By Young Lee Hertig
Who would have guessed that I would quote from the Analects for an AAWOL blog? I must be getting up there in age:) In truth, I am now savoring the last year of my 50s. At this juncture what feels most meaningful to me is from the words of Confucius:
The Master says: At 15, I set my heart on learning. At 30, I know where I stand (my character has been formed). At 40, I have no more doubts. At 50, I know the will of Heaven. At 60, my ears are attuned (i.e. my moral sense is well-developed). At 70, I follow my heart’s desire without crossing the line (without breaking moral principles). Analects 2.4.1-2.4.6
Being the non-linear person that I am, I plan to mix all those ages during my fleeting 50s by setting my heart on learning, continuing to build character, understanding the will of heaven, being attuned to the heartbeat of God, and following my heart’s desire while grounded in the spiritual disciplines. What seems most important of all, however, is listening for the heartbeat of God and to be in communion with God for the remaining years, however long it may last.
Incidentally, the book of Proverbs emphasizes the importance of cultivating the human heart for core values of love and faithfulness: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart…” (3:3).
This passage is particularly refreshing because we live in a world enamored by deceptive and glittering power rather than love and faithfulness. The blatant pursuit of self-interest at the expense of others is often justified and glorified in the name of achieving the American dream. Once the ladder of the American dream is climbed, many confront the loss of the very source of happiness—time-bound family relationships. Consequently we witness social ills—increasing violence, addictions, and substitutions of intimate relationships. Lacking venues to cultivate the human heart, we as a society confront extremities in all fronts.
What seems to be lacking in knowledge-based education today is cultivating the human heart and attending to the mystery of nature. According to the Confucian worldview, the triad of heart-mind-nature is the ultimate ground of life and the world. I yearn for being in nature more to see, hear, and feel God’s grandeur.
One of the highlights of the last decade is that I have spent my 50s back in Los Angeles after moving back from Dayton, Ohio in 2002. My heart longed for the mission of lifting the silent Asian North American voices. Providentially, in 2006, ISAAC (Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity) was born and its sister, AAWOL.
Despite the twists and turns along the path, I am grateful that God has sustained us to tell our stories and retrieve Asian American stories across ethnicities, gender, and generations. A “triad” refers to the great yang, the great yin, and Central Harmony shared by Chinese and Celtic traditions. It is a synthesizing unity that we all long for amidst multiple levels of dissonance due to our hybrid and intersectional identities. It is history-making that represents our unique and yet common stories as Asians, Americans, and women. For this reason, I appreciate Joy Wong who resiliently urges us to write our stories to share on the blog. Debbie Gin, AAWOL’s new Director, with her multi-gifts and multivocal identity, will take AAWOL to the next level.
How do I want to wrap up my fifties? A friend once shared that all her references for her job applications were no longer living! Keenly aware of mortality daily, living the last stretch of my 50s means savoring each moment fully and gratefully. Yes, I want to create a space to cultivate and balance heart, mind, and nature. Indeed, it has been a great ride so far:)
Rev. Dr. Young Lee Hertig is executive director and a founding member of ISAAC (Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity) and AAWOL (Asian American Women On Leadership). She teaches in the Global Studies and Sociology Department at Azusa Pacific University and is an ordained Presbyterian clergy as well as a commissioner of the Presbyterian Church USA to the National Council of Churches Faith and Order.
 For further reading, please see essay “Why Asian American Evangelical Theologies?” JAAT: Journal of Asian and Asian American Theology, Volume VII, 2005-2006, P1-23.