What would characterize a uniquely Asian American worship or preaching experience? Does such a thing even exist? asks David Park over at Next Gener.Asian Church.
It seems that, in order to answer this question, we must first begin with the primary issue of our identity, to know deeply what it means to be created as Asian Americans in the image of God. The “neither/nor” struggle — not being fully Asian nor fully American in our identity — has led to shame, rebellion and self-hatred. Because many of us have wandered through this fog for twenty, thirty, forty years, the quest to discover our God-given identity is not easily or quickly resolved. We need the Holy Spirit to repair, heal, restore and redeem the mess that we are.
Perhaps the process of forming a truly Asian American identity won’t begin until the next generation. When I look at our daughter and the life experiences she’s had in her four and a half years, I realize that the world hasn’t changed that much since I was her age. Still the same old questions like “No, where are you really from?” However, since my wife and I have walked this path ourselves, we know how important it is for our daughter to form that deep sense of God-given identity as an Asian American. As her primary spiritual mentors, we want to help our daughter follow Jesus as God created her — an Asian American girl.
Unfortunately, in my church experience, talking about a “long view” of things usually means five or ten years. We want results and we want them yesterday.
I heard a really powerful story from Richard Twiss about taking a truly long view of things. He said that it might take seven generations for First Nations families to recover from the horrors they have endured. Many First Nations children were forcibly removed from their homes and forced to live in boarding schools in which they were physically punished for speaking their native language, and many were physically, emotionally and sexually abused — all in the name of assimilating these children into white American culture. In the face of such trauma, often in the name of “Christianity,” the long view recognizes that it will take generations to heal and restore that which has been broken.
When the pressure is on to “fix” everything right now, we end up basically throwing tons of stuff against the wall and waiting to see what sticks. However, the process can be utterly disheartening. Perhaps it would benefit us, as Asian American followers of Christ, to take a truly long view of our identity formation. This path requires a much broader trust in God; after all, we won’t even be around to see the results. So, as we seek God for healing and restoration of our own identities as Asian Americans, may we also forge a new way forward for our children.