I remember sitting on your lap as a child. Our living room was filled with the scent of curry, spice, and summer. The windows were wide open, and the neighbors knew the sound from our floorboards on a Friday night meant worship was happening. I sat on your lap well past the necessary age because being close to your skin felt safest. On Friday evenings, the world would gather in our home. You invited everyone in. You picked up a blind woman from a street corner once, African refugees, and Chinese students that didn’t know any English. You never hesitated to welcome in a stranger, an outcast, a misfit, a non-English speaking foreigner, a wanderer, a person of light, brown, or Black skin. Everyone was equal. In your eyes, everyone needed Jesus.
I remember sitting in our living room while the drums shook our old farmhouse to the bone. I could feel the beat from the bounce of your leg. I could feel it in my heart. All the accents sang the same words. It made me feel alive. At the bridge of the song, “Welcome to the Family,” the worship leader invited us all to stand up, sing, and greet each other. This was my favorite part. The seventy people crammed into our living room stood and embraced each other. I climbed over couches and folding chairs to extend my arms to strangers who happened to stop by for a meal and worship and to learn who this Jesus person was. Each person needing a home. I was so happy. I couldn’t stop smiling. The drums never stopped pounding until every single person was welcomed.
I remember sitting on your bed for our daily discussions. You would sip your tea. I’d tell you about my day. You would look at me and marvel, “You are so beautiful. Your skin is the perfect color.” I’d jump off your bed and look at my reflection and smile. I was beautiful. Not because I knew what the measure of beauty was, but because you thought I was, so it must be true.
Mom, I remember the way you sat beside me when the day was done. You would stroke my dark hair down my back and sing hymns, songs, and lullabies as I fell asleep.
You’ve always sat beside me. You are white. I am brown. Your skin burns in the sun; mine only darkens. I wonder if the way through the clash of cultures, race, and cancelation comes when we sit beside one another as you’ve sat beside me all these years. I wonder if moving forward starts when we make space for being wrong.
Perhaps the way you’ve modeled love to me can give hope to our hurting world. You loved in a generous, selfless, and jaw-dropping way. You love in extraordinary ways. You gracefully clawed against cultural norms and created a God-culture in our home. Maybe that’s what heals all the pain — extraordinary love. The kind of extraordinary love that sees the difference but doesn’t make the difference hiccup, hesitate, hold up, or hold back. The kind of extraordinary love that laid down His life for a world that whipped Him instead of worshipped Him.
Mom, I know you are lamenting the political climate right now. I know you are hurting for the unborn. I know you are anxious about the future. I know you cringe at the hate crimes against your Asian sisters. I see your pain. My pain doesn’t diminish yours. Your pain doesn’t diminish mine. Listen to mine, and I’ll listen to yours. This is only possible because Christ’s arms are wide enough to receive all our pain. His arms were pinned and pulled wide as a way to take on all our hate, hurt, and hidden pain. His love is large enough to hold all the horrible sadness. By His wounds, we are healed. By our wounds, He heals us.
Lament is a love song. Sometimes the love song can sound like a banging drum, heavy metal hate, or fragile violin strings. But we must lament. There is space for us both to fall apart. There is space for me to sing my own sad song. At the feet of Christ, I can cry out for my children, and my soft wounds still fresh from harsh words spoken. My grief is split open with a gunshot. We grieve into our loss. We grieve into our shattered stories. We grieve into our sad storm. We grieve into Jesus. Our grief is heard. Our grief is safe. Our healing comes when we hear God’s love song over us; Christ sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17).
I’ve pondered deeply how change can happen. I don’t toss out trite ideas, but I am throwing every hope of the possibility of change on the back of Jesus. Hope in our splitting world will require an extraordinary kind of love. The kind of ordinary love that you, my white mom, have shown me. The kind of extraordinary love that forgives the unforgivable, a love that reaches out a hand to those who are different from us, a love that bends into what feels uncomfortable. An extraordinary kind of love that listens to our lament songs, then has the incredible audacity to sing along with us.
Your Asian-American daughter
In the end, this letter isn’t just for my mom. It is for all of us — a letter of hope and a way forward for those who belong to the family of God. There is no way without the extraordinary love and sacrifice of Jesus. There is no way without extending extraordinary love to each other. So even when we sing our lament songs off-key and imperfectly, we keep singing. We heal when we hear God’s love song over us, His beloved children. In His perfect love and grace, He alone can create harmony out of our dissonance.
Dear sister in Christ, what are you grieving today? How do you see God healing you? In what ways can you offer extraordinary, irrational, over-the-top, undeserved love to another today?Leave a Comment