กล้า – the kid, pt. 3

“He looked up and with his dying breath, he asked, ‘Is this what it feels like to love?'”

I was a different man when we first met.

It fascinates me, the things you do when you’re in pain. The thoughts you think, the things you feel, the person you become. For me, I turned into a monster. Why did you have to do that to me? If you didn’t, you might not have had to see my worst side.

I was a different man. But so were you.

The man you met was never enough for you. Not just never enough, but shameful. Unwanted. Mai Ow.

I still remember your charcoal-tinted hands you used to wave me off in dismissal after failing your persistent pop quizzes of patience. I remember the missing finger you used to point at me in disgust, as if I was one of the cat-piss stains you never bothered to clean up. Or your blackened palms, still soiled from the previous day. Some stains don’t wash off, I suppose.

I remember your cloudy eyes, that icy-cold glare you cast on me whenever I made a mistake. Eyes that saw me as a useless screw-up, a lost cause. Eyes that could only see my ugliness. You were a cripple but in your eyes, I was below you. Even as we parted ways, your cloudy eyes followed me still.

After a while, I stopped asking “What did I do wrong?” and started asking “What was wrong with me?”. I figured that you asked that same question yourself.

In my storybook, I called you my long-lost childhood oppressor, my forgotten persecutor.

And so we met again.

The Trek never ended for me. The demons followed me home.

It was easy to blend in with the locals because I could pass off as Thai but I didn’t have to look very deep to know that I did not belong here. I became hyperaware of the fact that I was an outsider.

Then I came “home”.
But as soon as I got back, I immediately noticed something felt wrong. Dangerously wrong. An unsettling, slow-burning frenzy was simmering inside me.

I thought it was all over but I realized that even as I returned to my family and loved ones, I still felt like a stranger. A foreigner to my own people. Blending in, yet out of place.

Even as I arrived in my native land, I still felt like a farang. Lost. Looking for directions.

So I ran away. A lot.

I skipped class, I skipped meals… I skipped a lot of things in life. I escaped to faraway cities and mirages of home. I ran to relationships and people, illusions of love, only to run the opposite direction. I ran to my memories, even memories of you. At least that pain was familiar.

I ran away from my best friends because I could not confront the prospect that even in a place I called home, I did not belong.

Maybe you were right. Maybe I don’t belong anywhere because I’m a mistake in this world anyways. A stain.

Maybe I’ll always be a farang.

Why didn’t I just leave?

When the centipede mauled my leg and sent me hobbling to the hospital, why didn’t I leave? That was my chance to bail, the most compelling reason I could present to my leaders.

I thought about that as the nurses injected dose after dose of anesthetics into my leg in the emergency room.

This is my opportunity. I could quietly exit from your life before you kicked me out yourself. I could leave before I saw the person you could become. But I didn’t.

Was it really worth it?

I asked that every time I felt a piece of myself die. When you hounded me continuously with your scathing mockery, I asked myself, was it really worth it? When you compared me to Geng, I asked myself, was it really worth it?

When you robbed me of my dignity,
When you called me stupid,
When you kicked me out of your house,
When debilitating bouts of depression highjacked my life,
When I picked up the phone to call in for professional help,
When I would shake in my bed because the loneliness kept me up at night,
When I fantasized about buying a pocketknife because my roommates’ scissors were not sharp enough,

I asked myself, was it really worth it?

I remember writing in my journal, “Is this what it feels like to die?”

I did not know how to live anymore. I had nothing.

After a while, I stopped praying for you. God tells us to pray for our persecutors but that sort of prayer escaped my understanding. It hurt too much and I had enough blood to clean up, so I stopped doing it.

I’m a different man now than when we first met.

I became a stranger, even to myself. I wonder if you would have even recognized me.

I’ve been through so much. I came back from Thailand with my heart shattered and it has been a patient, arduous process of picking up the shards. Sometimes, I’d accidentally cut myself, drop a couple pieces, and start over again. Jesus is helping me piece everything back together but it’s like building a house of cards. One wrong move.

After a while, we started to get the hang of it. I became more and more comfortable with the person I was becoming. Even if it missed some pieces from the person before all this.

Months passed and life gradually became more livable.

Waking up in the morning became more of the thing I actually wanted to do.

Those were some of the darkest times of my life but despite all that, I met the slow-moving God.

And she was beautiful.

Last week, I prayed for you for the first time in months.

I was sitting in a coffeeshop, my mind adrift in a state of caffeinated rumination. I started journaling about my loneliness, giving language to some of the painful thoughts that still echoed in my mind every now and then.

“I am alone.
I am too slow. People have left me behind. Abandoned me.”

I paused.

Then added, “– said an elderly, yet childish Thai man living in Bang Na.

I paused again.

“Oh look. We have matching scars. Who would have ever thought.”

And just like that, you made your rudely unwelcome cameo back into my life.

What are you doing here?

I felt my heart pick up its pace. And it was not the caffeine.

Months ago, I purposefully removed our group picture from my desktop slideshow but this was no photographic memory to forget. Mental images flooded my thought space like pop-up spam.

But something was… off-center.

You didn’t look the same.

I saw your charcoal-tinted hands.
Hardened from years of playing with fire and getting burned. Your missing finger, still itching you as if a cruel joke from the gods to remind you of the people who are now nothing but phantom limbs in your life. I saw your stained hands, dressed with thickened skin as calloused as your heart.

I wondered how much pain it took to kill a nerve.

I saw your cloudy eyes.
The bags under your eyes drooped, tired from the cold, sleepless nights. Cold, from the vacant spot left next to you in your bed. Cold, from the vacant space in your soul carved out by the woman who left you. No degree of tropical heat could remove the chill that made your heart shiver each night.

I wondered which kept you up at night more, the sleep apnea or the loneliness.

I saw your hunched-over posture, carefully balanced over disabled, crossed legs. I thought about the distance I’ve covered trying to escape life and how stuck you must feel. I thought about how even as one is crippled, his heart can run so far.

It gently nudged me, in the moment, the reason why I didn’t leave you, even when I could. Because enough people had left you already. Because you had seen far more untimely goodbyes than any human heart should ever see. So I stayed, even if that meant giving you the upper-hand to disown me when the end came.

I wanted you to meet the slow-moving God that I met in your home country who waited for me. I wanted you to know that there’s someone out there who will never leave you behind.

You didn’t change. My vision did.
I didn’t see a different man, I saw a man differently.

I saw a man who pulled people in because he wanted them so desperately, but pushed them away when he needed them the most. A man who asked for visitors to keep him company and numb the loneliness for a brief summer, only to abuse them. A man who being a farang in his own home was his reality.

I didn’t just see a man who hurt, but a hurt man.

I’m a different man now than when we first met.

Because you changed me.

I’m the man you were supposed to meet in the summer, the man who loves you.

I know you will never hear me say this but,
I forgive you, Daa.

This is the conversation I wish we could have had before we said goodbye.

Six months and twelve days after I leave Thailand, I can finally say that the Trek is over. The last order of unfinished business.

I can see gold streaks tracing my scars.

I can see that all this time, God had been performing the art of kintsugi on my soul.

So to the man who ruined my life,
to the man who murdered the Kid,

It’s okay.

Mai Bpen Rai.

Phra Chao Way Pon,
กล้า

“Forgiveness is like a dying man breathing his last and finding the face of God.”

Read the Kid, part one and part two.

bare minimum

Part-time student. What time does class start again? Do I even want to go to class?  Your Krispy Kreme donuts got nothing on my glazed eyes. Like, look through the glass because they’re supposed to be windows right? I don’t know. I’m there but the professor still notices my absence. So much for perfect attendance. She moves closer to me and tries to get my attention, channeling her lecture entirely in my direction. She thinks I’m suspect. Great. This again. I’m kind of skimming the textbook, I suppose. I am only enrolled in two classes. Just gotta go to school twice a week. I can do this. Wait. I don’t even know anymore. Can I even do that?

Bare minimum.

I swear I’m not voting for Trump but.. we all build walls, right? My bricks just tend to be invisible. I build them up and tear them back down, like Lego blocks. What am I doing. Where are my friends? Do I have any friends? Of course I do. Get away from me. What am I doing. I should at least show up. Or text you. Pray for you? Mm… Hang out. You know. Friend things. Can I even do that?

Bare minimum.

At least I did it, right? People showed up. I made it happen. Check. Rinse and repeat. But what about praying for them? Do I even vision for them? What does God want to do in their lives? What about the friendship outside of a structured meeting? It’s okay, at least we got the job done, right? Wait. Can I even do that?

Bare minimum.

Oops. I’m so sorry. This isn’t relationship, this is damage control. Maybe if we buy more buckets, the leak will stop. “I’m sorry”. I’m hurting you. I just need to try harder because you’re doing a stellar job so it’s on me. Wait. Can I even do that?

Bare minimum.

Shut up, damn phone. Waking up is perhaps the biggest victory of the day because it is the first. Some days, I don’t want to. I pull my covers over my head in an attempt to pretend that it is still nighttime. The light of a new day doesn’t have quite the same effect anymore. My body aches but my soul aches more. Maybe I can go back into that dream. Maybe I can… No. I need to get up. Just gotta roll out of bed. Roll back into life. Can I even do that?

Bare minimum.

Holy shit. We did it. It’s meal time. “Gin Kao!“, I hear him grumble. We scooch our butts a couple feet to the left into the kitchen, grab our charcoal-stained bowls, swat away the flies still feeding on the grub stuck to our dirty utensils from breakfast, and scooch back into the dining room. As he takes the first bite, we hastily mutter a quick prayer under our breaths before joining him. Alright. We just gotta get through dinner. Heavy breathing. We’re in a minefield. One wrong move. I’m already on his bad side. Eat faster. But wait, what about learning how to love him? What about sharing life with him? Asking him how his day was? I don’t even know anymore. Can I even do that?

Bare minimum.

Oh my god. Damn roosters won’t shut up. Please. It’s still dark outside. You have ONE JOB. No, no please, not the radio… My body aches as I roll around in an attempt to find a slightly less painful position on my concrete mattress. My forearm feels like a research paper written in braille. How. How did they get inside our mosquito net again? Did I even sleep? I don’t want to get up. Another day of suffering. Days are longer here. Maybe it’s the gravity. Okay, just gotta get through breakfast. Just four more days until Sabbath. Can I even make it?

Bare minimum.

Okay, just a few more hours until nighttime and I’ll be able to take refuge in my room. Maybe if I just sit in that corner of the dining hall, no one will notice me. Make sure to face that way. Hmm, if I watch three 45-minute episodes, I’ll make it through the evening and I can go to bed right after. Two more days until the weekend. Can I even do that?

Bare minimum.

Life. What are its prerequisites? Maybe if I can just get a C.
How many more days? Months? Years? How much more death before new life? How little manna do I need to pack to survive another day in the wilderness?

Bare minimum.

 

 

Why am I here?

Bare. Minimum.

stone the prophet

God uses those whom we hate the most to teach us how to love.

 

Who do you think has nothing to teach you about God?
Drug addicts? Prostitutes? Atheists? Dear God, the Liberals? Your own family? Baby Christians?

It is no surprise that Jesus used a poor, Samaritan, promiscuous woman to teach his ethnically-prideful posse of Jewish men how to be a missionary. It is no surprise that the Spirit sent Peter into the hands of his Roman oppressor to show him that even his oppressors were invited into the Kingdom. It is no surprise that God sent Jonah to the city of Nineveh, for the Ninevites, of all people, had something to teach him about the depth of God’s heart.

He could have used a witty parable but he didn’t. He could have invited a critically-acclaimed megachurch pastor with a riveting sermon and fancy powerpoint slides. But he didn’t.

 

They’ve stripped me of my dignity. Beaten, broken, and marred. They disowned me so I responded in kind. I ran and ran. Not looking back. I can’t. But I was eaten alive. I crawled upon the shores of which the sands were all too familiar. You’re meaning to tell me that I am to learn from the one who dealt me my deepest scars? What could he possibly teach me?

 

If we follow Jesus, we must pass the mic to those we assume have nothing to teach us about Him. To those whom we refuse to believe have the authority to do so. To those whom we have learned to tune out. We need to give them permission to speak truth into our hearts. We need to believe that they have just as much Jesus to offer us as our beloved, hip youth pastors.

Where is your Samaria? Where is your Nineveh? Whom have you forgotten how to love? Go. Go to them, for that is our mission.

 

“The delivery of the message must be as good as the message itself.”