Fatherhood, Rejection, and Staying

I love my son David.

He turns 2 at the end of this month, and he’s brought so much joy into our lives.  If you meet him, you’d understand.

I love my son David.

I love my son David

When I first learned we’d be having a son, I had so many hopes for him and for our relationship.  Having read so many books on fatherhood while constantly pondering the kind of man and father I longed to be, I was going to father the next great son (aka Jeremy Lin).  Just kidding, but sorta true.

Now that I’m two years in to the fatherhood journey, it’s been so unbelievably joyful for me.

However, it hasn’t been quite what I expected.

You see, David loves me, and I totally know that to be true.  He gets super excited when I come into his room every morning, and he squeals with delight when I come home each day.  He promptly gives hugs and kisses whenever I ask, and we eat breakfast together almost every day reciting memory verses, the Lord’s Prayer, and Toy Story.

But compared to my wife Tina, I am second.

It’s not even a close second, it’s a distant, unequivocal second.

I’m pretty sure if you were to ask David who he wants to play with, 10 times out of 10 he’ll say Tina (unless I’m given an ipad and Tina is left with a Calculus textbook then he might choose me 1 out of 10 times).

Tina is an unbelievable mom so it’s not surprising that this is the case, but I’d be lying if I said I expected this dynamic.

I thought I’d be my son’s hero and I had every intention of fulfilling his (or my) wish to be exactly that.

When given the choice, David would choose umma 10 out of 10 times.

When given the choice, David would choose umma 10 out of 10 times

But if given the choice between me and umma (Korean for mama), David would choose to be with umma and play with umma and read with umma and shoot baskets with umma 10 times out of 10.

The sting of this reality cut deep when David couldn’t really talk but his gestures were clear signs of preference.  But now that he can easily articulate his wishes with signs and words, the rejection pierces to another level.

——-

I hate rejection.

Having often felt overlooked as the youngest in a family of four and marginalized as a smallish Korean-American growing up the pangs of rejection touches some of my most vulnerable wounds.

When triggered, these wounds can set off all sorts of reactions, ranging from overwhelming grief to hurt to anger.

I hate rejection.

——–

To feel this way when it comes to my son hurts more than I thought it would, not so much because it’s different than other feelings but because it was so unexpected when I thought about fatherhood.

Of course I’d feel rejected by Tina some, and surely if I had a daughter there’d be things I wouldn’t understand and therefore feel out of place.

But my son?? Never would I have expected this.

The saddest part for me is my reaction to whenever the feelings of rejection come.  Every time he jumps out of my lap when he hears Tina wake up or every time he runs into her arms when he senses danger, a sensor inside my heart erupts with pain.

And that pain often leads me to a place I never thought I’d ever go with my son.

I leave the room.

I check email.

I watch TV.

I withdraw.

I work on something that I really don’t need to work on but “who cares because no one wants to be with me anyway.”

———

It takes everything in me (and really, something supernatural) to react a different way.

I can almost hear the conversation raging inside my head with one voice saying, “abandon him, he doesn’t want to be with you,” while the other counters, “stick with it, he may not want you but he needs you.”

Memories of my own wishes as a child re-emerge – longings to be heard and seen, and held, even though everyone thought I was okay on my own.

The battle goes back and forth, rumblings of self-talk zooming through neuropathways jostling for an upper hand.

I hope one day these battles will cease.  I pray to God that one day these battles will cease.

———

Until that time comes, I’ve resolved to keep walking back into the room where my son is usually bouncing around with his beloved mama speaking with an unbridled joy.  I kiss his forehead and whisper the words, “I love you, David.”

And off he runs back to umma.

And I stay.

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us. 1 John 4

A Powerful Song I’d Love for You to Hear

This came as a short announcement on facebook, but it was so exciting for me to see the release of the song Here’s My Life, written and performed by Craig Okpala, pastor at Hope Church NYC (and produced by the the ever-talented Paul Kim).

We’ve been singing this song as a congregation for the past few weeks, and it so aptly captures the heart cry of so many of our people.

Many were surprised when they heard it was an original song written by Craig.

Craig also shares the story of this song in the sermon below.  Powerful.

Thank you, friend, for creating music that touches the heart. May it bless many!

Hope Roosevelt Island’s First Preview Service is This Sunday, November 24th

When we first started Hope Church NYC a little over a year ago, our dream was to begin a movement of churches where honest, diverse communities of people would discover Christ.

Hope Roosevelt Island hosts its First Preview Service this Sunday, November 24th

Hope Roosevelt Island hosts its First Preview Service this Sunday, November 24th

This Sunday, November 24th, Hope Roosevelt Island (our 2nd church) hosts its first preview service followed by a Thanksgiving Community Dinner.

It’s hard to believe this is all happening!

Dan & Amanda Sadlier have done an amazing job leading this community, and there are so many unsung heroes who are part of this launch (Jim Bates and so many others).

I’m really excited about this Sunday!

If you’re free to join us, we’d love your support in helping serve some food.

More so, we’d love for you to invite any Roosevelt Islanders you know who are not connected to a church.

And above all, we’d appreciate your prayers so that Hope Roosevelt Island can be a true blessing to Roosevelt Island.

Meet Paul Lim

During a recent visit to Nashville, I was able to spend a couple of hours with Paul Lim, a man who has had a significant impact on my life as a professor, pastor, and friend.

I've learned a lot from this man.

I’ve learned a lot from this man.

My times with him are always enriching… and hilarious.

Anyhow, I wanted to take the time to congratulate him for recently receiving the prestigious Bainton Book Prize for his book, Mystery Unveiled: The Crisis of the Trinity in Early Modern England.  This review by Scott Clark goes into more detail about the book and its significance.  Very cool.

In addition to Paul’s many contributions to the academy, he’s also taught me a few other things:

1.  Pursuit of Excellence – Whether it was playing Paul in ping pong (he’s amazing) or listening to his theology lectures, I’ve really appreciated the effort Paul puts into whatever he does.  Paul’s verve for excellence really shows how much he cares, and as a student who would comb over his well-prepared notes, I really felt like he cared about me by his meticulous preparation.

2.  Humility – I think he’d probably laugh at this, but Paul is someone whose humility I really respect.  The dude is mad gifted and mad accomplished, but I’ve never met anyone as introspective as him when it comes to the motives of his heart.

3.  Being Who I Am – I don’t know how else to explain this, but Paul has taught me a lot about being who I am.  Paul models this well, in my opinion.  He is unabashedly who he is, and it’s really refreshing to be around.  But he’s also been able to point things out about me at different points in my journey that have been helpful in discovering who I truly am… in Christ.

I am so grateful for Paul in my life, and I’m excited to see his recent work get recognized (and I can’t wait to see how else God will use him in the future)!

Dwight Howard, Lebron James, & The Millennial Generation

This is another random sports post, but one that I’ve been thinking about for some time.

In short, I think Dwight Howard and Lebron James were interesting examples of the Millennial Generation during their free agency.  Obviously it’s tough to characterize an entire generation, but I thought these guys in particular, largely because of their public platforms and stories, can be looked at as examples of Millennials.

First, I’ll give a brief synopsis of each player, and then I’ll talk about characteristics they’ve displayed as Millennials.

*FYI I root for both players.  I absolutely love Lebron and I love the Rockets (haven’t followed Dwight for as long). 

1.  Dwight Howard – Dwight’s journey is well-chronicled from his rise to dominance with the Orlando Magic to his acrimonious exit via trade to the LA Lakers, to his difficult year in Los Angeles, to his eventual landing in Houston as a free agent.  Through his journey, he’s been criticized harshly for waffling in his decision-making and his inability to play under the bright lights in LA.

I for one, am glad that he plays for the Houston Rockets now, because I think he’s a better fit for the team and they have a better shot at winning a championship.

The free agency of Dwight Howard and Lebron James Exemplify Most Millennials

The Free Agency of Dwight Howard and Lebron James Exemplify Most Millennials

2.  Lebron James – Lebron is the best basketball player in the world, and arguably one of the best players ever.  Lebron’s story is also well-chronicled, and he’s won the League MVP and NBA Championship two consecutive years.

Lebron has come a long way in rebuilding his image after he left Cleveland as a free agent in regrettable fashion.  No one argues with his decision at this point considering the outcomes – just the way it was handled.

Lebron is one of my favorite players, and I’m seriously rooting for him to become the best of all-time (sorry Chicagoans).

How Dwight & Lebron Exemplify Millennials:

1.  “I Deserve to Be Happy” – Dwight made this comment before his decision to leave the Lakers, and he’s continued saying this now that he’s with the Rockets, where he seems to be much happier.

Much of his wavering decision-making had to do with trying to make others happy – Orlando, Laker fans, etc.  When he chose the Rockets, he finally made up his mind to choose 1) winning, and 2) his own happiness.

It’s interesting that he stresses the happiness part because it was clear to most folks that Houston gave him the best chance to win titles over the next few years, signaling that it was winning that was the chief decision-making factor.

However, there’s something about the happiness statement that resonates with Millennials, and I think that’s why he uses it (he himself is a Millennial), I think.

There’s this epic post that describes the mindset of most Millennials, particularly the feelings of entitlement and the search for happiness.  It’s this idea that we deserve to be happy.

However, as the blog post skillfully points out, our entitled views of happiness often lead us toward becoming unhappy, unless we modify expectations.

I hope Dwight modifies expectations and then leads the Rockets to a championship, which would make me really happy.

2.  “I Want to Play With My Friends” – People ripped Lebron for “joining Wade’s team” and not being an alpha-dog in his free agency, but I thought it was ironic that for someone who was being ripped as being arrogant and selfish, Lebron was 1) taking a pay cut, and 2) virtually admitting that he can’t do it on his own.

If anything, Lebron should have been applauded for humbling himself by joining the Heat!

Okay, “humbling” might be too strong a word, because his decision was also based on 1) winning, and 2) playing with his friends.

Anyhow, what I love about Lebron is how his teammates love playing with him.  It’s clear that Lebron relishes being a teammate on a team.

I think Millennials are similar in this way – they would rather play with their friends to accomplish goals.

In church world, the rise of networks and city-wide movements have really resonated for Millennials because of this teamwork dynamic.  I think most Millennials really believe that we’re better together.

3.  Above All, We Want to Win – It’d be nice to be happy and it’d be nice to play with my friends, but I think Millennials are also committed to leaving a legacy that will remain.

Dwight and Lebron understand this, hence both of them approached free agency looking for the best chance to win.

For Dwight, people said he couldn’t handle the bright lights of LA, but realistically, the Lakers would have been a really tough roster for him to win with.  I don’t think it’s fair to pile on Dwight about leaving LA or spurning the Mavs or Warriors (although the W’s look real good right now) for choosing Houston.

For Lebron, it’s clear he made the right choice about where to play because the Heat have won the championship two out of the last three years.

I love the idealism of Millennials that want to make history, and I think Dwight and Lebron both have that.

They both realized the bottom line was winning, and whatever people want to say about either of them, they both chose the best path toward winning.

——-

In sum, I’m not sure if I’m a Millennial, but I hope that I can be marked as someone who 1) Works Hard Without Feeling Entitled to Happiness, 2) Gets to Work with My Friends, and 3) Is Crazy Enough to Think that I Can Leave a Legacy that Lasts.

Some Pastors/Leaders You Should Get to Know

There are tons of great pastors/leaders that you should know, and I really appreciated this blog by Donald Miller about why pastors are important.

I wanted to introduce you to three relatively new Pastors/Leaders at Hope (they’ve been around since the summer), three of whom have made a significant impact in our community already.

Many of you have already met these folks, but I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce them on my blog.

1. Kristian Hernandez – Kristian is a good friend whom I’ve known since 2006, and he’s one of the warmest, funniest, preach-like-nobody’s-business pastors I know.  We were so blessed to have the great folks at Resurrection Churchbless Kristian and his family to join our church plant, and he’s done an amazing job preaching, pastoring, and leading in our community.

Find out more about Kristian here:

2.  Dan & Amanda Sadlier – Simply put, the Sadliers are awesome.  I love this family.

Dan is leading Hope Roosevelt Island, a new church on Roosevelt Island that I’m absolutely giddy about, and he’s added so much in terms of leadership, strategic missional thinking, wisdom, and fabulous teaching/preaching.

Amanda is leading our Hope Tots/Kids Environments, and she’s done a phenomenal job with them.  Amanda is a catalytic leader who Joseph Longarino described by saying, “she could be president.”  She’s really a stellar leader as well.

On top of it all, the Sadliers have five great kids.  Meet them all below.

New York City is blessed to have pastors/leaders like these folks!

NBA Predictions 2013-2014 (And Why This Season Could Define the Jordan vs. Lebron Debate)

No one really cares about these NBA predictions but I’ll make them anyway.

I regret not posting this before Opening Night, but please trust me when I say these were my thoughts before the first game (it’s probably easy to point out 1 & 2 come after Opening Night losses by the Bulls and Clips).

You’ll notice my predictions are mostly “Who’s Not Good Enough to Make It to the Finals, and then Who’s Gonna Be There in June”.

Who’s Not Good Enough to Make It to the Finals

1.  The Chicago Bulls Need Another Scorer And Without One, They’re Not a Contender – I did not watch the game on Tuesday, but I predicted the outcome.  I LOVE D-Rose, and he’s easily one of my favorite players to watch besides Kyrie and Lin, but I don’t know who else can carry the load offensively for the Bulls.  I can’t see them getting past Indy or Miami.

2.  I Don’t Think the Clippers are Contenders – Now, you’re hearing this as a Clipper Fan, and as much as I love the Clips, I think the acquisition of Doc Rivers is overrated.  I think he’s a great motivator and recruiter (one of the best), but I don’t think he’s a great game manager, which is what I think the Clips need.  I think most of Boston’s success came due to KG’s leadership, so I’m hesitant to say that Rivers’ addition has pushed the Clips into contender status.

3.  The Knicks are Exactly Who They Were Last Year – I really don’t know what’s different about them.  I think they’ve hit their ceiling, unfortunately.  I’d love for them to win just because I think the City would explode, but I can’t see them getting past the first round of the playoffs.

This Year's Nets remind me of the 2004 Lakers experiment.

This Year’s Nets remind me of the 2004 Lakers experiment.

4.  The Nets are Too Old For a Long Season – The team sorta reminds me of the Lakers in 2004 when Gary Payton and Karl Malone joined the Lakers.  I mean, that team made the Finals, but that was with a Prime Shaq & Kobe.  I really want the Nets to do well, but I don’t think they’re anywhere close to the Eastern Conference Finals.  I think they’ll be almost even with the Knicks, although I think they’re better than the Knicks.

5.  I Think OKC has peaked and Will Not Make it to the Western Conference Finals – KD is amazing, and he’s inching toward Lebron-status, but I can’t see how they’ve gotten better when it comes to the top teams in the league.

6.  Golden State is a Wild Card for Representing the Western Conference, but they’re not Big Enough – I love Mark Jackson as a coach.  I don’t think they match up well with SA or Houston, though, and they kind of remind me of the D’Antoni Phoenix Suns – really fun to watch with all their perimeter scoring, but not enough punch inside.  Steph Curry could just carry them, but I don’t know if they’re small-ball can be as overwhelming as SA & Houston.

7.  Indiana’s Scary Good, and My Dark Horse to Win It All – In a seven game series, these guys are scary good.  Just for them, I could see the Heat trying to move Bosh for Asik.  It seems like Indiana knows it was so close to beating the Heat, and they reloaded with way more depth and size while Miami stayed virtually the same.

Who’ll Be In the NBA Finals

8.  The Houston Rockets will square off with the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals – I actually think Houston, San Antonio, & OKC are the best teams in the West, and I think Houston has more young talent than SA and more depth/versatility than OKC.

In the East, I think it’s a two dog race between Miami and Indiana.  Honestly, I think this might be Indiana’s time, but yeah, I’m actually pulling for Lebron to reach mythical status (see below).

This is a pivotal year in the Jordan-Lebron debate.

This is a pivotal year in the Jordan-Lebron debate.

9. This is the Season That Defines Lebron’s Status vs. Jordan – So many teams have improved over the offseason (Bulls, Nets, Pacers), and Miami has essentially stayed the same while relying on the greatness of Lebron (and the health and spring of guys like Wade and Greg Oden).  If Lebron can hold off Indiana et al in the East and beat whoever comes for him in the West, I think he moves up to 2nd Greatest of All Time.  If he loses, I think he stops being compared to Jordan and falls back into Magic/Bird territory.

With this said, I’m rooting for Lebron.

Why do I love Lebron so much?

My brother Peter has written these great pieces on Lebron here and here, and I couldn’t agree more.

10.  Lastly, this wouldn’t be a post about the NBA from me without my requisite take on Jeremy Lin – Jeremy will be vastly improved this year, and although he’ll put up similar numbers, those numbers will be way more efficient.  I don’t mind if he starts or comes off the bench because I know he’s going to get quality minutes.  He’ll be an X factor on an NBA Championship contender, and I couldn’t be more excited for him this season!