Frozen Ground

frozen leaves

I am a fair-weather gardener. I spend many winter days looking out my kitchen windows at the vegetable garden we cut out in the back ten years ago. I get excited in the spring when the ground begins to thaw and show promise of warmer, longer days. Apparently bumper crops of zucchini happen annually to many gardeners, but that only happened to me once. Apparently people run away from offerings of zucchini but they love muffins. That year I was the zucchini chocolate-chip muffin lady. Most years, though, after the initial excitement, the hard work of gardening wears thin. Weeding. Watering. Weeding. Oh, why bother?

During the past two years I have also become a fair-weather church attender. I grew up going to church every Sunday. My parents like to tell me that our first Sunday in America included a visit to a Korean immigrant church. When we took road trips, my parents always found a church to attend on Sunday. On one trip west we could not find a service, but my dad pulled into a small church and asked whoever was still in the sanctuary if we could hold a family service—we traveled with our Bibles and Korean hymnals.

I went to Awana and “American” church with my friend Tammy. I went to a Bible study for second-generation Korean Americans who wanted to learn about Jesus and not feel so alone in our Korean-speaking churches and our white neighborhoods and schools. In college I joined a Christian fellowship. Those were the zucchini chocolate-chip muffin years of my faith—incredible, unexpected growth.

It was easy to be an every-Sunday attender when I was like the zucchini chocolate-chip muffin lady. When you bring something everyone wants, it’s great. But lately I have become someone I never thought I would be. I am the doubter. I am the angry lady. Racial tensions in the United States have caused me to doubt my understanding of how Christ compels us, how peace is with me and also with you. What does peace in a broken world look like? How does the gospel transform not just my individual life but also restore our communities—even the communities we don’t live in, the people we don’t know or, if we’re honest, the people we don’t care to know in that intimate every Sunday, do life together sort of way?

It was easy to be at church every Sunday when I was like the zucchini chocolate-chip muffin lady.

Although my primary identity is in Christ, I live in my body—which is that of a Korean American woman. Because of my physical characteristics I am regularly asked if I speak English, told that my English is almost flawless, and asked where I am “really” from. And that’s in Christian settings! I have been mistaken as the nail technician at my favorite nail salon, even when I am sitting in the chair waiting to get my nails done. I have had cars slow down to pass me as their occupants scream words at me that I will not repeat.

I am a Christian and in my gender, racial, and ethnic identity I am an image bearer of God. God created a colorful, vibrant, diverse world of image bearers who display God’s wholeness in a way one person, one race, one ethnicity, one gender cannot do. I am not colorblind. I do not want to be colorblind.

That’s why the racial tensions have seeped into my faith, causing me to consider how I can love my neighbors even when I don’t know if they will love me in my anger and pain. They’ve caused me to consider how I can love my neighbors when I don’t know if I want to love them. I am considering how the power of love can also bear the weight of pain and anger.

It’s winter here in the Midwest. The ground is frozen and can’t yet bear fruit, but the fair-weather gardener and church attender in me always finds hope that in the spring thaw God will bring forth a new chance to flourish.

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About the Author

Kathy Khang is a writer, speaker, and coffee drinker who works with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA and attends Libertyville (Illinois) Covenant Church with her family. She is one of the authors of More Than Serving Tea, a book that addresses the intersection of faith, gender, and ethnicity from the perspective of Asian American women. She has a weak spot for nail polish, books, and writing utensils. She blogs at morethanservingtea.wordpress.com.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you Kathy for sharing your pain, anger and your heart!
    As a predominantly Euro-American male I am constantly appalled by the arrogance of my categories. In 2007, I was introduced to an instrument that measures one’s cultural sensitivity (the Intercultural Developmet Inventory) and it revealed that I have a tendency to be overly critical of my own culture.

    This certainly is true. Prejudiced assumptions get us all into trouble and I share your anger and hurt, and it also cause me to doubt that the words of the Gospel are true… At times I have wondered if it is even possible to love our neighbor when so many of us do not even take the time to get to know our neighbors, particularly in suburban America.

    What I have found is that love is not the antithesis of anger and vice-versa. It is precisely because we are angry at exclusion, at injustice, at the demeaning in any way of a human being, that we know we love. Not to love is to be indifferent. I Corinthians 13:5-6 Paul, sharing what to me seems to be a song of love, says that love “does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth.” Though not easily angered – it does become angry particularly when others are dishonored… particularly when self-seeking behavior (which is what all predjudice is based on) abounds and is given free reign in our society.

    Then love (the love of God in Christ) calls from within and calls us to be the voice, hands and feet of God and to be pain filled and angry. We need to focus and express that anger in a way that it can be heard and understood by others so that reconciliation becomes possible, just as you have in this article.

    Thank you Kathy for being who you are, for speaking with compassion, and being a voice of love seeking understanding for yourself and others. I stand with you in hoping for the spring thaw!

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