Thursday, September 13, 2012

My testimony at Prime

Here's the notes from my testimony from last Friday


I'm going to talk a little bit about how my relationship with God changed over time, and a few things about forgiveness. It's only a tiny part of my experiences with forgiveness. I had to cut a lot of stuff to fit into the amount of time we'll have.

First of all, I was always aware of the existence of God. I felt His power and His presence. It was a totally different feeling from the presence of my parents. But a lot of things happened in my childhood that made it hard to understand who He really was.

One of my earliest memories was around when I had just learned how to walk. I remember my mom and dad shouting at each other really loud. Then they hugged, so I tried to get between them but my dad pulled me out. They only did that for a year, after that they never hugged after shouting. Instead they would just shout more after shouting. You know, up until the day I moved out, I would often wake up to the sound of them shouting.

Another early memory was when around when I was trying to learn how to talk and read. I was eating, but then I spilled my bowl, so my mom locked me in the bathroom with the lights off. She did that at least three times that I can remember. Sometimes she also stuck me in the closet. After several times, when I thought I messed up, I eventually just went straight to locking MYSELF in the bathroom with the lights off. That's how I learned my first my coping mechanism - putting myself in another world. I could give a whole-nother story about just all the coping mechanisms that I have. Anyways, after I locked myself in the bathroom with the lights off, my mom stopped doing that and went to other methods, like hitting with a fly swatter, shouting, shouting and hitting at the same time, shouting followed by an offer of ice cream, or offering ice cream followed by shouting as soon as I was done, and I could go on and on. Then she would force me to say that I loved her, and if I didn't, then more shouting. This really affected my ability to start relationships, but that is ANOTHER story.

I was a slow eater, so both of my parents shouted at me for eating so slowly and hit me until I was finished with dinner AND dessert. That's how I learned the meaning of the Cantonese words "Fi dee lah!" If I didn't eat fast enough, then both of my parents would shout at me and then my mom would shout "Fi dee lah!" I started to notice that I was given much bigger bowls of rice than everyone else, and my parents would praise my brothers for eating so fast even though they were already in high school and only had to eat half as much as me. Keep in mind that during this time that I am talking about, I was under half the size of everyone else in the family. So I think I might have told my parents a few times that I couldn't finish my food, that it was too much, so they just shouted at me some more for being such a slow eater.

This also applied to dessert. My dad insisted that I eat many slices of watermelon or other fruit after every single meal. I didn't want to, so he threw me in the garage and whacked me with a slipper. When I tried to open the garage and leave, he whacked me some more and then threw me back in the garage. I think there were at least 20 dinners + dessert combos before I finally learned how to make my stomach produce excessive stomach acid and therefore be able to handle the demands that were placed on me. And that is why I have acid reflux today, and why I'm so controlling over my portions and eating schedule, but that's ANOTHER story.

My parents quickly taught me the opposite of forgiveness. My mom would tell me that she loved me and go through all those motions like mothers always do with their children, but then she told me that I am supposed to hate my dad because he is stupid. Then my mom would tell me exactly what to do at dinner. When a specific dish was presented, I had to say some very exact sentences, such as "Daddy's food tastes bad." If I obeyed, my dad would shout and maybe hit me. But if I tried to do the opposite of what my mom said, she would definitely shout at me and definitely hit me, and she would definitely give me worse food the next day. It was like I could choose to be hit with great pain for a short time, or get hit in a way that crushed my soul, or just become totally apathetic and go put my mind in another place. When I think about it, politics are like the same exact thing.

And then there was my very first prayer. The association between God and forgiveness did not get off to a good start in my life. I remember when I was a little kid, barely learning how to talk or read. While I was sleeping, my mom suddenly pulled me out of bed, hit me, and shouted at me to pray. I told her that I didn't want to, so she hit me some more and shouted at me to pray while pulling me into the house's master bedroom. So finally I tried to start praying. I tried to say, "Dear God, um," but I was interrupted when both of my parents shouted really loud. I think I eventually formed a complete sentence. So that was my very first prayer.

I was starting to feel really distant from God. I felt like He wanted to hurt me, that Jesus didn't really forgive anyone, that I was just supposed to be afraid of Him. I knew all the answers to VBS and Sunday School but I was one of the worst kids. You wanna talk about a gap between head knowledge and living out the gospel, that was me as a little kid.

I had a teddy bear once. I think when I first got it I was affectionate with it. But I quickly turned to practicing wrestling moves on it. I distinctly remember trying to do a jumping elbow drop on my teddy bear a few times. I felt really mad inside, and this was like one of the only ways I could express myself. I had these weird feelings, like I just wasn't hitting the teddy bear hard enough.

Then there were friendships when I was in elementary school. They did not last very long. At first, when I was in kindergarten and in the first few grades, I could kinda make friends. But as time went on, I found myself with pretty much zero friends. I had asthma pretty bad then, and I wasn't disciplined about carrying my medication with me, so I was very bad at sports. My body issues are ANOTHER story. So anyways, there was this one time I thought I made a friend, but he ditched me so he could hang out with other people. I got so mad that I pulled out my housekey and I seriously tried to cut him. But, I was a tiny asian kid with asthma, and he was a really tall dude, so I failed to cut him at all.

There was this one time when I thought I had a chance to make friends in elementary school. The teacher was showing videos of some dude with a yo-yo doing cool tricks. Some of us were inspired to get those specialized yo-yos. But I wasn't very good at it. I tried to hang out with the other kids who were practicing and they all shouted at me to go away. One time I tried to follow them but they just shouted at me some more. By the time I was in 4th or 5th grade, I just stuck with books.

I was very bad with homework, especially anything that would take longer than 5 minutes. Projects were the worst. When I tried to take up space on the table and do a project, I would get a lot of shouting because other people wanted to use the table. When I tried to get my mom's help for something, she would shout at me for doing things wrong. My dad would have these talks with me about why I didn't do my homework. I would try to start to speak so I could tell him why I didn't do my homework and then he would shout at me for being so lazy and warned me about being destined for homelessness. He would drive me around to see homeless people and tell me that I was doomed to be one of them. Both my mom and my dad told me that I was good for nothing. Even recently, in the past few years, they openly talked in public about how I was unplanned.

Back to when I was in elementary school. I started to really act out at the church I was going to at the time. There would be these Saturday nights when we would bring video TAPES and one of them would be chosen for everyone to watch. I brought a Charlie Brown video and someone else brought Jungle Book. Jungle Book won. I got so mad that I tried to block the TV and screamed and cried for what must have been two hours straight, because it was during the whole length of the video plus some more. I even punched a pregnant woman in the stomach, which was about the height of my head during that time. My dad got really mad because of that and slapped me across the face both ways a few times. After a while, I just became totally antisocial during these children's fellowships and I tried to hide somewhere where I hoped nobody would find me.

I could go on for hours about all the stuff that happened before I even reached 5th grade, but I had to cut a lot of it because of time.

Junior high and high school were a big blur because I was not only doing books, I was also doing lots of video games and cold medicine. Drugs are bad, they make life a big wasted blur. You feel like you have a lot of fun but it just falls right out of yourself when it's all over. There would be nights when I felt like I had so much fun at church, but when I got home, I cried so much because now it was all gone. Sometimes I snapped a rubber band on the back of my hand for the thrill of it.

Anyways, I remember this one time when I was just sitting in a hallway, watching some classmates talk to each other. They were talking about how much they hated this one girl, and how annoying she was. Then THAT GIRL who they were talking about walked in. So, they suddenly pretended that they were her friend. When she left, they went right back to talking bad about her. This strongly impacted the way I saw the world. I started to think that everyone is like that.

Everyone in junior high and high school knew that I cried a lot. They would tell each other, "Hey, let's go make Patrick cry!" And then they would make fun of me, and I cried. Then I tried to hit them, kick them in the shins, elbow them in the stomach, and they eventually stopped.

I really wanted to love God, and I even changed churches because I thought I could get closer to God that way, but I found myself accumulating more and more hatred. At high school, I was so antisocial that I just sat in the hallways or in classrooms by myself and stuck to doing homework and books. After ANOTHER long story, I was investigated by the police for being a possible school shooter, because I had all the classic signs.

Meanwhile, at church, I sank really badly into putting my mind in another place. This was not helped by some people who were really into charismatic pentecostal stuff. I began to believe that I was a prophet of God. It was like a shortcut to feeling like God loved you more than anyone else. I need to say right now, charismatic stuff is very dangerous. I now believe that charismatic stuff is actually dealing with evil spirits, but that's ANOTHER story. Anyways, I was into it because I wanted to feel the intensity of God's love so bad, and work out my anger by hating evil and feeling like I had superpowers that made me superior. You know John Chen, right? John saw me a few times during that phase.

Later in college, I began to completely disengage from the world. I was one of those kinds of people who never went to class but I still got Bs. If I did go to class then it was for some elective just to graduate faster, like Earth Science and Women's Studies. But there was this one class that really stuck out in my mind. It was a high-level software class when some people came over to tell us about a career in software. They were from Deloitte Consulting. They said that if they don't feel comfortable having a drink with you then they won't hire you. They didn't want anyone who actually likes doing software, they only wanted cool people. They said that competence was worthless compared to having a drink with them. That made me feel like the whole business world was hitting me.

In college, there was this one guy who decided to try to be my friend. He was one of the lead developers for Defense of the Ancients, or DOTA, for Warcraft 3. But then he started criticizing the way I dressed, because back then, I was wearing shirts with holes in them. He told me to come out to special meetings on Thursday nights, to talk about career. But Thursday nights were also when I had college fellowship. So I told him about how I went to a fellowship on Thursday nights, and how I thought that was more important than going to a career group. He said, "F them."

College is also when I began to have sudden anger episodes with really intrusive angry thoughts. They didn't show up on the outside, but they did consume my thoughts and they caused big changes in my body. So, during college, I was also learning kickboxing and jiu-jitsu. Whenever I thought people were making fun of me in class, I would start planning out in my mind how to kill them. I evaluated pens and pencils to figure out which one was the best for stabbing into someone's neck. I looked for all the good hiding places, so I could ambush people. I imagined all the different ways a fight could end up. I started carrying scissors in my pencil bag. I even imagined as far as getting arrested by the police, and seeing girls cry because of what I did. The only thing that made the angry thoughts stop was the thought of seeing girls cry.

Another episode that I had was when I was just driving on the freeway, and I suddenly thought about what would happen if a dude with a hot car tried to run me off the road. So I imagined that we would pull to the side, then I would walk up to him and ask him what his problem was, then he would pull out a gun, so then I would kick his window in and pull him out of his car. Then I would knee him in the chest and the face until he died. I imagined as far as getting arrested and being put on trial for killing this guy. There was one thing that made the angry thought stop. That was the thought that a girl who I liked would probably hear about this. I imagined her friends telling her what a horrible person I was. That finally made me snap out of the episode.

Now, I could go on and on about all the intrusive thoughts that I've had, but that would take a few more hours.

For the sake of time, I need to fast-forward to 2009, after I was laid off from my third job. So, there was this one church that I had started going to after being laid-off. It was an all-asian church, and everyone was exactly between the ages of 18 to 40 a lot like Prime. Except, they were not intentional about fellowshipping to build each other up in Christ. I tried to share about my experiences with them, but they told me that I didn't listen to my parents enough. They told me that everything my parents did was out of love. I remember telling one of the pastors there about all the times my mom hit me for getting a lower grade that someone else's kid, and this pastor told me that my mom, quote, disciplined me because she loved me, unquote. They also believed that the Tiger Mother was good. If I ever said anything bad about the Tiger Mother then they would just tell me I was a self-hating banana - yellow on the outside but white on the inside. The way I feel about the Tiger Mother and how angry that makes me is ANOTHER story, and I had to cut it because of time. I could just talk for hours about how evil the Tiger Mother is.

They always told me that nobody needs relationships, and all you need is God. Of course they would say this while scheming about how to prevent me from starting any relationships. After several months, I walked up to the lead pastor of that church during that time. I asked him why shouldn't I just go meet God RIGHT NOW, if you know what I'm talking about. I had thoughts of running out into the middle of traffic, or jumping in front of a train while everybody is there. The pastor told me that we experience God in a community. So I would try to make better friends with these people I had known for six months and they told me that I could not force myself to be a part of their community.

So, anyways, after yet ANOTHER long story, I just quit that church. But, quitting that church made my parents really upset. My mom told me that I was Chinese and therefore I was only allowed to go to a Chinese church. She shouted at me all the time for shopping at Safeway rather than Ranch 99 or Lion City. Seriously, every time I told her that I shopped at Safeway, she just flipped out and screamed at me to return all of the stuff that I bought, and get it at Ranch 99 instead. She looked in my trash to see what I ate and opened all of my bills and read them before letting me see them. Meanwhile, my dad told me that I couldn't hold a job. This was in public, at a busy restaurant. He was talking to me about my plans for the future, and he just shouted at me, YOU CAN'T HOLD A JOB!

A little tangent about how I was just three years ago. There was this one time when I was just shopping at Safeway, and a little girl pointed at me and said, "He looks so sad." And I really felt like God wanted everyone to be happy except me. I felt like God purposely wanted me to be sad.

Alright, so, now about how I learned about forgiveness. So let's go back into when I was in college. There was a class that I was failing badly. The instructor invited me to his office. I remember crying uncontrollably. He said, quote, "I'm not going to hit you, God, Patrick, like, COME ON man." That was the very first time in my whole life that an authority figure had one of THOSE kinds of talks with me and the result was not hitting or crushing my soul. I've had a lot of THOSE kinds of talks, and that was the first one where I felt like any amount of forgiveness or grace was shown to me.

Then there was my third job, the one that I god laid off from in 2009. My boss was always too busy for me. He was never around when I needed him. My experiences with people never having enough time for me and always being too busy for me is ANOTHER story that is just as long as the one I've BEEN telling. I could go on for hours about abandonment issues that I developed because nobody ever has enough time for me. Anyways, so, I began to be very bad and unproductive at my job. My boss realized that I was not doing a good job and started saying things like, "You don't know what you're doing." One day he just took me aside and grilled me about the company's software and other stuff. I felt like I was going to get fired. I grabbed my own throat to stop myself from crying. And then he told me that he was not going to hit me. Keep in mind that I was 23 years old at the time. This was only three-and-a-half years ago. So after he told me he was not going to hit me, we reviewed the stuff that I was SUPPOSED to be doing, and our communication got a lot better, and he talked to me more often. He encouraged me to go way outside of my comfort zone and do things like - walk to other people's desks and ask them questions, instead of e-mailing them.

That was the start of regaining a lot of confidence and courage. I figured out that I needed to ask people for help, and there was nothing wrong with asking for help from the RIGHT people. Especially God. I learned that God was always the right one to ask about anything. I've been going to church my whole life, but it was only these recent experiences that made God real in my life.

Once I started coming to Resonate one-and-a-half years ago, I also started volunteering a little bit at Habitat for Humanity. That was really good for regaining confidence in my ability to work. I also got to confront a lot of fears like my fear of heights, sharp objects, power tools, talking to complete strangers, asking for help, working in 90-degree weather, and a lot of other things I used to be afraid of. Just a little tangent - what was really fun for me is that all the stuff we were building used to look one way when We started the day, and then thanks to teamwork and persistence, the stuff would look totally different at the end of the day. It's like the ending of Office Space.

Then, there was the time when my dad told me that I couldn't hold a job. Well, two days after that, I went to the prayer meeting. It was the first time in my whole life that I had ever gone to a regular church prayer meeting. As I shared with them what happened, I started crying a lot. Then they told me that they've been following my prayer requests the whole time and they've prayed for me so much. That was one of the few times in my life where someone remembered ANYTHING about me. And then I saw that all those prayer requests that we write on these communication cards are collected so that this group can pray over every single one of them. So, once I started praying together with the Tuesday night group, a lot of amazing things began.

I'll just touch on two of those amazing things. First, I got back into my career just January of this year, ending two and a half years of unemployment. Secondly, just two months ago, I finally moved out of my parents' house! WOO-HOO!

So, now I'm facing a lot of challenges in practicing forgiveness. I have to forgive a lot of people and a lot of things, including abstract concepts. I only have enough time to very briefly mention one of them, which is, my parents.

I've been working with God to try to forgive my parents, but it's been pretty challenging. However, God did give me one little opportunity at the beginning of this year. So, last Christmas, my whole family and I went to Disneyworld for a whole week. I can't go into any detail about that trip because of time, but there was a lot of walking. Anyways, a few days after that trip, my mom developed a compressive fracture in her lower tibia. You see, her power-to-weight ratio is very bad, so this was the SECOND time that she had gotten a compressive fracture in her life. So, I obediently went and got her walker and helped her move around until my dad came home.

Lately, God has been putting on my heart that I have a very limited amount of time to forgive my parents. My parents are already in their mid 60's. I feel like it would take me 50 more years just to heal from all the hurts, get rid of all the nightmares, stop having the intrusive thoughts. Maybe shorten that to only 10 years if I can get a lot of love. But, my parents don't have that long. So I'm going to be praying to God for healing and for the ability to forgive and forget. Right now, I feel absolutely frightened, I just feel complete terror, at the thought of going to a family dinner, because of what my family might say to me. There's a sort of certainty about the danger. But, Jesus asked for forgiveness for the people who put Him on the cross.

There is just so much that I want to talk about, but that would make this testimony about five times as long, and that's just for the subject of forgiveness. So we'll end here.

Any questions?