With a heavy heart I write these words, each syllable trembling out because this Sunday at LH will be my last.
Tiffany, Solomon, and I are leaving San Francisco Lighthouse church. And we will be attending another church in the Mission called The Great Exchange.
Now when I myself heard those words during prayer last February, I might have had a response similar to yours: "What? Wait, why? I don't understand. Leaving, why? Lord, what's the point in leading me to Lighthouse and connecting me with others, only to disconnect us later?"
For months I wrestled with it in my confusion, anger, and sadness. I knew nothing of this church in the Mission, only that the pastor there, Sean Curtis, had once preached at Lighthouse and was friends with Pastor Jeff. I screamed, "Why?!?" And He responded. He took me back to a single instance in my life that held consequence on how I related to others and, most of all, how I trusted in Him.
I was 18 years old. My parents were fighting. A lot. They were at the edge of divorce and it was the night their marriage split. My mom screamed, calling for me. I ran upstairs. My dad was standing, ready to strike my mom. I came in-between and pushed my father. In that singular traumatic incident, I watched my dad fall backwards and onto the couch and I stepped forward and took his place. I was no longer the son, but became the parent. I went from being a careless adolescent to the man of the house, a broken home filled with the shattered remains of an ideal father. Shortly, my dad left. My heart broke and I ran to my spiritual families.
During my high school years I was curious about God and I was attending two churches, a Chinese church and a Korean one, as a refuge from the racism I was experiencing. I felt that both communities shunned me. The shame and Asian cultural stigmatism over my broken family pushed me out. I walked away with a deep sense of betrayal and a lost sense of belonging. 10 years would pass before I spoke to my father again or even another Christian.
As the Lord took me back to my troubled past, I heard Him say, "The years that were taken from you, I will restore and give back. I am returning your identity as a son."
It took me several months to understand what that exactly meant. Our Heavenly Father provided me with people along the way, speaking into my life. I came to the realization that I have been trying to be the ideal Father for myself and carrying that image, ever since the eviction of my earthly one. My father left me at 18 because he thought I was old enough to run things. For me, being a son meant that it's something you do and shed once the father thinks you're strong or mature enough.
I also met with Pastor Sean and asked him a bit more about his church, details such as the size of the congregation—and as he answered me something struck me: "I would say our church is about half-Chinese, half-Korean." So those words He spoke boomeranged back these past few weeks.
I had lost my Chinese church, my Korean church, my relationship with my father, and my identity as a son.
He is giving me back both churches, giving me a relationship with my Father, and giving me back the permission to just be the son.
I do feel like this is a season of healing for not just for me, but also for Tiffany and our family. The remembrance of my time spent with the body of Christ at Lighthouse and the promising future ahead of us makes this a bittersweet departure. But my sense of loss is only a sign of how I have rejoiced, fought, and wept alongside you on this amazing journey together.
The community and body of Christ is a gift, and we remain thankful in how He gifted Lighthouse to us.
James, Tiff, and Solo