She scurried over to the rice cooker and opened it. Using a rice paddle to scoop out a few grains of day-old rice with her right hand, she then picked them off of the paddle with her left, squishing them together between her slender thumb and forefinger. I watched her move quickly and silently, her dark eyes focused and on task.
I am the daughter who was ever seeing but never understanding. I listened to stories and yearned for more answers. The barrier between us has been hard, at times as unyielding as concrete. It’s thick middle fortified by cultural misunderstanding, language lost in translation, hidden stories, the grief of lives stolen and the gift of lives given.
Moments before she had shifted her focus towards the rice cooker, I had rolled my eyes and declared we couldn’t go to the event we’d been invited to. The gift that had been carefully picked out months before couldn’t be wrapped because we couldn’t find tape anywhere in the house. Why was there always some needed item missing? We were already going to be late as it was, and at the time, I couldn’t fathom attending the event without a proper gift, wrapped like all the others would be. I didn’t want to be the one who stood out again, who didn’t know the protocol again, who might have to explain not having something as simple as a roll of extra tape on hand, because so much of life was busy trying to figure out how to fit in as the multicultural family we were.
This was one moment of many when I fought my God-given ethnicity. I didn’t want everyone to see the war of cultures that waged within. I wanted to fit nicely into one race or the other. I felt like my very being was a collision of parts to the outside world: sharp wreckage, metals that don’t mix, liquids and temperatures that cause reactions, all of it making a scene, slowing normal lines of traffic, taking up space, needing help, and never fitting anywhere.
As a little girl, I sat in class daydreaming when I was supposed to be learning how to add and subtract, to use commas and colons. I didn’t dream about princesses or tea parties. I dreamt about a girl with wild, night-colored ocean hair and eyes so black there was no distinction between pupil and iris, who grew up eating what remained of leftover rice. And I dreamt of a boy with fresh green eyes and a quiet smile who grew up the son of an English-Canadian immigrant mother and a South Dakotan hard-working, homesteading father, who always had dreams of the sea in mind. I asked God to show me how they could coexist within me. I couldn’t find the right answers or punctuation for these daydreams. I wondered if God had made a mistake in my making.
She took the rice and smooshed it again and again in her fingers, turning the rounded pieces into a tiny paste of sticky, white goo. She walked over to the gift whose covering was coming undone, and pressed the goo in all the places that were falling apart. She had made her own tape with a few grains of day-old rice. I watched her and felt the weight of who she was. I was a teenager, and I cried in that moment, feeling her presence, a weight like a sliver of something true and heavy, something of heaven.
We missed the event. But that day, what I didn’t miss was my mom and an opportunity to embrace God’s story in me. We delivered the gift to our friends later, its paper still held together with sticky rice glue, carrying with it the silent stories of my mom’s Korean upbringing against the backdrop of our family’s American experience.
I listened to a podcast sermon by Duke Kwon recently, teaching about the verses in Revelation 7:9-17 that describe people from every corner of the world coming together to worship Jesus. In it, he said, “Ethnicity is for eternity.” The sentence shook my insides. I had never heard this truth spoken in such simple words with so much authority. I wondered why I had never heard any other pastor preach so much worth toward each of our God-given ethnicities.
I see it now. The daydreams I’ve dreamt have much more to do with an eternal becoming than I ever realized as a girl. The ones that matter most have whispers of a collision — yes, of the breaking and re-making that happens in the middle of what feels like wreckage, what looks like not having enough, and what appears to be awkward and ill-fitting. It’s the now and not yet while God’s kingdom bell rings, declaring its presence at work, its movement moving, its sticky rice glue holding together all the things God intended for us to become and keep on becoming into eternity.
What things in your story do you want to tame and smooth over? What things do you wish fit better? God’s heart beats in the places where we only see scrap metal. Where we are blind to His image in our daydreams, He tenderly makes us see.
The smashed rice holding my family’s gift offering together speaks of God’s image and all the places He is still in the business of making forever-things gloriously new.
He is still in the business of making forever-things gloriously new. -@tashajunB: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Thank you for a tender insight into growing up as the child of two diverse ethnic backgrounds. I think that all of us, growing up, wished that we were different in some way in order to “fit in” better. God, however, did not create us to “fit in” but to be unique and stand out. There is not one single person out there that is exactly like us. I was the ultra sensitive child of two very stoic and emotionless parents. I, too, thought there was something really wrong with me. I didn’t like feeling things SO deeply…it was hard and draining at times. But, God…He knew exactly what He was creating. He doesn’t ever make mistakes. To deny or to want to change our makeup is to criticize God’s fabulous creation. Embracing and accepting ourselves, just as we are, flaws and all, is an important step in accepting our identity in Christ. So thankful that God doesn’t make mistakes! Beautiful post!
Bev, I am so glad you held onto that beautiful part of who you are. Your sensitivity to others and your ability to feel things is indeed a superpower.
Michele Morin says
I love this: “Where we are blind to His image in our daydreams, He tenderly makes us see.”
That has been my experience as well, and I lacked the good sense or the optimism to even ask God for many of the gifts he has poured out on me.
Michele, I wonder if most of us do realize it. It seems to be such a process of receiving grace after grace. With you in that gratitude.
Andrea C says
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11
You are a beautiful soul. Thank you for the gentle reminder to be eternity-focused. It is so easy to get caught up in the short-term frustrations of the world and lose sight of God’s eternal picture. He’s been calling me to believe in this bigger picture over the past three years of my life, and I am still working through it, believe I always will be!
Amen to that. Thanks, Andrea. I love that verse. It reminds me to have grace for this continued growth and unraveling and that all of me is held.
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Sticky rice glue…I love that. Growing up with a Japanese mother and an “American” father, I felt that pull. There were days I wanted to be 100% one or the other nationality. I felt a lot like that sticky rice glue. Being Japanese was a part of me, but my Mom felt she had to give up that part of her, so I wanted to be that sticky rice glue to bridge the Japanese with the “American” side. Until elementary school when it was painfully obvious I was the only Asian American -not just in my own grade, but entire elementary school. It was painful days at school being picked on being called racial slurs and not really even knowing why. When I would come home and cry to my mom, she would piece me back together, with a hug, some rice, and a story of her early childhood. In those moments I could ask about some of the traditions she followed as a little girl. She was able to regain pieces of her Japanese upbringing by giving them to me and even though she is no longer here, I’m still trying to piece it all together. I so love the your words of “Where we are blind to His image in our daydreams, he tenderly makes us see…. ” They bring comfort and I think I’m getting out my rice cooker and having rice for lunch! Thank you for your inspiration. <3
I love that you had rice for lunch after reading this. I understand that and while I don’t mean to keep writing about rice bowls, it’s what keeps coming out. I’m comforted by the similarities in our struggle between two worlds, and our coming to see the beauty of being able to hold two worlds. Thankful for you, Kathleen.
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Becky Keife says
Kathleen, thank you for adding your voice and sharing a slice of your story here. I’m better for having read it. xx
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Becky, thank you so very much for your kind words. <3 It's been a blessing to meet you here.
Thank-you for sharing your touching story with us Tasha. I enjoyed every bit of it.
I hope that you all have a blessed day,
Thanks, Penny. You are kind and we are blessed to have you in this community.
Nancy Ruegg says
Thank you, Tasha, for your poignant piece. Beautifully written too. I never thought of “ethnicity is for eternity” either. That truth brings to mind a bus ride in New York City a number of years ago. Among the passengers that day just about every ethnicity was represented–even some native costumes–and I felt energized by the moment of unity we experienced–all together in one place, all going in the same direction. Little did I know at the time that moment was a picture of eternity, when all believers of every ethnicity will be all together in one place, with our attention riveted in the same direction: the throne of God!
Thanks, Nancy. I love the memory of your bus ride in New York City. Beautiful.
Beth Williams says
This needs to be talked about more these days. So many people growing up with diverse backgrounds & ethnicities. America is a melting pot of various cultures. I have two great nephews living in China. One was born in USA & one in China. They have American mom & Chinese dad. They speak both languages fluently. They know with whom to speak each language by looking at you. Everyone has something about themselves that they dislike. I was born with two punctured eardrums & could not hear. I became the shy child not wanting to talk to people. Life was a bit difficult for me. Trying to find a job after HS was arduous. I learned to accept my limitations & move on. Years later both ears healed. I know God doesn’t make mistakes. No matter how we feel. We were made unique-no one else like us in the world. One point you made stuck out to me: “Ethnicity is for Eternity”. We don’t think about it, but people from all walks of life-every country, language will be there in Heaven. Fascinating & intriguing post. Thanks for writing.
Thanks, Beth. Yes, I agree, this is something we can all talk about and learn so much more about. I’m always learning. Thank you for sharing about your experience with punctured eardrums. What a unique perspective you must have because of those experiences.
Jessica C says
Your post was so beautiful. Being Korean and adopted by American parents has been a blessing but also a burden at times. I don’t know what my biological parents were like and I look at my brothers and get envious that they know who they are and where they belong…so many people refuse to open their minds and hearts to other cultures and the issue of adoption. I find myself caught between two worlds without even considering the fact that perhaps I struggle because I am Asian in a (mostly) Caucasian part of the world… Anyway I do long for the day when Everything will be made right and in Heaven it won’t matter whether you were black, white, Asian, poor, rich, middle-class (whatever that means), etc.
Jessica, your perspective and voice as a transracial adoptee is so important. Our youngest is adopted from Korea, too. I’m learning as an adoptive parent, just how much I need the unique perspective and wisdom that can only come from other adoptees and listening as much as possible. I’m so sorry for the ways you have felt a resistance from others, especially if it’s come from the church, to be open (and honestly, beyond that, inviting) to other cultures where adoption is concerned. I believe it’s so, so important and your feelings are valid. From my own experience in a biracial and multi-cultural upbringing, I hear you and agree. I long for all of us to see and fully celebrate our differences as necessary parts of one beautiful whole. Your voice is important, Jessica.
Becky Keife says
Tasha, your words have a way of stirring something heavy in me, yet it doesn’t drop like a rock but rather lifts in my soul with messy hope. I’m ever grateful to have your voice here. Thank you for helping us see others and see our own stories with tender eyes. xx