By Elizabeth Chang
As though studying Marriage and Family Therapy does not provide enough opportunities and perspectives from which to develop my sense of identity and self-awareness, I decided to venture down from Seattle to Pasadena for the Asian American Equipping Symposium. This year, the theme of the symposium was Healing of Memories: Living Out the Gospel.
While I was listening to Annie Tsai share personal insight on the cultural values that influenced the formation of her identity—self-value based on achievement, connections to others, and replication of the [cultural] system—I could not help but think that the Asian American experience of identity formation is probably not far removed from the experience of all people. Do not all humans fear inadequacy, abandonment, and rejection? But the content and context of those fears is perhaps what makes our Asian American experience unique.
I am a second-generation Korean-American, born and raised in New York City, now living in Seattle, and my faith journey began during the eighteen years I was a part of a Korean immigrant church in Queens. During my time there, I watched as several youth pastors came and left after a year or two, and observed the “silent exodus” of the second-generation shift into several failed attempts to recreate an English Ministry (EM).
Even so, my reflections on those times do not leave me completely disillusioned. In fact, it was during those very years of not having a youth pastor that my friends and I stepped up as leaders in the youth group. Also, without an EM service to attend after “graduating youth group,” those of us who still visit either attend the Korean worship service or support the youth ministry. For us, EM or no EM, the church body in all of its brokenness and beauty became our family—especially for those of us who had served on mission trips alongside Korean Ministry adults.
Richard Mouw’s opening address on “Confusion Harmony and Shalom” reminded me to consider the beauty of the past because I honor God as I honor the past by acknowledging the good of the past. As a Korean-American, not only am I sharing in the past of my parents whose roots are in Korea, I am also sharing in the heritage of Korean-Americans and the experience of biculturalism; this further in my heritage as a woman, as a Christian, as a future marriage and family therapist, and so on. Though these pasts are full of beauty and goodness, I am reminded that they are not without wounds and dysfunction. But even so, these legacies are not without hope for healing and redemption.
I appreciated the practical examples shared by several speakers on means to experience inner healing from brokenness in the past. Miyoung Yoon Hammer described the sharing and listening to each other’s stories as a core factor in the process of healing, and spoke to the importance of identifying with Christ’s narrative. Siang Yang Tan guided us through the steps of “Inner Healing Prayer.” In addition, Carol Miyake brought us through the two-part process of “Releasing Prayer” and “Confession Prayer.”
With these resources in mind, I reflect on the importance of self-discovery in conjunction with God-discovery and others-discovery. As we discover more of ourselves in relationship with God and with each other, we find that we are not alone in the challenges we face (whether we are Asian-American or of another ethnic/cultural background) and we share with our brothers and sisters in Christ the healing and restorative power of the Holy Spirit. After all, the Kingdom of God in the fullness of shalom is near!
So, in light of the insights shared by the speakers at the symposium, I find myself asking this question: If my past has shaped who I am today, then how am I living today for the shaping of who I will be tomorrow, and further, for the shaping of future generations?
Elizabeth Chang is getting an MFT (Marriage and Family Therapy) degree at Seattle Pacific University. She graduated Taylor University with a BA in Psychology and Biblical Literature, and was raised in New York City.