Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

Photo by Nick Allen

By Sharon Lee Song

We don’t use our imaginations enough.  My imagination is what has helped to keep Scripture alive for me.  When various life issues and challenges arise, I’ve looked to Scripture because I wanted to know how other people have handled similar situations or challenges, particularly the way Jesus managed them.  I need to know that the person I believe in for my hope and salvation in life went through similar experiences, felt the same feelings, yet handled things in ways that I need to learn and grow in, especially when it comes to dealing with other people.  I look to Scripture, and I always find that Jesus experienced something similar to what I’m going through.  It’s a great comfort that Jesus understands, and can show me the way through life and relationships.

Imagine that you have 12 friends who picked up and left everything to follow you.  Imagine what it’s like to spend time with them, day in and day out.  Three of the 12 friends are the ones that you are closest to, the most connected to; they are your “inner circle.”  And one friend is very special to you, someone that you love very deeply and have a strong affection for, he is your best friend.

I was telling a friend this, and saying, “Imagine what it was like to be with 12 guys all of the time.  Can you imagine how smelly it was to live with 12 guys?  And they must have gotten on Jesus’ nerves and driven Him crazy at times, don’t you think?”

She laughed and said, “Um, TMI [too much information], Sharon!!!”

And I laughed with her, then stopped and thought for a moment, and replied, “Actually, it’s not enough information!  We need to know what Jesus’ life was like, that he walked this earth, just like us, fully human.”  I really wanted to know what it was like to walk with these 12 friends for the remaining days of His life, and how in the world Jesus managed to stay sane, and continue loving them.

I imagined and meditated on what it was like for Jesus and his relationships with his disciples and the different levels of friendship with them because I struggle in my relationships regularly, and there has been a recent increase in challenging conversations and interactions with people close to me.  I’ve been calling it my “relationship paradigm shifting season” and I’ve been learning a lot from Jesus through his relationships with the people closest to him.  Jesus had an inner circle, those He entrusted more of His heart to:  Peter, James and John.  Don’t we all need an inner circle of a few close friends?  Who are the safe people that you can be your truest self with and what can you expect from them?  People are not all on the same plane with equal access to our most authentic, vulnerable selves, nor should they be, I’ve been learning.  And Jesus seemed to have a “best friend,” called the disciple who Jesus loved named John.  Jesus had a best friend on earth.  Does that seem strange to imagine and think about?  It was for me initially, but again Jesus is fully human, so why wouldn’t he have a best friend?

In these recent struggles with relationships, hard conversations and interactions have ensued and have worn me out.  I spent time grieving the brokenness and failures in the relationships, only to have one difficult encounter after another, not allowing me a lot of space to come up for air.  In addition to that, other ugly and dark challenges and failures from people in ministry have brought me to a place that was somewhat unfamiliar and foreign to me.  I found myself feeling deeply disappointed and disillusioned with people, particularly with other Christians.

How did Jesus handle the failures of the people closest to Him?  When I remembered what happened to Jesus, it stopped me in my tracks and left me feeling awed and confused.  His 12 closest friends often misunderstood him completely.  They had different expectations of who He was, what He was supposed to do, and how they thought he should be doing things.  Take a look at the gospel accounts through this lens.  Imagine what it is like for the people closest to you to question you, and not “get you” consistently.  Jesus intentionally chose people who would fail and betray him to be in the group of 12.  Why in the world would he do that?  He knew ahead of time that Peter, one of his inner circle friends, would deny him in Jesus’ darkest and greatest hour of need before his excruciating torture and execution, and even told Peter this ahead of time.  He chose Judas Iscariot, the one who would ultimately betray him to the religious leaders who would execute him.  These are epic failures from his closest friends.  He knew these things would happen, and yet He chose them anyway.

The real clincher is what Jesus says about friendship.  He says in John 15:12-13, “Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Why?  Why would Jesus bother?  Who in their right mind would lay down their life for these people?  It has been hard to understand this in the midst of recovering from some of these relational wounds and bruises.

I am accustomed to walking with people in their dark places, including relational wounds and bruises as a friend and spiritual director.  I’ve done a good amount of work in my own darkness and because of that, other people’s darkness doesn’t bother me, frighten me, or make me want to turn me away.  Normally, I actually like walking with people in their dark places because from my experience, God is doing something, even when it feels like nothing is happening.

My struggle through disillusionment and a recent conversation with some folks made me question my values and beliefs in this area however.  These friends came out of a long and dark season of intense healing from a very traumatic past.  I felt really sad for them as even their countenance appeared beaten down, their vitality seemed lost, and what they voiced about people who had deeply wounded them made them sound defeated and without hope.  I wondered to myself, Maybe they have it right.  Maybe I’m overly optimistic about people and expect too much from them, and that’s what gets me into trouble, where I’m constantly disappointed.  Maybe I just shouldn’t expect anything from anyone, or that anyone could change because we’re all so intractably broken.

I took some space to remember my own season of deep healing, and recognized that when I was in the thick of it, I could certainly identify with them.  Yet I have walked long enough on the other side of that healing season that my perspective was different from theirs now.  As I reflected on the conversation, I could remember times when I did feel similarly to how they felt.  I didn’t believe and didn’t feel hopeful that anything could change.  Except that things did change — in some pretty miraculous and deeply transformative ways that changed the course of my life and the lives of others involved.  Hope was restored and deepened because of this significant transformation for myself and others.  Because of these experiences of going through my own darkness with others, I came to believe that people can change and in the meantime, they are doing the best that they can with what they have.

Jesus knew all of this.  This was the plan all along.  In all of the epic failures, disappointments, misunderstandings and more, Jesus chose all of us anyway because He knew that we could be transformed.  His omnipotent, transformational love, compassion and grace are what save us all from each other and ourselves.  He wanted to give us this chance to be completely and thoroughly changed and to choose into it for ourselves.

In that same passage of John 15, Jesus is telling us that we cannot love other people well or at all without him: “apart from me you can do nothing” (verse 5).  But by abiding, remaining, and making ourselves at home in his love, we can and will bear much fruit.  Those are real promises that Jesus makes.  Remaining or abiding in his love helps us to keep this command: to love each other as He loved us and to lay down our lives for each other.

This is all still very alive for me, and will be for the rest of my life, but especially now when it has been a particularly intense and consistent struggle; shifting my former paradigm and worldview of relationships.  I have felt called to press into Jesus more deeply because I know I’m not alone in how hard it can be to love others well when I feel hurt, betrayed and disappointed.  Jesus absolutely knows what this feels like.  Our brother John Perkins says, “Friendship across dividing lines in our society may be the best chance we have of relearning the language of peace…Friendship is possible because God has crossed every barrier to become friends with us.”

What are the ways that you need to press in and remain/abide in his love so that He can reorient, realign and restore in your relationships with Him and others?  How do you need and want to believe that you and others can be transformed?  Lord, restore our hope that you are the one who changes our lives and relationships.  Help us to know that this is your job and what you do best.  Help us choose into transformation, and be patient, gracious and compassionate with ourselves and others and where they are in their process of transformation.  Help us to remain in your love so that we can learn to lay down our lives, and love others the way you do.  Thank you Jesus, that you first chose us, even when you know that we will fail, and became our truest friend, and we can learn from you how to be true friends.

Sharon Lee Song lives and works in South Los Angeles with an urban ministry community.  Inspired by her own transformation through self-care and soul care, Sharon became a certified personal trainer, Holy Yoga instructor, and spiritual director.  She’s committed to using what she’s learned from her training to support others in living healthy, sustainable, urban spiritual lives.


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Friendship: Ever Evolving

Photo by banoootah_qtr

By Jerrica KF Ching

When I was in elementary school I was convinced that my best friend would be my best friend forever.  I had a BFF locket that I shared with her which further reinforced this belief.  My views on friendship were very static at the time; you make a friend and you keep that friend forever.  It should be simple, right? (more…)

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Photo by ● Łéł†Āķ Mă3ý ●

By Diana Gee

“You and I are here, and I hope that Christ is between us as a third.”

Thus begins the opening dialog in St. Aelred’s classic, Spiritual Friendship. Written in the early 12th century by the highly reputable Cistercian abbot, Spiritual Friendship is a short treatise on the universal experience of human friendship and the value of relatedness through common affection and goodwill. (more…)

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Photo by Thomas Rousing

Hello to our readers!

With the end of summer concludes our series on EGG (Ethnicity, Generations, Gender). For the remainder of the year and into 2018, we will be embarking on something quite different: blog themes loosely pulled from the book, Anam Cara, by John O’ Donahue. (more…)

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Photo by Sam Howzit

By Melanie Mar Chow

Growing up, if you asked me to identify women role models, I wouldn’t be able to name any except for Helen Keller or Anne Sullivan, two women that my neighbors who were sisters would fight to role-play. (more…)

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Photo by SAVAGE_02

By Ajung Sojwal

As I write this, I wrestle with the long-held notion of gender binary that is now being challenged by society. In a world where the struggle to conform or break out of long-expected female and male roles is an issue, I find asking myself, What does it really mean to see myself as a female created in the image of God?

Genesis 1:27 says God created humankind in his image; unequivocally, it says, that in the image of God he created them male and female. The chapter ends with God giving both the male and female the same authority over all his creation and we are told he is very pleased with it all. (more…)

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Photo by Will

By Wendy Choy-Chan

Perhaps I was naive — of all places, the church should be the one who treats its members equally.
Perhaps I was a conformist — I was taught that men are to lead.
Perhaps I was ignorant — was I being discriminated because of my race, my gender, my accent, or my introverted personality? (more…)

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