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By Ben Sutherland

By Ben Sutherland

By Sarah D. Park

I was reading Rebecca Solnit’s book The Faraway Near, and she wrote about leprosy as a physical condition and as a social metaphor. Interestingly enough, leprosy “strangles nerves, kills off feeling, and what you cannot feel you cannot take care of: not the disease but the patient does the damage.” Without the ability to feel, the many small defenses of the body — as innocuous as feeling a slight irritation in your eye — lose effectiveness to make way for horrific consequences. Many with leprosy go blind because they cannot feel corrosive specks in their eye and do not know to rub them out. Toes and fingers get filed down because their owners cannot feel that they are wielding them too roughly.

In biblical times and even today, there are leper colonies that form when those afflicted are cast out of society for fear of infection, thus forced to turn to each other for solace and community.

And it was here, toward the end of the chapter, that I recognized myself and my people: a people ever identified as constant foreigners despite assimilation, turning to their own out of survival; with a culture of numbing ourselves to our own stories of suffering for the sake of moving on; to the detriment of feeling irrelevant and indifferent to the stories of others. By the end of the chapter, I was left with a disturbing realization: her descriptions of the progression of leprosy reminded me of Korean American Christians.

I wondered if we had gotten so used to being excluded, we forgot that our community isn’t the whole body of Christ. We who are so quick to recognize the lepers of society on skid row or abroad have actually chosen it for ourselves — embracing our quarantine rather than wishing to re-engage and re-identify with the fullness that is the people of God.

How do you care about communities you don’t feel a part of? According to Solnit, pain is what unites the body and keeps it whole. In the absence of pain, doctors sometimes prescribe empathy to patients for their limbs so as to help them be more careful and compassionate toward parts of their body that literally do not feel like a part of them anymore.

It is empathy — the ability to listen, to feel the pain of others, transcribe it on my own body and mind, and respond as if the suffering were my own — that might help us function as a more whole body of Christ.

As lepers, we do not feel our own pain, and so we destroy our body — individually and as a community — when in reality, we have already been freed to live for reconciliation, healing, and wholeness. For all my deepest hopes that Asian American Christians can step out in courage and in faith to bridge divides as Jesus did, that path begins with feeling our own pain first. For if we do not learn how to value our own stories — to feel for ourselves — then we cannot hope to feel for the rest of Christ’s body, let alone the world.

Sarah D. Park is a managing editor at INHERITANCE magazine and a freelance writer. To her delight, most of the time, these positions are conduits for her to press an exposed nerve in the status quo.

Photo by Rachel Barenblat

By Maria Liu Wong

Cultivating self-awareness was critical for fully engaging in my cohort-based doctoral program in Adult Learning and Leadership at Columbia. We were asked constantly to reflect in journals, to think critically in small and large group settings, and to engage in various exercises and activities. This made us hyper-aware of how we felt, how we showed up, and how we experienced others from our positionality. Continue Reading »

img_1007And so it begins!  Another new year is upon us, and we here at AAWOL are ready to embark on reflections and stories on new themes for the coming year.

To kick off 2017, Young Lee Hertig — founder of AAWOL in 2004 — suggested that we reflect on the five dimensions of Daniel Goleman’s EQ (emotional quotient), mainly: 1) Self-Awareness, 2) Self-Regulation, 3) Inner Motivation, 4) Empathy, 5) Social Relationship.

Since I myself only had a vague understanding of the concept of EQ, I asked Young to explain a bit more about her choice of themes. Continue Reading »

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Photo by Jan Tik

By Wendy Choy-Chan

Fears – If I see them from a distance, I will usually find a way to go around them or gear myself up to head right into them. This goes for all kinds of fears, from spiders to sickness, from public speaking to confrontations. It seems at first like I am handling my fears pretty well. See a spider outside the house, find another path to walk on; see a spider inside the house, with broom in one hand and bug spray in another, I prep for a gladiator fight. But if it appears out of nowhere right in front of me, I scream and I jump and I run like I am in the Olympics!

Not every fear comes announcing its arrival. I have had migraines for about 15 years, and at first, it manifested itself with a headache and eventual nausea. Continue Reading »

Photo by Sarah_Ackerman

Photo by Sarah_Ackerman

By Liz Chang

When I was in high school, my youth group had a tradition of going to Six Flags Great Adventure in the summer. My favorite thing to do was play games and go home with five new stuffed animals. I enjoyed some of the rides, but I always avoided the tall roller-coasters. Rather, I was always willing to volunteer as bag-watcher when my friends wanted to go on the tall roller-coasters. Continue Reading »

Photo by Ralph Daily

Photo by Ralph Daily

By Debbie Gin

I remember trying to grasp the fullness of God’s holiness when I was an MDiv student.  I had grown up in the Holiness tradition, where personal piety and righteous living were highly valued.  Being a pastor’s kid, no less, I wasn’t allowed to smoke, drink, do drugs, use “cuss” words (though, elementary-school-aged, I knew plenty — even wrote one on the wall of our apartment once because my sister made me SO MAD!).  Those symbols of personal piety were the “normal” ones.  As Nazarenes, however, we were also not allowed to dance or watch movies.  (We, as a family, had to sneak into a showing of the original Star Wars, a year after it came on the scene, so that no one in our church would see us.) Continue Reading »

Photo by Caroline

Photo by Caroline

By Sharon Lee Song

I have come to love the season of Advent, but perhaps not for the reasons that most might expect. Not for the twinkling of colorful lights, pine trees strewn with shiny baubles, and neatly wrapped gift boxes.  The past few years at least, the season of Advent has not been one filled with joy.  Instead, it has been sobering.

The tone that I have felt has been one that I think is closer to the reality of the time that Jesus came into the world.  Continue Reading »

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