Midian

Midian

And she named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.” When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian. Exodus 2:10-15

Midian

I recently enrolled in a conversational Cantonese class
My classmates
Are mostly white guys with Chinese girlfriends, white guys who want Chinese girlfriends, and people like me,
Sons and daughters balancing on broken “I love you’s”
Houses built on crumbling glass;
I can’t tell if the lines beneath my feet are roots or cracks
My second class, my teacher singles out all the students with Chinese last names
“Nathan Lee!”
Here
“What’s your Chinese name?”
I don’t remember, I tell her, I’ll have to ask my grandma
And at that moment
I want to look anywhere but up
The same sideways glances I make when my grandparents ask me a question
And I have to wait for my father to translate
Is it weird that all my white classmates think it’s the coolest thing that they get a Chinese name?
Repeating each syllable with the worst possible pronunciation
But they say it like a badge
Is it sad that all the ABC’s whisper the names they’ve always had?
Like they were being undressed in front of class
And even if I say it now, Lee Jeun Giht¸ I feel like I need to laugh.
Who taught me how to be ashamed of my own name?
Who told me that I was naked?
Empty giggles cover up like fig leaves,
An insecure attempt to conceal the parts that are most truly us
My teacher’s words cut against scars in the shape of Chinese characters
We already knew that we had outgrown our names

I wonder if Moses felt the same way
I wonder if Moses, which means “drawn out from”
Was ever a name he wanted to claim
Drawn out from
As if being displaced was pre-ordained
Moses, were you ashamed
That your mother left you
Were you enraged
That God had blessed you
Did Egypt
Ever impress you
Did you blame yourself
Forgetful
Did you crack the whip
Regretful
Were you disdained
That guilt oppressed you
Did your face
Ever upset you
Did self hatred
Ever arrest you?

Did you ever thank God that you weren’t a slave?
Did you ever pray to God, asking to become a slave?
Was each day a ball and chain
A balancing game between slave and free
Did a Hebrew ever say, “You are just like me”
Did an Egyptian ever say, “You are just like me”
And who did you believe?
How did it feel to be so in between? Sometimes,

I too feel unseen
As I try to disprove all the lies that have come true about me
Masks worn dutifully for opportunities for you to see the good in me
Truthfully, the truest me was trapped in ambiguity
We were always caught in between Asian and American
Black and white
1st and 2nd generation
Native tongue and English
Privileged and discriminated
Slave and free
Lee Jeun Giht and Nathan Lee

And when we float in between the binary, no matter how we try
We will never be enough for the camps on either side
And they will try
Sending well intentioned lies…
For you to comply is to deny the divine who strives to bridge the divide inside
We have to see the beauty in our complexity
The blessing of intersections, we
Must hold ourselves in tension or one side of us will die
The dichotomy cannot capture me

But the dichotomy has captured me
I have tried to be everything to everyone
Asian enough for dad
Smart enough for mom
Assertive enough for this campus
Good enough for God
I am not a pawn
But I’ve forgotten who is king
Staring in this mirror I’ve forgotten what I’ve seen
I have become a white swan machine
A straight-A ABC who never got F’s but is never at ease
God please
Is it true that you’ve chosen me?
Am I worth it?
Will you notice me?
But I am unseen,
It is obscene, I am obsolete, they don’t need me, I am on my knees, I am suffering, I am worthless, I am in between, no identity, no serenity, my reflection, my worst enemy, and a PhD, won’t deliver me, every action is, insecurity, every influence, only puppetry, carry history, so reluctantly, no I love yous, from my family, no I love yous from my family, no I love yous from my family, God I need you, Jesus can you be, my salvation from insanity, can you redeem my identity, God I need you, God I need you, can you redeem my identity?

Because I’ve lost myself
Adopted by this world but a family portrait shattered on the shelf
Isn’t this the wealth we wanted, didn’t our parents pave our way?
We live in the suburbs now, and when we lost our accents we got paid
But a model minority is nothing but a compliant happy slave

Maybe Moses
Was a model minority too
Maybe he was the highest of Hebrews
But a pawn for Pharaoh
The narrow path too hard to abide
One day when you saw a brother being beaten
You were forced to pick a side
Tell me, when you killed the Egyptian, who really died?
Did you kill the enemy or murder the monsters inside?
Anger activated, held captive to your guilt and rage
No cage or chains but just as much a mental slave
Maybe Midian was not your great escape, or some attempt to leave the rest of us,
Maybe Midian was your own personal exodus
Before the exodus
Your release from mental and spiritual slavery
Maybe you needed a new direction
Every step towards Midian a tiny death and resurrection
Maybe wandering was the only way to find belonging in the form of a burning bush
A redemption of identity

I am Asian American
I am Malaysian, Mien, Hmong, Thai, Taiwanese, Japanese, Filipino, Pakistani, Pacific Islander, Indian, Korean, Cambodian, Assyrian, Samoan, Laotian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, and every biracial, multiasian, sorry if I forgot anyone
-American
I am more than the categories you herd me into
I am Asian
I am American
I am multiple languages held in tension
But I am more than that
I am my parents’ son
I am the Father’s son
I am a follower of Jesus
Not just “Christian now”
As if Jesus deleted this skin
My ethnic identity is elevated because of him
I am made in his image

Moses
Drawn out from
Asian Americans
Drawn out from
This weekend
Step with courage into your Midian
Your personal exodus before the exodus of the people
It will not be easy
Because resurrection hurts sometimes
But the puppet strings must come untied
We must first die
In order to be freed
Released from all the lies which have made a home inside
Stop trying to fight your way into God’s grace you’ve been there the whole time
There’s just been so much noise
In Midian, it is still quiet enough to hear that small voice
Saying
My grace is sufficient for you
My face is now living in you
Cease striving and know that I am your God
And your parents’ God too
Stop working for love there is no need to prove
You
Are drawn out from not because you don’t belong
But because I’ve set you apart
And don’t ever lose hope, because I’ve said from the start
It is good
You are good
You are made well
Now live like it.