’t know nearly as much as you think you do, and you don’t need to know nearly as much as you want to. Life is messy. It will not go the way you expect. The more you try to hold onto control, the harder it will be to see God in the mess. Most of life is about learning to walk boldly into the unknown with unshakable trust in a few things:

 

First, that God is always good, no matter how it might look, and that He is in control, no matter how it might feel. Second, you are deeply loved and you matter in this world–and you can drop the act because your best performance and your worst performance will never change that. Third, people’s opinions matter far less than you believe, and only when you stop trying to please people will you be able to truly love them. And lastly, life is a gift; savor all of it, give it all you got, and don’t let fear write the story.”
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

White Flags (What Surrender Isn’t)

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Matthew 16:24-25

The older I get, the more I have learned that I am a strange mix of obedient and defiant. There is a rule-follower in me–someone who refuses to “California roll” through stop signs on principle. But there’s also a side of me that wants to join the rebel alliance, who shakes my fist at “the man,” who spent every Simon Says as a child trying to beat Simon at his own game and look for loopholes.

But this contradiction causes turmoil in my relationship with God. I obey, but often begrudgingly. And I look for loopholes because, at the end of the day, I want to be Simon. I want control of my life. I shudder at the thought of possibly having to hop on one foot for all of eternity. I don’t want to surrender control.

A few months ago, I found myself at an impasse with God. Circumstances of life felt out of control, my plans for my life were threatened, I couldn’t understand what was happening or why. And I felt my fists begin to tighten around what I wanted, what I thought I deserved, what I thought God owed me. I’m surrendered, I told Him. My life is Yours! But what I’ve had to wrestle with was that my view of surrender (and my view of God) was incomplete.

Following Jesus demands a surrendered life. And unless I truly understand who He is and what surrender is, I will come to God obediently but reluctantly, with hands in my pockets, afraid of what He will ask me for. So here are three things I’ve been learning about what surrender is and isn’t.

Surrender isn’t passive.

We often have this idea of surrender as being a numb peacefulness that overtakes us. No matter what happens, I’ll be okay. I don’t want anything other than what God wants for me.

But I found myself asking a friend, “Can I be surrendered and still want something? Am I allowed to ask God for what I want? Am I not surrendered if I still have desires and hopes?”

If you do not care about the outcome, then surrender becomes an act of indifference, not an act of trust in a God who hears, who knows, and who will answer according to His good and perfect will. Surrender is not a state; it is an action. Surrender isn’t a personality transplant, a holy brainwashing, or the imperius curse from Harry Potter. Surrender isn’t blind, unquestioning obedience. If it was, God would have created robots and we would have never gotten into the whole forbidden fruit debacle. Surrender is an act of love. Surrender is a choice.

Surrender is often the bloodiest of battles. It’s not a meek white flag we wave at God. It is hard-earned, often accompanied with bruises, deep wounds, wrestling, and weeping. It is not a lack of desire but where we engage our fears and desires in hand-to-hand combat with our trust in God.

Just look at the Bible’s examples of surrender: Abraham was surrendered, but he probably didn’t feel indifferent at the thought of losing his beloved son (Genesis 22). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego valued their lives and put their absolute trust in God’s ability to save them, but a higher trust was placed in God’s goodness and plan for them (Daniel 3).

Jesus, the ultimate example of surrender, spent the night before his crucifixion weeping and sweating blood and asking God for another way. And yet, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Desire and obedience, hope and trust, petition and peace. Surrender is all of these things hand in hand.

Surrender isn’t losing.

We associate surrender with losing. Our world sees victory as the triumph of our will, of getting our own way. We believe surrender is what you do when you are convinced you cannot win. Our prayers of surrender sometimes become: Okay, God. If I can’t have it my way, I guess You can have it Your way. After all, I can’t win against God.

But we follow a Savior whose death and defeat was actually the biggest victory in all of eternity. Jesus was adamant about this: what the world sees as victory is not what God sees as victory. Blessed are those the world would consider losers–the downtrodden, the weak, the poor… these are the ones who will “be comforted,” “inherit the earth,” “be filled,” “be shown mercy,” “see God,” “be called children of God” (Matthew 5).

Jesus teaches that victory and blessing aren’t about the outcome. Because whether we surrender or not, the outcome may be the same. Victory is not about our circumstances, but about the experience of God in the midst of our circumstances. And the only way to attain this victory in its fullness is through the path of surrender. Through something that feels like death.

For followers of Jesus, this is the path of everything that is good. Surrender is the means by which we receive salvation–surrendering our rights and our belief that we can save ourselves. It is the means by which we are filled with the Holy Spirit–surrendering control of our lives and our own agenda. It is how we receive wisdom–through surrendering confidence in our understanding and preferences as the highest truth. How we know God’s will (Romans 12)–through surrendering our own will.

Through surrender, we experience the complete reliability and faithfulness of the promises of God (although not always instantly, or in the way we might think).

Surrender isn’t partial.

More and more I find this to be true. As I have tried to give most of my life to Jesus while holding onto a small scrap–be it comfort, time, or a shred of self-preservation–the more I discover that my hands become tightly clenched around anything that remains. I believed surrender was like quitting smoking by “cutting back,” accomplishable in stages, in small practices of self-denial or by substituting some things for others that make it easier over time.

I believed that slow surrender, letting go bit by bit, purging here and there, slowly weaning myself off of control, would help the weight of it feel lighter, the commitment less terrifying, and my hands more accustomed to being open. But the more I give away, the tighter they become. They grasp onto anything that is left, clinging to the familiar hope of control, desperate to hold onto some semblance of old self, old life. With every piece of self I begrudgingly let go of, this old self mutters, “What else would you take from me, Lord? What more do You want? Haven’t I given enough?”

The answer is no. Only all is enough. We cannot die with Christ to sin if we are on the respirator of our old life. And if we do not die but live on, sickly, weak, miserably straddling two worlds, we shall not be able to participate in the resurrection of Christ. The new life. The new self.

Because God desires not just our parts, but our whole. Our Savior did not die for part of our sins, the ones we’d like to give up–he died for them all. He did not cling to life but gave it willingly, fully, in whole, in surrender and submission.

For we do not have a Savior who gives himself in parts. Jesus Christ is whole. The life of Christ is whole. We want to believe we can get by on fractions, splitting hairs, looking for loopholes, and bartering with God. It is not so. Surrender is all.

And terrifying as it may be, it comes with a promise. When you lose your life, you will find far better than you could have ever acquired for yourself. Those who surrender all (including even our definitions and conditions of a good life) will have no regrets in this life or the one to come.

Do you believe that the God who asks for surrender is the same God who longs to bless You beyond what you can imagine? Do you believe that God can do more with a surrendered life than anything you could attain or accomplish on your own? Do you believe that God asks for open hands that He might fill them?

Jesus does not ask us to do anything that he himself has not done. The God who asks you to surrender your life is the One who surrendered his first.

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

John 10:17-18

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:32

In the Silence of Saturday

It feels wrong to say that Saturday is my favorite day of Holy Week, but it’s true. It is a day that feels sacred to me, sitting in the gap of tragedy and triumph, resting between death and victory. Perhaps it is my favorite because it feels so familiar. It feels like most of our lives. This is the day when I feel so small and helpless, standing with the cross behind me and watching the tomb before me where hopes and dreams are buried.

I don’t think I’ve ever yearned for the resurrection more than I do these days.

Friday is the day of deep loss and confusion. Sunday is the day of fulfillment and joy. But Saturday leaves me sitting with the question: Will God fulfill His promises?

The answer seems obvious, but it never feels obvious. What it feels like is a pit in your stomach, a tightness in your chest. It feels like a dry mouth and swollen eyes. It feels like an impossible choice: stay or flee. Stay here staring at the tomb where hope is inseparable from reminders of loss and pain? Or flee from pain and loss–and also the possibility of seeing God do something miraculous?

The day between crucifixion and resurrection was the Sabbath–a day built into the rhythms of Israel to remind them to soak in the knowledge that they were not the gods of their lives, operating under the illusion of control and comfort built by their own hands. The Sabbath was a reminder that even as God rested, He ruled. That even when it felt like nothing was happening, in the lack of activity and plans, God was still at work.

I think the Sabbath trained their hearts to wait and trust in the silence. Between the anguished cries of Friday and the jubilant rejoicing of Sunday rests the silence of the grave.

Our lives are filled with so much noise and activity because we are scared of the silence. In silence, we don’t yet know the ending. In silence, we are waiting for a response. In silence, we are not in control.

It is far too tempting to fill the silence and move past the discomfort of Saturday. Yet Jesus chose to wait silently for Sunday, separated from those he loved by a boulder and a guard. But it wasn’t the first time Jesus chose to wait for a resurrection. When he tarried before, he told his disciples the delay was “…so that you may believe” (John 11:15).

Silence has its purpose. Saturday intensifies our experience of the injustice and pain of Friday. Saturday deepens the joy and triumph of Sunday. Saturday is so that we may believe.

As Christians, we are defined by Sunday, marked by Friday, but we live in Saturday… waiting, and as we wait, lamenting that things are not as they should be and living (and acting) with defiant hope that one day they will be.

Saturday is the day we each must answer these questions:

Do you believe a resurrection is coming?

Do you believe God is who He says He is?

Will you live and obey in the tension–awake to the pain of this world and anticipating the hope of the one to come?

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Psalm 130:5-6

Chivalry

Note: I wrote this five years ago in a season of disappointment and discontent. Partly as a defense of men–that I would choose to not let one (or several) bad experiences define my view of all men—and as an encouragement to those who strive to be good men that they are seen and appreciated. I also wrote it for the women in my life who, after long seasons of waiting, were tempted to believe that there was nothing better out there. But more than anything, I wrote it for myself, as a reminder that no matter what we experience in this life of earthly relationships, the worst will seem barely a shadow and the best only a whisper of what is to come. Today seemed as good a day as any to share it.


I still believe in chivalry. I believe in knights and heroes. I believe that there are men who will live their lives to restore honor and integrity where it has been forsaken. I believe in men who will open the door, who will walk women home, who will give up their coats, who will lay their hearts on their sleeves. I believe in a time when the value of a heart will be understood in full, when pursuit of the heart is no longer a game. I believe in a man who is willing to risk his reputation, his pride, his ego to share a piece of himself at the potential cost of rejection; a man who does not live half-heartedly, easily swayed by his changing moods, but wholeheartedly.

I believe there are men of passion–not the passion that overwhelms and destroys everything it touches, but the type that does not fade, passion that rests firmly on loyalty and unwavering commitment. I believe in a man who is not only willing to die in a blaze of glory, but who is willing to die to himself each day… not to just give up his life, but to give up his days, his time, his preferences, his money, his comfort, his energy… for this is the most difficult and prolonged of deaths, and certainly the most meaningful.

I still believe that these men exist. And so I’m holding out for a hero. Not because I am a damsel in distress, not because he will fix all my problems. Not because I need saving–for I have already been saved. I am holding out for a hero who will fight dragons–not for glory or honor but to protect the vulnerable and to do what is right over what is easy. I am holding out for a hero who will not just tell my children about God, but will stay through the coldest of nights and the harshest of seasons and show them how much a Father loves. I am holding out for a hero who not only knows how to lead the charge, but also how to humble himself to serve. I am holding out for a hero so that, when he storms the castle walls, I will have no hesitation whatsoever to fight alongside him, to defend him, to lay down my own life for his, just as he so willingly does the same. Because there is no greater love than to lay down your life for another. Because love never fails.

So I’ll wait for a hero. And if I never meet him in this life, I know that in the next I will run straight into the embrace of the One who has taught me that this kind of man exists—my true Hero, my only Savior.