Singleness

Let me talk about singleness.
 
I am 29 years old, and I am single. I have been single my whole life. I have gone on dates here and there, but have never had a girlfriend, never had a romantic relationship. There’s several reasons for that: emphasis on school, career, and personal development; inconvenient timing; fear of rejection; lies I told myself that I was unattractive and undesirable (never underestimate the power of negative thinking).
 
Singleness has been tough at times. I’ve definitely experienced my share of loneliness. But I’ve also been glad for it. I’ve learned how to be content with life by myself. I remember seeing my friends in college who had a really hard time with singleness. They saw the status of “single” as a commentary on their worthiness as people. To be single was to be unloved. It was really tough for them.
 
Yes, I would like to get married at some point. The married couples are able to do so much more together as a team than they could as individuals. Marriage is not just about satisfying one’s own emotional need for companionship, but about finding someone with whom to explore and share and shape the world. Plus, I would like for people to stop asking me “When are you getting married?” all the time. But as I’ve written before, I don’t think my life’s fulfillment and happiness is contingent upon marriage.
 
I remember this quote: “Some of the most loving, joyful, and compassionate people I know are single, while some of the most shriveled, dried-up, lonely people I know are married.” Marriage is not a panacea for loneliness. Marriage cannot replace all other relationships. That’s why I appreciate many of the marriages I see; the marriage relationship takes center stage in my friends’ lives, but doesn’t eclipse other friendships and connections.
 
As my friend Isaac Kim said, “How can I use this unique season of singleness to grow as a person of faith, character, and wisdom?” Maybe, like Isaac, I will get married. Maybe I won’t. But in either case, I would do well to grow in these attributes.

642 Tiny Things to Write About. #1: To Tweet, or not to Tweet.

The eminently thoughtful Suky Longfield gave me a book, “642 Tiny Things to Write About” from the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. I’ll regularly post the prompt here. Feel free to contribute!

#1 “Boil down Hamlet, Shakespeare’s longest play, to a tweet (140 characters).”

I read Hamlet in high school, so it’s been a while. Here goes (spoiler alert):

“Boy meets ghost of father. Boy vows to avenge father. Boy makes speeches. Palace intrigue! More speeches. Girl goes insane. Everyone dies.”

David the King, David the Rapist(?)

Was King David a rapist?
 
David was the second king of ancient Israel. He was known for his military prowess. He was also a poet; many of the poems of the Book of Psalms are attributed to him. He was called “a man after God’s own heart”.
 
One night, he was walking on his palace roof and saw Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers, bathing in the evening. Desiring after her, he called her to him and slept with her. When she became pregnant, he tried to convince her husband, Uriah, to sleep with her, to cover up the adultery. But Uriah was on active duty, and remained faithful to the ancient kingdom rule of remaining with the troops rather than sleeping in his own bed. In the end, David conspired to have Uriah killed, and then married Bathsheba.
 
Clearly, David committed adultery by sleeping with another man’s wife. But was he a rapist? Historically, rape laws contained the elements of sexual penetration, force, and lack of consent. Did Bathsheba consent to their encounter? What does consent look like when the one asking is the king? Did David coerce Bathsheba, through either threat of physical violence or economic pressure? What if this were a modern context, and the CEO of a company pressured the wife of one of his employees to have sex with him?
 
We don’t have enough information to determine if David committed rape, mostly because we don’t have much information about Bathsheba’s response. How would it change our image of him if he did?
 
What’s also noteworthy is how David escaped the typical consequences of adultery. Under the laws of Leviticus, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” But that did not happen. Neither David nor Bathsheba were put to death. The son of their adultery was born very sick, and died after only a few days. David would marry Bathsheba, and she would give birth to another son, Solomon, who would become the next king; Jesus came from his lineage. The fact that David was not punished according to the Levitical law speaks to how powerful people shield themselves from the law (if the tables were turned and Uriah had slept with one of David’s wives, he would have been killed immediately). But the story of Solomon and of his descendant Jesus speaks to how God can bring restoration into the deepest brokenness (although King Solomon had his own problems).
 
And let us not forget that it was the prophet Nathan who confronted David about his actions. Nathan reminds us to speak truth to power, to take a stand against powerful interests. David was not willing to recognize his sin, but Nathan forced David to reckon with what he had done. Nathan was probably not the only one who knew what happened, but he was the only one willing to rebuke David.

Moses the Prophet, Moses the Murderer

Was Moses the Prophet a murderer?
 
The story of Moses from the biblical book of Exodus is the story of a man born into slavery, rescued from genocide, and raised by royalty, who became the unlikely champion of liberty and freedom for his people.
 
The story of Moses is also the story of a man who killed a fellow human being and fled from justice. Moses was not acting in self-defense or by accident. He deliberately acted to end another person’s life. But it was the escape from punishment that led Moses away from Egypt and into an encounter with God.
 
So Moses was a murderer. But Moses was also a prophet, a teacher, a poet, and a judge. He was also a husband and a father. The story of Moses did not end with his crime. He is not marked by the worst thing that he had ever done. He is remembered as more than just a murderer.

Paul the Apostle, Paul the Terrorist

Was Paul the Apostle a terrorist?
 
Paul (also known as Saul) was a Jewish man from the first century from the city of Tarsus. He was a learned man, trained under the prominent rabbi Gamaliel. He was zealous for God, and transformed that zeal into an intense campaign of fear against Christians. By his own account, he heavily persecuted Christians. He threw Christians in prison and even condemned them to death. He used violence as a way to intimidate Christians and stamp out their religious movement. But in the end, Paul was converted to the Christian faith through a dramatic conversion experience on the road to Damascus.
 
But regardless of whether Paul can be described as a terrorist or something else, he must have carried the heavy weight of his past life. When Paul closed his eyes to pray, did he see flash before him the faces of all the people that he killed? When Paul lifted his voice to sing, did he sing the same songs that he heard the Christians sing as he sent them off to prison? It’s one thing to seek forgiveness from God for sins that only affect you. It’s another to ask forgiveness from a community that you have actively sought to destroy. I find it remarkable that the words of Paul, who once savage attacked the Christian faith, now hold a place of great honor and esteem by Christians throughout the world. Paul’s story teaches us the power of forgiveness, and that God does not define a person by the worst thing they have ever done.

From refugees

My grandparents were refugees.
 
When the Korean War broke out in 1950, my paternal grandparents were living in what is now North Korea, north of the 38th parallel. As the war raged around them, they had to flee their homes. My dad told me that my grandmother got on one of the last U.S. military boats to leave her hometown, before the North Korean military (with its Chinese and Russian supporters) took over. My grandparents fled to the southern port city of Pusan, which is where they met, and where my dad was born. We still have family members in North Korea, although we haven’t seen them or talked to them in decades. We don’t even if know if they are still alive. My grandmother doesn’t really like to talk about it.
 
There’s been a lot of talk about refugees lately. It seems like a lot of people are afraid. Some people are afraid that they will never get to see family members who are trying to make it here from distant countries. Some people are afraid that they will not be able to continue their careers or their education because of travel bans. Others are afraid for the safety and security of their communities. Still others are afraid that the country is changing so quickly that there isn’t a place for them.
 
Truth be told, when word of the President’s executive order first came out, I felt distant from what was happening. When I think of a refugee from Syria, I think of someone who looks pretty different from myself. In all honesty, that difference makes compassion for the Syrian refugee less immediate and less quick. I confess that I don’t feel that tenderheartedness as readily as I would want. But then I think about my grandmother, my strong-hearted, deep rooted, monumentally loving halmoni (할머니). I think about her standing by the ocean, shivering in the cold, with not even enough time to think about all the family and friends she was leaving behind. I think about her, and I see her in the refugee from Syria.
 
After the election last November, I wrote that you can’t tell people what to feel. Some people felt happy, some felt outraged, some felt deeply disappointed. People will feel different ways. You can’t tell people that they shouldn’t feel afraid. Now, you can question the beliefs and concepts that underlie their feelings. You can question whether a temporary ban on refugees makes the country safer in a tangible way, or whether the current vetting process for refugees needs modification, or whether the President’s executive order should have undergone greater scrutiny and review.
 
But I hope, regardless of people’s policy views and preferences regarding immigration, national security, and humanitarian relief, that we can see ourselves and our loved ones in the people who are fleeing war, destruction, and devastation. I hope that we can be honest when compassion doesn’t come easily, and to earnestly desire that our hearts expand to embrace those who are different than us. If nothing else, that is my hope for myself.

And now, some weird insults

Sometimes I post thoughts on Facebook that I hope are informative, useful, or interesting.
 
Sometimes, I just want to be silly.
 
I’ve been experiencing some tension for the last few weeks, both from work and from what’s going on in the world. So, in order to blow off some steam, I’m going to try posting some weird insults.
 
1) “You are an Udon Quixote, a knight of noodle-like composition, a bowl of rich broth in a tin cup of armor.”
 
2) “Get away, you Orange Julius Caesar, you monarch of tacky mall fashions and overpriced sugar water!”
 
3) “Man, you are such a (Les Miserables, by the French novelist Victor Hugo) creep!”
 
4) “Did I ever tell you that you are a golden salamander of dignity? Truly, your amphibian nature of spellbinding obsession knows no bounds.”
 
5) “You are as foul as you are undercooked. And you are as stupid as you are fungible.”
 
6) “I can’t even with you. I can’t odd with you. I can’t irrational numbers with you. And I certainly can’t Fibonacci sequence with you.”
 
7) “Is this really the best you could do? You definitely are an amateur-de-force.”
 
8) “Did you just eat Indian food? Because you’re spouting naan-sense right now”. (No offense, folks from India. Naan is delicious and we should all eat some, except for gluten free folks).
 
9) “How can I put this…The Hunchback of Notre Damn, you really are an idiot.” (What’s with all the Victor Hugo references?)
 
10) “My word, you are a pain in the Aslan, True King of Narnia.”
 
11) “You felonious donkey of privilege! You abstract daddy of bad techno music! You harmonious puncture wound of serenity! You ingenious Aquarius of insistent rage! Blast you and your bewitched barnacles of Barry Goldwater! Bless your heart.”