(I know that “6” is not a “nice” number but let’s just stick to it.)
When we were born, we were full of hunger and excitement to breathe in and partake of an unlimited adventure upon popping out of a safe, comfortable, but dark world inside mom’s womb. All of a sudden out of water and darkness in our mommy’s tummy, we burst out into a world of sun, colors, shapes, textures, faces—shocked, smiling, or amazed, and 1001 flavors of ice cream. We come out believing that as long as our stomachs are well fed, we can do anything. We were superheroes in our play places, conquering giant pillows and traversing mountains of toys.
Then came fear, because our parents had to protect us from bugs. Then came pressure, because our teachers had to protect our future. Then came rejection, because people had to protect themselves from us. We grow out of childhood innocence into a complicated, self-automated protective default we sometimes called wisdom, or so we think it is.
Growing up is not all that bad though. But despite the good things we learn, we also learn some bad things, things we find ourselves trying to unlearn the rest of our lives. Then again, it doesn’t have to take that long.
Today is my birthday and I want to say “Thank you God for freedom from lies.” Here are the ones I’ve said goodbye to. And believe I will uproot more lies as I go further in my walk. To 33 years and beyond!
1. The vampire is out to get me.
I don’t remember who first introduced me to the “vampires.” Sesame Street’s Count Dracula does not seem harmful but for some reason I grew up dreading nightmares and encountering vampires in my dreams. (They were not yet the romantic protagonists we have now. They were villains during my time and I believe they still are.) I used to pray each and every night before I go to bed specifically asking God to not let any bad dream come in, especially vampire thoughts. I would sleep with lights switched on and made sure my palms were facing downward because of the scary TV episode I watched where something really bad happened to the hands of the characters and their palms were faced upward when that happened. Every prayer worked even though most of them were neurotic prayers.
I prayed neurotic prayers for a long time. But then, a shift came when I asked God to take away the spirit of fear in my life. Soon, I could stay brave in the middle of a bad dream. I can walk alone in the dark. I sleep with the lights switched off now.
2. I am ugly especially if I put headband on.
When I was around 7 years old, I tried a headband on in front of the mirror and thought it made me look worse instead of better, not like the way it made other girls pretty. Then, I realized whatever I did with my hair, I still look ugly. Then, I realized it’s because I’m ugly and there isn’t much that can be done!!!
When I was in kindergarten, my teacher went around the room to complement each student with one adjective each. I was expecting she’d say I was pretty but she said it to some other girl instead. She said I was “intelligent.” I didn’t know what “intelligent” meant so I was disappointed.
“When I Was 9”
When I was in seventh grade, I was nominated to represent our class in our school’s beauty contest because all the pretty girls had represented their previous class already years before. I felt some hope that even though I’m just the nth choice, I still made it to the options list. But it was not what others thought that changed the way I see myself. You see, no matter what people say, I saw the same ugly face in the mirror. But this changed when God began to heal my self rejection problem. One day, it was as if I no longer saw the “ugly face” and saw something different… it’s the same face but this time the girl looks pretty. I realized it was my vision that had to change, not the face, but my belief.
3. I can’t sing beautifully. I sing out of tune and that’s how it will remain.
I grew up with people saying I can’t sing, that out of six cousins, I was one of the two who should recite poems instead. And so, during summer workshop, I joined a reading workshop instead of music or acting or those things I liked. I got so bored reading.
Then one time while I was in a worship-prayer gathering, I felt God burn a passionate desire in my heart to write songs. I thought myself, “I’M SCREWED.”
Rick Warren’s book “Purpose Driven Life” became very popular around that time. The book said something like (and I might be harshly paraphrasing this due to the extreme effect it had on me when I read it), “…forget about pursuing something that is in your “heart” only but you have no “hands” to do.” It said that it has to be both “hands” and “heart” and not just one of those two. “Hands” represented capability, talent, ability, skill… I hated that paragraph and I didn’t finish the book because of that chapter. I told God, “If this dream is from you, you better make it clear and make it work because I don’t know how it’s gonna happen and I’m gonna die of frustration if I burn with this desire without pursuing it.”
Now, I can sing. I have written a few songs. And if I were Rick Warren’s editor, I’d ask him to revise that part of the book. There is something more powerful than “skill” and it is “love.” Music, for me is an expression of my love for God and nothing can keep me from giving him the songs he deserves. Even lack of skill or talent can be overcome for the sake of love.
“Let’s Jump to Freedom”
Aside from these three, there are a handful of other things…
4. Like that belief that theater and communication arts is only for extroverts. I am an introvert and I took a scary risk when I joined a drama class in college. Until now, it is still my most enjoyed class throughout college, next to Great Books which talked about classics like Dante’s Inferno.
5. Then there’s the lie that I can’t get into Computer Science because I’m not techie or geeky. I realized later than ANYTHING, absolutely anything can be learned if you want to.
6. And there’s the lie that God cannot fill the void in my heart and match the intensity of emotion I feel — something that comes out as an obsession with thought of falling in love. Hah! He did. And looking back, it LOOKED really impossible that time but what can I say, miracles happen.
Right now, a big challenge that is in front of me is starting a ____. (It’s still a big secret.) Oh yes, let me tell you about the conventional beliefs we are trying to break right now by taking this leap of faith. But that will be for another blog post.
Today, I want to thank God for freedom. The freedom to be 33 and thankful.