At the start of this lockdown, like most people, I was stressed out and experiencing major changes and disruptions to my life as I knew it.
Within a week of the lockdown and uncertain about my job situation, I had to transition to working from home. After a week of working on the kitchen table, being in Zoom meetings with the TV blaring CNN updates of the pandemic in the background, I was struggling. The lockdown was triggering old memories of the communist takeover of Saigon, when my parents were under house monitoring and their freedoms were taken away.
I was overwhelmed by the thought of having to work from home and worse, being home 24/7. You see, my life had a huge tension, even before the Coronavirus. My life as a Christian with my church family and “ministry” was totally separate from my household situation. Most of my faith was lived out — outside of my house, worshiping at a church building, serving others in various ministries, praying with others, gathering with small groups and different circles of friends, and attending workshops, events and conferences. But when it came to my home life, I did not feel I was supported or could fully be my authentic self in my even own house. As much as I loved my parents and my brother, faith was something we did not share. They know that I am a believer and follower of Christ, but they do not share fully in that world. They are acquainted with it, since they have gone to church and sat through sermons and maybe even participated in singing worship songs. And they would even be comfortable joining in giving thanks before a meal. They would not be opposed to receiving prayer if they were sick or in need. But they have not made a personal commitment to follow Jesus, as their Lord and Savior. So when the tension between these 2 worlds increased through extreme pressures during the lockdown, I felt the storm raging. I was broken and desperate for what to do. I had no control over daily outbursts of anger and hurtful words lashed out at each other. I did what I knew to do in such crisis…I reached out and shared my need for prayer and support to my spiritual family. This is the testimony of how God heard our cries for help and how He made a way for healing and transformation.
I’d like to say that God snapped His fingers and the situation was miraculously resolved in an instant. But this was not His way. At least not in this case. His way is through pain and brokenness. I no longer could avoid dealing with the causes of the pain, but needed to accept the reality and humbly surrender to His work in me and through me. The lowest point for me was when after one major outburst, my Dad angrily said to me that he resented me for helping other people, because he felt that I did not love him or helped him. He said he was ashamed of me as his daughter. And my Mom kept throwing accusations at me, using Scripture about honoring my parents, that I behaved and treated my parents so badly by talking back to them, that I was disobedient to them and that other people who weren’t Christians were better than me. She expressed her many disappointments in me over the years and blamed my behavior on my faith in Jesus.
All these words were like daggers to my heart. I was utterly undone and broken inside and sitting in my weakness and pouring out my laments to Jesus. In my room, my private sanctuary, I cried out to God and laid down my burdens. I admitted defeat. I was without any solutions. I needed Jesus and His strength to carry me through this pain. I cried out to God in pain as I struggled to be secure in my identity as His child and felt persecuted for my faith by my own parents. Those verses in the Bible that tell of the world hating us because of Him were warnings and harsh truths I was facing. The beatitudes speak of how we are to bless and pray for those who persecute us…how can that be? Jesus’ commandments are not suggestions. They call us and challenge us to obedience. But how?
I was faced with the hard work of forgiveness. You know that passage in Matthew 18:22, when the disciples asked Jesus how many times we are supposed to forgive our brother who has wronged us? 70×7 times? Well, I have learned that lesson and the answer is infinite times. I felt in my spirit that for me to be in Christ, I am called to forgive my parents for as many times as they hurt me. Like literally every day there would be new things to forgive. So forgiving is a continual practice, a daily decision to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice we have to make. It takes intentionality and effort. As I bring my hurts to Jesus and lay them down one by one, I choose to forgive. Remembering Jesus’ words to the Father on the Cross…“forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” And only through the Cross can we know the power of forgiveness, because we receive it from God, so that we can extend it to others. This forgiveness is wiping the slate clean and not bringing it up again. Why do we forgive? We forgive because He has forgiven us of so much. How many times have I sinned against Him and am in need of new mercies everyday? He is full of love and grace and mercy and He is faithful to forgive when we confess our sins. Such is the way of Christ, and so we are called to forgive.
So at first, the forgiveness was out of obedience and reverence to God. It was not natural, as I was holding onto being right or being hurt and felt like I had a right to hold a grudge. But forgiveness is actually for the forgiver. It frees us from the burdens of holding all that pain inside. Unforgiveness is a poison that will kill us if we don’t let it go and give it to Jesus. But the more I practiced forgiving, it became easier and easier to do so. The key is consistency and choosing to forgive each time, specifically, and whether I feel like it or not. And this forgiveness is a step toward real healing and true transformation.
The beauty of this healing and transformation process is that it happens in authentic, Holy Spirit filled community. We are meant to live out our Christian faith in relationship, with God and with each other.
What did this healing process involve? Spending time with Abba and being in the Word daily, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in me from the inside out, with a posture of confessing my sins and then receiving His promises and blessings. It takes intentionally being vulnerable and transparent, sharing and asking for prayer from our church family. In addition, my sisters and I calendared weekly prayer calls, sharing, confessing and interceding for our family line, sometimes in tears. Or even quick SOS texts for real time prayers when things came up. It means having uncomfortable and heated family meetings around the kitchen table with my parents, hashing out our frustrations, sometimes yelling and crying and sometimes laughing it off. For my own sense of peace, I would take a few minutes during the day, walking around the outside of the house, singing and worshiping God with my playlist of music, and speaking and holding onto His truth and promises. I was not shy about reaching out to my trusted friends and mentors for prayer and encouragement. I intentionally participated in a Soul Care small group, where we identified and addressed sinful character traits and generational patterns. And how I cherish the advice from mentors and wise counselors on family dynamics. And the process included lots of self-care and having a positive mindset, by focusing on the love we do have for each other and being thankful for what God is doing. Through all these things working together and a heart turned towards God, I could see and feel the transformation.
More than anything, I saw my parent’s own brokenness and need for our loving Savior. And a miraculous thing happened in my heart…God gave me His heart for them. Because only His unfailing love is enough, because it never runs out. His love is sacrificial. His love brings real healing, that lasts. His love transforms us to be someone we are not. His love transforms us to be more like Him.
So after embracing my pain and choosing daily to forgive, I learned how to love and accept them as they are and to get out of the way and allow the Holy Spirit to do what only He can. He made a way towards love and peace.
I began to look for ways to bless my parents with the five love languages. My acts of service in the form of cleaning and organizing the cluttered garage was received well by my Mom. She appreciated my efforts to tackle the long “honey do list” of things around the house. I went out of my way to buy her the fruit trees that she longed to have in her garden, which was a Mother’s Day gift. With daily acts of kindness and gentleness in speech and action, I also began to feel more and more comfortable to live out my faith “in their midst,” being more visible and creating an open space for them to join me. On Sundays, I streamed the YouTube worship services on our TV in the living room so my family could join me if they wanted to. As my Mom cooked, she would half listen to the Cantonese worship service and could relate to the messages because they speak to her mother language. Because I am not fluent in Cantonese, I would listen intently and tried singing along to the songs, asking her for help on words I did not know. It was a bridge for us to talk about God and what we were all going through. She saw familiar faces and families sharing how they were all coping with the lockdown and even sharing positive reactions and encouragement. Week after week, it has gotten more comfortable and now my Mom and I can sit through a Sunday morning service in our home and listen and worship together. It feels natural and has become part of our weekend routine.
Now there is more understanding and trust and mutual respect. It is still a huge struggle to communicate and work out our differences, but there is hope and I am trusting the process. I know God has made a way and has used this lockdown for me to work on my relationship with my parents and to do a deeper healing in our family.
Four months ago, if you told me that I would have a better relationship with my parents, I would have not believed it was possible. I would have said it’s just too hard with too many hurts and pain to go through. But our God is the God of the impossible. It IS hard work and it will even bring us to our knees, but that is what Jesus showed us. He showed us how to bear the pain and see the way through it, which brings victory. And He promises He will never leave us or forsake us. He is with us through all of it.
Having gone through these last 4 months, I am aware we still have a long way to go. But this is just the beginning of the restoration of our family. Sometimes you have to tear things down before you can rebuild. I am humbled and so very grateful that I did not miss this opportunity to experience His healing and transformation. I know Jesus is the author and perfecter of my faith and He will bring it to completion. I know His heart is for my entire family to know Him. And He will fulfill it in His time.