Grief lies like a foot of flood water in our home. I’m not wading through it all the time, but when I hear of another death — because of COVID, because of police brutality, because of depression, because of chronic illness, because of old age — the waters rise, and it feels as though I can’t tread water long enough to keep myself afloat.
It’s not only loss of life that keeps me trudging through grief. It’s the daily reminders that Black bodies are not safe, that anti-Asian racism is still alive, that people feel stripped of their rights for having to wear masks while others don’t have access to the same kind of privileges or resources or freedom. Grief mingles with wrath and lament and hopelessness, and I don’t have the energy to envision what it could be like in the future.
Twice last week, I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was wrong, which only added frustration to the restlessness I already felt. Every night, I try to push anxiety to the edges of my mind, but it shows up center stage when my body finally relents and lets me sleep. But instead of rest, anxiety turns sleep into hours of vivid dreams that keep my mind unsettled.
But morning comes anyway, unfazed by the world burning. The sun shines through the slats of the window blinds, telling me it’s time to start the day whether I want to or not. It’s true — the day must be lived. Breakfast must be made, work must get done, fights between children must be managed. Decisions about the future must be weighed even though everything may change again in a day’s time.
News and important conversations are happening, but I’ve become slow at processing information. I hear and read words, but my mind only seems to catch half of it — if that. I feel the pressure to catch up to everyone else, but I know the learning and unlearning process when it comes to anti-racism work, deconstructing our faith from white supremacy, and allyship is a never-arriving road.
People say things won’t go back to normal, and I really hope they don’t. History tends to repeat itself, but I want what needs to be burned to be burned away. I want the broken systems of our country to be fully exposed, so we can no longer look away and say it’s not our problem. I want the Church to get a good look at herself so we can see that so many things are not right and well just because we say it in Jesus’ name. I want the prejudices and biases I’ve learned and lived with to fall off like scales from my eyes.
So even though I wish all the chaos and pain would end already, I think we’re just in the middle of it. We can cross our fingers and shut our eyes tight, hoping for things to calm down or be in denial of what’s really happening around the world. We can even cry out for revival and renewal, but as I’ve written before, is resurrection even possible when what needs to die hasn’t finished dying yet?
I don’t think we’ll get through this by gritting our teeth. It will require more from us than we’re comfortable with, and for me, I don’t know if I have the tenacity to keep going or if I’m brave enough to face what will come.
When I think about what else might happen in the months ahead, what sacrifices will need to be made, what lives will still be lost, my chest tightens with anxiety. I feel helpless, so I close my eyes, take deep breaths, and remember those who came before me.
I remember my grandfather-in-law who recently died at the age of ninety-one. He had lived and fought through war times, eventually immigrating from Korea to the United States to give his children and future generations a chance at opportunities he didn’t have. I remember my own grandmother, who was widowed at a young age and raised her three children as a single mother. I think about Black men and women who marched and fought during the Civil Rights Movement and how their protests, their blood, their words, their lives paved the way for equal rights — not just for the Black community but also for many others, including Asian Americans like myself.
I wonder how they did it — how they lived through and survived trauma, how they kept going when it felt hopeless. I wish for the kind of grit they had, and then it dawns on me: Everyone who came before us gained tenacity because they endured the difficulties they had to live through. They didn’t have a choice but to go through the fire, wade through the waters, and now they are our cloud of witnesses, as Romans 12:1 says. They’ve run this race, and now it’s our turn to endure hard things, fight for the right things, and persevere.
I imagine their hands behind our backs, supporting us, anointing us, and Jesus in front of us. He endured trauma and death at the hands of religious leaders and law enforcement. Jesus was abused and beaten, hung on a cross to die slowly until He couldn’t breathe anymore. When we are weary, when we can’t see what’s ahead, when we grieve and lament in anger and sadness, we can look to Him who endured it all and trust that He will help us persevere.
Lord, make us tenacious. Help us to endure. We look to You. Amen.
Those who came before us have run this race, and now it’s our turn to endure hard things, fight for the right things, and persevere. -@gracepcho: Click To Tweet