01 Feb Healing my Cultural Identity
I used to think I didn’t have any problems with my cultural identity. Clearly, I was just white, but looked a little Asian. I joke, but you know what they say about jokes!
In case you didn’t know, I was born in Taipei, Taiwan. When I was five years old, my mother, brother & I moved to a small beautiful town in New Jersey. There wasn’t much diversity, and I grew up for most of my school life feeling different and secretly wishing I was the same as everyone else.
I wished our family was like all my friends’ families. I wished my mom understood the importance of social life in school. I wished I didn’t have to translate things for her, like our field trip permission slips. I wished we ate things like spaghetti and hamburgers instead of rice, soup and steamed vegetables. Yes, I even wished I had blonde hair and blue eyes.
I think many young “first generation” kids can identify with the ability to quickly perceive cultural norms and adapt them. Some call this the “chameleon” mindset.
Walking into a friend’s home as a child, I would make mental notes of all the ways that they did things. From what snacks they ate (crackers & cheese!), to the way they used their kitchenware (glasses to drink juice, not mugs!), to where they shopped, how they decorated, all of it.
I would bring those findings home and try to encourage my mom to change. Sometimes successfully (bagels & cream cheese), other times not (never was able to get her to try out the dishwasher).
In college and after, I was able to find other Asian American friends to hang out with, and tended to stick with them. It was a place of safety and comfort. We were more like each other because of our cultural backgrounds. We weren’t fully White American, but we weren’t fully Asian either. We would laugh about how strict our parents were, and how many instruments we were forced to play. We would bond over hot pot and pizza.
After I gave my life to Christ late in college, He began taking me on a journey to accept my cultural identity. Through different friendships & experiences, including living in Hong Kong for 5 years, and having a super supportive husband (who is White American but speaks fluent Mandarin!) who embraced my Asian family background & culture, over time, I became more comfortable in my own skin.
I began to recognize the strengths of being a “third culture kid”. Of having a wider cultural spectrum.
But it wasn’t until I recently received inner healing ministry for this exact thing that what I thought I had “figured out” was still a source of pain deep inside.
For a long time, for some reason, I just couldn’t shake the feeling of “being on the outside”. Even if no one was acting that way toward me, I just couldn’t help but feel like an outsider.
Through my ministry session, God was able to speak into the pain of my childhood. I was brought to a specific memory of being bullied by a couple of girls in 6th grade. They spread tons of rumors about me, ostracized me from all of our friend groups, and even cyber bullied me as instant messaging was just beginning to get popular among kids.
Through the help of the couple ministering to me, I asked Jesus to come into that memory, and bring back the emotions and thoughts that I had had as a 12 year old girl.
From deep inside, thoughts that I had suppressed for over 20 years flooded back:
“Why me? Why are they coming after me?”
“This is happening to me because I’m different”
“If only I was like everyone else, they wouldn’t be picking on me. If my life looked like theirs, I wouldn’t be the object of ridicule.”
Layered under these thoughts, feelings of bitterness toward my mom surfaced because I felt she didn’t try to understand when I told her about it.
I resented that she had no gauge of what being a middle schooler in America was like. In fact, she made my school life harder by being strict and not letting me do things my friends did outside school. You see, when she grew up in Taiwan, social life and academics were mutually exclusive. Students didn’t “hang out”. They studied and that was it.
I felt betrayed, alone, and completely misunderstood. The more I allowed myself to be real with my emotions in the session, the more I realized that I had actually hated myself for being different. I was embarrassed to use the word “hate” but it was true. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, I faced the fact that I hated my life for not looking like everyone else’s.
In complete openness during that ministry session, I poured out all these things to Jesus. I received a picture of him helping me through all these feelings & thoughts as I, as a 12 year old, sobbed on his shoulder. I wasn’t able to identify the pain then as I did now, but it was nevertheless there.
The couple ministering to me led me to forgive all the people who caused the pain of rejection and abandonment in that memory – the girls, other school friends, my mom and my dad. Recognizing that they are all just humans dealing with their own pains, I released them and all my feelings of pain to the Lord.
And then I heard Jesus speak to me.
“My dear girl,” he began with gentle compassion,
“It is ok to feel hurt. I know exactly what it feels like to be betrayed. What happened to you is wrong and I am so sorry.” And he paused as I sobbed some more.
“But I made you just as you are for a reason. I gave you the experiences you’ve had for a purpose. You’re not different, you are unique. You will have access to people and places that only YOU will be able to reach.
I can’t wait to show you who you’re going to become. You are going to be so excited to know what is ahead. Your very life, every part of it, will bring me glory.”
My 12 year old self looked at him and, amidst tears, cried out, “Is it true Lord? Is it true? Because if my life, if all of this, is for your glory, then yes. Yes, I accept.”
You see, as that 12 year old, feeling confused, lost, and different, I had no idea of the woman I would become. And I still don’t know what’s ahead. But Jesus did then, and he does now. And he wanted 12 year old Christine AND 33 year old Christine to know so that I could have hope, and I could trust and believe that I have an amazing purpose, ordained by my creator.
Only Jesus could do that. Only Jesus could bring me back to my childhood and heal me in that time by speaking truth and love that is received directly by my spirit. Only He could speak life into something that had died in me 20+ years ago.
Jesus desires to heal all of us from all of our pain. Some pains will be more severe than others, but it doesn’t negate the fact that if it were up to Him, it would never have happened to us. If it were up to Him, we would all be in perfect relationship with Him and with each other. Unfortunately we chose differently and inherited an imperfect world with imperfect people.
But there is hope. Because we have a new choice. We can to choose to believe Him, seek Him and receive His healing. And just as it took time to accumulate our pains, it will take time for them to be healed. But if we are willing, He is more than willing. There was a lot more that came out of my session, including healing for my relationship with my parents, but I’ll save that for a different post. I hope this was a blessing to you. Please don’t hesitate to comment or reach out with thoughts and questions. Nick and I are actually being trained to do this type of ministry so if you’re interested in learning more, let us know.