From the beginning of my life, I have always felt like an outcast. As an immigrant and a visible minority, I had a hard time making friends. Children cruelly teased me about my coarse hair, my almond shaped eyes, and they even refused to believe that South Korea is a country. I was never wearing the right clothes, speaking the right language, or following the right people. My parents worked like slaves and it was still never enough to make ends meet. We were constantly being evicted and eventually ended up homeless. Talk about not fitting in!
I spent my life trying to fit in. In high school I hated being Asian. I caked myself in makeup and did everything I could to oppose the stereotypes, even though in many ways I fit the stereotype perfectly. At the same time, I worked incredibly hard so that my parents’ sacrifice in coming here would be worth something. My worth became entirely tied up in my reputation and my performance. And it never seemed to be good enough.
By the end of high school I was burned out and lonelier than ever. Where was my place in this world? Since I entered high school I had worked towards becoming an emergency room doctor and was riding a full scholarship into the University of Manitoba’s pre-medical program, but inside I felt lost. Battling clinical depression, questions of sexual identity, and trauma, I felt too difficult to love – there could be no purpose to anyone loving me. I thought I would never put forth anything worthwhile. In the somewhat calm summer before my first semester of university, I cracked. Without the busy-ness of school to keep me preoccupied, I felt the full weight of myself, bleeding and unable to produce as I had been doing all my life.
With the full support of my parents, I gave up my scholarships and went to CMU in pursuit of more existential questions. Following another year of deconstruction, I went on Outtatown Guatemala. As I worked through my life-long depression and reflected on my life thus far, I heard the gentle voice of God: “I am with you.”
One day as I was journaling about my Outtatown experience, and more specifically about life in an intentional community, my heart wandered to all the ways I felt that I fell short, all the ways I hated myself and hurt others, and I began to weep uncontrollably. I wept because I heard the voice of my God saying, “There is a place for you in my kingdom.”
A place for me? The racoon-eyed, sailor-mouthed, morally unsound girl in the ripped jeans? The perpetually gloomy, self-absorbed, moody-minded me? You mean even though I’m small and broken the kingdom needs me? It was healing to long-abused ears.
My Palm Sunday installation comes out of this revelation of acceptance and love. No matter where your feet have been, my friends, there is a place for you at God’s table. You are worth loving, and by being who you are, you contribute priceless treasures to God’s kingdom. I invite you all to take a drawing of the feet that most reflect yours as a reminder of this. May you notice God’s face shining on you as you go into the rest of your life.