By Wendy Choy-Chan
As part of an exercise for a spiritual formation program, I had the opportunity to construct a life map of my own. As I answered various prompts and filled in event after event in my life — negative and positive childhood memories, encouragement and criticism from major figures in life, etc. — something wonderful emerged from my life map.
There have been negative life events that have shaped me and given me false beliefs of myself and of God. In the first few weeks of the program, we talked about negative cultural and family influences and how they project for us a false image of God. We discussed how we ought to exchange these false beliefs with correct ones based on God’s unconditional love and acceptance. This is the core of the program — to deconstruct and then reconstruct the foundation of our Christian faith so that we can walk a joyous and purposeful journey with God. It was tough during those few weeks to realize how much unnecessary baggage I had been carrying. Would it be that easy to put it down and exchange it for something new? While it’s easy to understand and agree with, it’s a long distance from the brain to the heart.
This is where the life map comes in.
Looking back, I realized that the mending of my brokenness has already been happening by God’s grace. For each negative memory, there has been a positive event to counter the negative effect.
- Growing up in a multi-generational Chinese family, emotion was not something that was encouraged. A well-behaved girl was one who kept the rules, stayed low and did not create any ripples. This translated to how I understood God — one with a stern face, who watched what I did and gave out rewards/punishments according to His rule book. The positive event came about through Philip Yancey’s book, Disappointment with God. When I put this down on my life map, I was only thinking of how it had created in me an enormous interest in the Old Testament, of how God had reached out to His people from the time of Abraham all the way to the New Testament. However, as I pondered more, I realized that Yancey showed me who God really is — that He is full of emotions, and not afraid to express His love and longing and pain towards His people. (And I can too!)
- During a winter conference for college students, the speaker encouraged us to “dream the impossible dream, reach the unreachable star.” For some reason, this phrase has always stayed with me, and hence an entry on my life map. Looking back to a few years before college on the life map, I now finally understand the meaning. I wasn’t a very “happy” person during high school, as I felt I was stuck in a situation that I had no control over. Thus, dreaming was my escape mechanism — to dream of some better scenarios that I could be in, to be “over the rainbow,” so to speak. Before that winter conference, I never knew that dreaming could be positive too, that God wants us to dream big. On my own, I had been dreaming to escape reality, but could never reach any stars; but in God, I can dream the dream which He has put in my heart, and reach the star which He has given me strength to reach.
These are just two of the many pairs of negative-positive events that have emerged on my life map. I am just so amazed at how things in life all come together in God’s plan. The head knowledge acquired from the spiritual formation program confirms and solidifies in my mind what God has already been doing in my heart.
I am excited to see what new things He has planned for me as I continue to fill out entries on my life map in days and years to come.
Wendy Choy-Chan came to North America from Hong Kong when she was 15. She is now a full-time mom and part-time student at Fuller Northwest studying for her MA in Theology. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Seattle, WA.