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.