Love doesn’t keep a score. It wipes the record clean each day. It says good morning today and goodbye to yesterday.
Art by jeannedarvin
J.S. Park: Hospital Chaplain, Skeptical Christian
From Devout Atheist to Skeptical Pastor: A Blog For Busted-Up, Beat-Down People (Like Me)
Love doesn’t keep a score. It wipes the record clean each day. It says good morning today and goodbye to yesterday.
Art by jeannedarvin
I’m terrified of sin, and having it and being in it and I’m terrified God won’t want me because of it.
Do you know why Jesus came to that sand-swept stain of a city called Bethlehem?
Do you know why Jesus entered a war-torn world of barbaric people in a time when crucifixion had become a perfected art-form by an imperialistic empire?
Do you know why God took on a human form, as a vulnerable baby in a filthy manger, taking on hunger and thirst and exhaustion and betrayal and persecution and torture and death?
Do you know why Jesus took on a dirty Roman cross?
Do you know why Jesus jumped out of the grave?
Do you know why Jesus sent the Spirit of God to make a home inside you?
Do you know why Jesus said that you will do even greater things than he did?
He did all that for you. For me. Yes, even for people like you and me.
He knew that two-thirds of the world would reject him — and still, he came.
Not because we deserve it. Not because we were worth it.
But because Jesus is love, and he is worthy.
Not because he needs us, but because he wants us.
And somehow, that’s even more unbelievable.
But all we have to do is believe by faith that it’s true.
When it is true in your heart and mind and soul, then the sin that was defeated at the cross will also be defeated in you, because Jesus is so much better, and it’s his beauty that will compel you out of sin towards him.
He’s that good.
Sometimes I’ll look at a dude and instantly judge him — “There’s no hope for that guy in a million years” — and I have to slap myself, because I was that same guy a million years ago.
I think it’s easy for us to throw around labels like “lost cause” and “damaged goods” and “bad for business” because we’re just lazy. It allows us to sit back and judge from a distance. It’s easy to like people who are likable, but really dang hard to get involved with emotionally draining drama queens.
Everyone loves the idea of compassion until it costs them.
I tend to time-stamp someone on how they used to be, because it’s more comfortable for me to presume “at least I’m better than that guy.” It physically bothers me to think this person could change. How could everyone like him now? I want to say things like, “But I know how he really is” and “People don’t change” — but then I’m revoking the very chance I’ve been given.
I’ve seen Christians casually dismiss other Christians down the street, pastors dissing pastors, churches entering into fierce tribalistic nationalism claiming some kind of moral standard above the curve. I’ve been wounded by the venom because I have a past here, and no one has honor in their hometown. Sometimes I desperately plead my side to be heard: but some people have their mind made up about you, and you’re the bad guy no matter what you do.
Really though: We just don’t want to get into the broken mess of other busted people. It’s dirty work. It requires standing out of our chairs, rolling up our sleeves, entangling with slobbery flailing lives, even forgiving them. It is not our nature. It hurts. It costs.
But this is what God did, against all odds: because God sees people as they could be, not as they should be.
Continue reading “When You’re Too Quick To Dismiss That Guy: You Can’t See What God Is Doing”
Hello dear beloved friends! This is a message called, Rest and Resolve: What Gets Us Through Deadlines, Demands, and Disorder.
It’s about what gets us through when we want to give up. You can stream above or download directly here. I’m also on iTunes here.
I talk about Jesus versus Peter at the Transfiguration. Some other things I talk about are: That moment of exhaustion when you sigh for a long time before you walk through the door, the burn-out check-out from school and marriage and career, the strange beauty of enjoying something you can’t pay for with nothing to offer, the greatest miracle Jesus ever pulled, faith as a long-distance relationship, a word for both perfectionists and slackers, and the one crucial question they ask you at a car accident.
All messages can be streamed here. Be blessed and love y’all!
Today I’m unusually bitter and sad about people, and I’m so very tired and cynical over everything, including myself.
May I be honest here? People are people and sometimes people will drive you insane, and some days I just want to pack up and take the next spaceship off the planet.
I know I’m not supposed to say any of this because Christian bloggers and pastors are so inspirational and full of “never-give-up” pep. We love our slogans and re-tweetable one-liners. I want to be part of the cute punchy Instagrams with the sugary Christianese quotes. But days like today, I just want to give up on everyone. At times being positive makes me feel downright sick. I want to flip a table and go to sleep for a month and I look at my Bible and laugh.
People can be so maddeningly frustrating, and I know this because I disappoint myself too. We can be in the trenches with someone for months and months, pouring out grace and absorbing all the hurt and sharing life to the bottom, but that person might do what they want anyway. I know that no one owes me anything and this isn’t about “listening to me.” I’m not trying to pull pity here. It just hurts to see a person that you invested in so completely lose it and drop off the face of the earth.
I usually hear from people when they’re desperately in need. I never get to see the other side when it’s better, and maybe I have to be okay with the unresolved-ness of it all. What I’m asking for sounds petty and unreasonable, and again, that’s not to say, “Oh poor me.” But I wish I had more reason to hope, more reason to stay. It’s so selfish, but I wonder why I keep doing this.
I’m learning that faithfulness is more important than fruitfulness, because even when there are no results and rewards, I’m still meant to run this race. Yet I’m also learning that most of the race will be hard work, in silence, amidst people who often don’t care, with little evidence that we’re making a difference and many failed heartbreaks of seeing others walk away. I’m learning this can be a cruel, thoughtless, heartless world, and to be a fleeting flash of light is so much better, and so rare. I’m learning again and again to trust God for what I cannot see, because He’s the only one who heals hearts to glory. I’m learning to encourage others along the way, because so many never get to hear that they’re doing all right, and I want to be the one voice in the crowd that actually breathes life, even when it’s for a second and forgotten.
God is in the business of breathing life into hurting places.
Art by Nikolette Montaño
germandreambaby asked a question:
Do you think that the love God has for us and for the entire creation is somehow different than what we understand as love? I mean, does the love of God have (entirely) different characteristics than human love? thanks for answering!
Hey dear friend, the short answer is: sort of yes and sort of no.
The love of the Christian God is so unique in that it purports no agenda, has no need for reciprocation, and has the motive of no-motive. God’s love exists simply because it does, for no reason except that He loves. There is no transaction, no equal exchange, no real economy. It is like a waterfall with no source and no ending, a constant wave after wave.
At the same time, God is unflinching when it comes to justice as being a part of love. Love is not merely sentimental, but also incorporates the safety and health of the other. That means telling the truth and keeping others accountable and gently persuading others away from the cliff of self-destruction. C.S. Lewis said it best: “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” In fact, Lewis said this within the context of WWII, in the midst of atrocities, referring to how we can love the “enemy.”
Many of us will lean too much to one side or the other. In other words, every culture will have an incomplete misinformed idea of “love” because it’s either too sentimental or too safe. We go for sappy careless love and end up enabling and spoiling. We go for “tough love” and end up controlling and wounding. We get our boundaries wrong all the time, either too much or too little. We might pour out until we’re irresponsibly draining ourselves, or we might speak so much truth that we come off shrill and unapproachable. Sometimes we hold on too long or we let go too early. Such a perfectly balanced love is impossible for us, and we will never get it completely right.
Continue reading “How Is God’s Love Different Than Human Love?”
My very first pastor, Pastor Paul, was a ridiculous person. What I mean is, he kept pouring out his life to other people without any kind of tactical advantage to himself, and he never asked for anything back. He took strangers to job interviews, frequented the local hospitals, sent handwritten letters to everyone in the church and across the street, volunteered for clean-up at the park, brought bottled water to the beach all the time, counseled every church member at any hour, and somehow managed a marriage while making it to 6:00 am prayer every morning and preaching three times per week. Try to picture Korean Jesus, and that’s him.
I started attending church a bit late in life, around college, and I was one of those punk kids that any pulpit-pounder should’ve written off. I showed up hung-over on Sundays and bleary-eyed from partying on Saturday nights. I talked loudly in the back-row during the sermon. Church was just an extension of socializing at the club, and I endured the service stuff because I liked the hanging-out stuff. But Pastor Paul was just one of those guys who really brought it in the pulpit, and more than that, he was the real deal outside of it. Some of his sermons started to creep into my brain, and when I met up with him, he never judged me and never flinched at how I lived. He just loved. And without really knowing it, I became drawn to that supernatural pulse that was beating in his veins. I wanted to be like him—and by extension, like Korean Jesus.
I’ve thought about how my pastor’s job was often a thankless role with so much resistance against him, sometimes for no other reason than people just have their own thing going on. He took the hits and stayed around. He somehow served very personally without ever taking it personally. He was really for the other, never using ministry as a way to validate himself first, not as some kind of catharsis, but because he was invited into a story and a calling and a life that was meant to be given away. I loved that about him. I still do. He’s always looking for an angle or avenue to serve, even when he’s not wanted, not in an intrusive way, but to be available. I want to be about that, too.
Anonymous asked a question:
Can you please give the testimony of you and your wife?
Hey dear friend, I wrote on that a little bit here.
I met my wife about nine years ago (!) and while I eventually grew interested in her, she really did not want to be with me. At some point, she said she’d pray about it, and I waited about seven months. We sort of semi-dated, and at the three year mark, she broke it off. I was devastated, but I also understood: she had seen my darkness and it was too much for her. I was addicted to porn, I had anger problems, I lacked self-control, I was not the man I could be. Any rational woman would’ve broken it off with me.
She thought it was over but I kept a bit of hope. Over the ensuing months, I quit porn, sought counseling, and I had a complete breakdown. I took a two month sabbatical to really confront my own issues and reinvigorate my faith.
Here’s the cool part. During the two month break, I happened to be traveling up north on a personal road trip, and my wife-to-be, who I hadn’t seen in about six months, happened to be in the area I was driving through. She had just quit med school to rediscover her own career path. And we met at a cafe. I told her I still loved her, and she said, “Okay. Let’s try again.” Three years later, we were married.
Continue reading “Breaking Up and Getting Back Together: About Me and My Wife”
Some questions to ask ourselves before voting:
How will my vote affect the story and direction of our country?
Is this candidate I’m voting for going to help defuse our current racial tensions?
Is this candidate going to hold themselves accountable as an example?
Is this candidate capable of proper foreign policy as well as bridging the divisions between American individuals?
Is this candidate a step forward in the tapestry of progress and history?
Is this candidate the kind of person who can address grief, loss, and prayers with sincerity and movement?
Who are we more or less comfortable with in directing our social and cultural narrative?
Photo by Saint Julian, CC BY-ND 2.0
It’s a crazy, incredible thing to be in a place where people slow down and listen, where they hear your whole story and let you paint your full heart in the air.
I was telling one of my fellow hospital chaplains about life lately, about my health problems and secret panics and suddenly about a billion other things, every humiliating and painful and neurotic moment that had been twitching my eye for the longest time, and I didn’t realize how much I had bottled up in my neatly wrapped fortress. I was embarrassed, but my chaplain friend only nodded, never flinched, stayed engaged. She then prayed for me, a really beautiful prayer, like cool water for bruised purple hands, one of those prayers where it sounded like God was her best friend down the street. And I wept. A lot. Quietly, but inside, loudly. Something then shifted and settled and became still for a moment, like the leaves of a tree coming together after a strong wind, a momentary painting. I left lighter.
Later I visited a patient who had nearly died from a brain bleed, and when I offered prayer, the nurse grabbed me and said, “Me, too.” I took her to the side, and she whispered, “Cancer. I might have breast cancer, and I’m afraid, chaplain. I’m so damn afraid.” She clenched her teeth and tried not to weep, but I put a quick hand on her shoulder and she wept anyway. She talked. I listened. There was nothing for me to say but to be there. And maybe nothing had changed—except we were made light somehow, and together drew something bigger than us. We drew colors into the gray.
There are still places, I believe, even in a busy and unhearing time, where we can draw free. I hope to meet you there, where we are not okay, but less gray than yesterday. I hope to pray for you, that we become bigger.
Photo by Image Catalog, CC BY PDM