Lately, I've been having conversations with people about what I see myself doing after school. For some reason, I've been giving the same cookie-cutter answer: 'I don't know'. It's not that I'm very secretive about what I hope to do after school, it's that I really don't know!! Hopefully my lame-o answers haven't annoyed people, but the more I say the same thing, the more I annoy myself. When I keep saying the same things, I keep wondering if I'm avoiding something. Today, I found myself pondering this at the cafe, and I think I've perhaps arrived somewhere.
As I began thinking about my post-school plans and the lack of certainty, I realized that I'm still wrestling with things that have been on my mind for the past 2 1/2 years. The issue? Is my place to be in an ethnic-specific context, or a multi-ethnic context? As of right now, not only am I divided on the issue, but the more I think about it, the more torn I become. Here's my dilemma.
For the longest time, I've been part of a Chinese in Detroit. I started out as a punk kid in the youth group, causing havoc and being stupid. Over a 10 year period, I went from a kid in the group to going on staff and being the youth director for 2 1/2 years. During this time, I saw everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly of this thing we call a church. While on staff, not only did I learn a lot, but started wondering about why this church does what it does. Why is it only focusing on the Chinese people in the Detroit area? Aren't the people who live across the street from the church our neighbors as well? All the while, I found my awareness and passion for the area of social justice growing tremendously to the point where I realized that summer trips to impoverished areas and checks to social organizations just wasn't cutting it for me. With the combination of feeling inadequate as a 'leader figure' and wondering whether or not this 'calling' to be in vocational church stuff is for me, I venture off to Canada to get my bearing. Little did I know that along with learning a lot about myself and this Kingdom we're part of, I'd also end up with more questions and frustrations than before.
Since I've been here, I've gone through rejection, disillusionment, anger, frustration, exuberance, self-revelation, denial, triumph and peace all in a span of 2 1/2 years. In my experience, I've discovered that the church is a cold, cold place. From my semester spent in rez at Tyndale to the different churches I visited, I can't remember the last time I've ever felt so alone, ignored, and marginalized. Although it was a painful time, I've come to the realization that going through this has only made me more passionate about creating a community that is inclusive. It's so easy to live in selective community, where we choose who we're close to, but it's hard to love those who are different from you. Even at my time at the FRWY, I've found myself becoming someone that I used to hate with a passion. I remember one particular gathering where a whole group of 'noobs' visited the FRWY. Instead of introducing myself and getting to know them, I chose to stay in my circle and stick with the people I knew. As I think back at this time, I realized how easy it is to hate being left out, but when you're part of something, how natural exclusivity comes to a jerk face like me.
Something else I've learned about myself over these last 2 1/2 years in Canada is what my 'voice' sounds like. For the longest time, I found myself doing things for the sake of pleasing and impressing others, instead of trying to discover who God has intended me to be and what part my voice is to play in this Holy symphony. As I've learned more about how God has wired me and the things that make me tick, I find myself venturing in a different direction than the Chinese church I grew up with. Being immersed in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society, I feel that my being involved with an ethnic-specific community flows against the grain of my heart. At the same time, am I turning my back on my own cultural heritage? It's easy to scream at the top of my lungs when I'm surrounded by others who are singing the same song, but if I'm a lone voice singing a different tune, is this where I'm supposed to be? I feel the Chinese church that I remember is focusing on the immigrant population in North America and dropping the ball when it comes to being culturally relevant to future generations. In seeing this and feeling this way, is my responsibility to be a voice to a generation that is turning it's back on the Chinese church? I believe that when I learn God's response to this question, I'll have a better idea as to what the future has in store for me. Until then, I welcome the input of others as well as any prayers you could spare.