We all feel loved in different ways, and for me, being known is high on the list. Though encouraged to bring “all of my Asian-ness to the table” and to “be myself,” there weren’t enough Asians at InterVarsity’s National Service Center for others to notice my “Asian-ness” let alone know that aspect of me. Non-Asians of course are not going to pick up necessarily on my “Asian” cues. But it was in this season that God showed me startlingly that I was indeed known. He knew me, and for me, to know me is to love me. After all these years, two things stick out to me—the feeling after my brother died of God tenderly tucking me in at night, night after night. And this story below from Urbana…
I wrote this in 2002:
A couple years ago, I was working on large convention called Urbana. It’s a Christian one that gathers college students from 111 countries at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. That’s why it’s called “Urbana.” And it’s huge. 20,000 show up to hear about God’s heart for the world. And since I had just spent the last 2+ years working on it, I was excited to see it come together.
5 months before the convention, my family experienced a horrible tragedy. My brother who was a University of Illinois student at the time, got into this fatal accident. It happened literally blocks away from where the convention site, and I found myself dreading the return to Urbana, Illinois for the actual convention. My hotel was on the same street of my brother’s accident. I didn’t want to go. But I couldn’t get out of it. The best my supervisors could do was drastically to cut my hours and responsibilities onsite. While most worked 16-20 hours a day, I was working 3. All my Urbana friends, were working long hours and crazy busy, and this left me with way too much time alone and way too much time to think. I felt alone and increasingly angry. Here I was, at a convention I worked long and hard for, a convention I gave the last bit of my life for, and here I was not really working the convention at all. Of all the weird freaky coincidences to happen, why did this have to happen to me? It didn’t feel fair that I was having a very different Urbana experience from everyone else. Everyone was jubilant and excessively happy, and I was having a very opposite experience…I was on the verge of tears and I wondered if anyone cared or if God cared.
And you know what? God cares. In the midst of calling a generation of students to love the world, God cares about me, who is relatively little. I felt alone, and God provided for me some of my dearest friends to take care of me. And though I love them dearly and I know they love me, they weren’t exactly the people I thought God would use to come along side me. 5 of these ladies were in medical school at the time, and really not that easy to get a hold of. But they were the perfect little support group for me! They were old friends from college I’ve kept up with, who know me and know where I’ve been…so I wouldn’t need to share with them any background or explain why I was in such a fragile state. I was so loved by them, and I felt so known and loved by God. I wasn’t alone.
As for my anger, that took another year to deal with…but a significant step happened at Urbana. One of my little jobs at Urbana was to work at prayer ministry seminar on forgiveness. I wasn’t need the whole time, so I sat down and listened to the speaker. She was calling people to forgive anyone who had hurt them. I was still so angry, and I knew there was probably someone I needed to forgive. But before the seminar, I had already forgiven everyone I could think of and no one came to mind. So, I racked my brain, thinking that there must have been someone I forgotten. And then I asked God, “So, who have I forgotten?” And I hear this little voice: “Me.” “Who?” “Me, you haven’t forgiven me.” And that puzzled me. Am I hearing right? Why would I have to forgive God, who is perfect and righteous and just…and sure, every now and then I thought God was bonkers or a little mean…but isn’t that my sin? Wouldn’t I have to ask his forgiveness for that? And in the midst of that, I felt like God was saying to let him have it. That he was a big God and he could take the most massive rock I wanted to throw at him. And I started asking God what that could be… to probe deep down in my very being…I realized what I had been bothering me all along…what was probably obvious to everyone else but me. And as I crumbled into a ball of tears, I whispered to God: “You killed my brother.”
The next day, I was sitting with my friends in the main session with 20,000 hyperactive students, and I heard God’s reply. I didn’t expect it so soon and it wasn’t a reply I would have thought of, but it touched me deeply in a way I didn’t know I needed. “I loved your brother, Grace.” I didn’t even know I needed to hear God tell me that. And something turned for me at that moment. It’s almost as if I had been mad at God, though I was next to him and talking to him, my body was sideways and my face was looking everywhere but him. And in hearing God say that, it enabled me to turn towards God, face him, and see him.
2013: A photo accompanies this story, a photo of these dear friends, and I just realized who took it. My current husband did and was also one of these friends who cared for me this Urbana so many years ago.