During the last week of 2012, I celebrated the birthday of both my earthly and Heavenly fathers. For those who know me well, you know that my relationship with my father has shaped me more than any other relationship in my life. It has been far from perfect, but the word of God has reconciled our relationship.
I have decided to share the letter I wrote to my dad for his 47th birthday. Some may ask why I am sharing something so personal. My response is simple. Galatians 5:1 says that Christ has set us free to set others free. I firmly believe that everything we experience is not only for our benefit, but also for the benefit of others (Philippians 2:4). I have my dad’s permission to share this, all for the sole purpose of magnifying Christ and his faithfulness to his children.
No other relationship will influence your view of the Heavenly Father as much as your relationship with your earthly father. I pray that through my father’s birthday present, you would grow closer to your Heavenly father.
I decided to do something unique for your birthday this year. You have never been the one to receive physical gifts, not because of ungratefulness but rather your humble heart. I wanted this year to be special. This past semester was an incredibly difficult yet fruitful time in my life. Over the years I have come to realize that you communicate better through written rather than spoken word. Therefore, the Lord led me to write this letter of encouragement to you.
My fall semester of 2012 was incredibly difficult. I struggled in every area of my life; academically, athletically, and even spiritually. I would wake up often with a sense of apathy. For the first time, I began to question what I wanted to do with my life. Do I really want to be a journalist? Am I supposed to be at Michigan State? Did I make a mistake by not going to Moody Bible Institute? The trials forced me to start pondering about the direction my life was heading.
The Lord answered my question at Passion 2013. The “268 Generation” is a major theme of the conference. It is the idea, based on Isaiah 26:8, that our generation would be one that would proclaim “…[God’s] name and remembrance [as] the desire of our soul[s].” My desire is to be part of the 268 Generation. There is an astounding need in this world. The statistics are numbing. Over 50% of people in the world live on less than $2 a day. There are 27 million men, women, and children that are enslaved, more than at any other time in history. These are people just like you and I. They have dreams and aspirations just like we do. The only thing separating us from being in their position is a matter of latitude and longitude. I must dedicate my life to a cause greater than I (John 3:30). I do not want to waste my life (Matthew 16:26). Christ has set us free so we can set others free. I want to dedicate my life to shining the light of Jesus in the world’s darkest places. Not just by giving money, but using everything that the Lord has blessed me with to help the least of these (Matthew 25:31-46).
I do not think this passion is a newfound desire of mine. Throughout the course of my life, as I have delighted in the Lord, he has patiently revealed his desires to me (Psalm 37:4). Ever since I was young, I have always had this desire to do incredible things for the Lord. Do you remember when we attended the Korean United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor and I applied to go on the Uganda mission trip as a 4th grader? That was not a childish aspiration. It was a holy ambition that was beginning to become apparent in my life even when I was young. I remember the first time I saw a “Feed the Children” commercial when we lived at 3045 Whisperwood Drive. My heart broke when I saw children just like me who did not have the basic necessities to survive and I asked you if there was any way we could help them. I believe that my holy ambition will continue to guide me to God’s will for my life (Luke 12:48).
I do not know what God’s plan specifically looks like yet. I am not sure what the future holds, but I know the one who holds my future. For now, I will continue to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) and see where the good shepherd leads me (Psalm 23). I put my confidence in his sovereignty (Jeremiah 17:7)
Now comes a major part of why I wanted to encourage you. You and I had our difficulties growing up. Because of your work schedule and the generational sin that exists within our family, I struggled with insecurity and doubt. These were some of the factors that contributed to my struggles in 7th grade when I contemplated suicide and committed self-induced harm. I came to realize that my childhood wounds were rooted in generational sin that go far back in our family history and culture (Exodus 20:5). However, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, our relationship has been continually redeemed by the faithfulness of God and the truth of his word (2 Corinthians 5:17-19; 2 Timothy 3:16). The healing process began in 8th grade when your father passed away. I learned shocking details about our family on that unexpected trip. Grandmother’s struggles, your relationship with your father, and the painful memories you had to witness growing up in a spiritually divorced household. I saw how all this had an effect on the type of person I was and the sins I struggled with. But I also saw how the Lord had strategically crafted our family history to start something new with our relationship. That trip was one of the most life-altering experiences I have ever had.
At the beginning of this fall semester, the wounds I had buried began to come to the surface of my heart. God used everything, from the testimonies of others to even the feelings I had for a girl, to reveal to me that it was time for healing in a way I had never experienced before. Our culture told us that it is a sign of weakness for men to show emotion. Jesus has told us that it is time to stop listening to tradition and to once again, die to self (Mark 7:1-13; Luke 9:23). He told me that the destructive cultural habits of our family history end with us, and that you, mom, and I mark the beginning of new life in Christ within our family. Our God makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:5). This semester I experienced supernatural healing and reconciliation like never before. Through the counsel of Godly men and women (Phil Gillespie, Kim Giroux) and the truth of God’s word, I am now able to feel Jesus’ love in a way that I never have before. At the crossroad of semesters, God used Passion 2013 like a hot furnace to melt the hidden areas of my cold heart as I experienced the supernatural love of the church in the midst of worshiping with 60,000+ other believers (John 13:35).
God has been faithful to our family. We ought to be forever grateful.
During the last week of the semester, I made the difficult decision to end my athletic career. The plagued thoughts of negativity crept in once again. I felt like I had failed. I did not know what other opportunities I would get to pay for school. When I told you the news, you sent me this text message,
“Thank you for sharing the news. You must be very disappointed and perplexed. I would advise that you just accept this situation as a reality. I will keep constantly pray for you and God’s guidance and plan for you. Take it easy. God is still in control. I love you and am proud of you being my son.”
When I read those words, I burst into tears on Chris’ bathroom floor. I was too embarrassed to cry in front of anyone. I cried again when I shared it with Phil later on in the day. To this day, I can not read that text message with dry eyes. I felt a sense of unconditional love despite my failure (1 Corinthians 13). Your words were a reminder to me that my (Heavenly) Father is always there to pick me up even when I fail. The God of Angel Armies is ALWAYS by my side.
As a child, I had times when I doubted your love for me. Part of it was because I never heard the phrase come from your mouth but I also realized that you never heard those words from your father either. Today I have no doubt of your love for me. It has been fearlessly displayed to me through the example of your life (1 John 3:18).
Your servant leadership and discipline are the two most powerful examples you have set for me. I still remember the first time I woke up in the morning when I was in high school and I saw you praying for me beside my bed. I have yet to see a more powerful image of a Father’s love for his son. I share your actions with others when I talk about how Christ has redeemed our relationship. I tell others about how you wake up early in the morning before you go to work to pray and spend time alone with God. Your endeavors have not gone unnoticed. You have been a powerful image to me of the discipline of our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 1:35). You are the most hard-working person I know. You are so generous with your money and time. Whether it is donating money or stacking chairs at church, your actions continue to inspire me to pursue Jesus with a greater discipline (Hebrews 10:24).
Our relationship has become a testimony of God’s faithfulness. I have been able to share our story to encourage others to fearlessly trust in God’s sovereignty. We have a reason worth celebrating not just on your birthday, but also for the rest of eternity.
Happy Birthday Dad. You are an amazing example of a Father. I love you and am proud to be your son.
– Derek Kim