When I planned this series, I thought that this last post would be an ode, a goodbye, to my life in Mosaic. Then I ended up, miraculously, at Mosaic Conference in November. So when I planned this exact title ‘The Ending Into The New’ in early September, I did not know that this year’s conference theme would be titled ‘THE NEW’ because it was announced in October.
Something that struck a chord in me in Mosaic Conference 2019 was when Pastor Kevin Loo (from Malaysia!) started his sermon with:
‘When do dreams die? When they become a reality.’
Saying goodbye to the life I lived in LA would be one of the hardest things I’ll ever have to do.
The funny thing is I never dreamed about LA. Always an East Coast NYC kind of go-getter.
But when God let me go to LA for work in 2018, I went, and I fell in love, both literally and also with the never-ending sunshine and the space that a city like Manhattan could never provide. Then when God called me to go to LA a year later, I had to go, knowing it would only last for 2 months.
2 months later, I realised that LA is smoggy and foggy, or too hot when the sun’s out. LA is unforgiving, selfish and relentless, in traffic, in street parking and parking tickets, in its culture of fame and fortune.
Eventually, LA crept into my solace of church where slavery trumped work, work trumped rest, perfection won over passion, and people’s needs clouded my own need to be in relationship with Jesus. The boy and I were having the summer of our lives, but it was heading in the wrong direction, and we both knew it. The interns had their own burdens to bear on their own weary souls from their summer.
LA burned my soul into the desert dust.
My LA dream died on that flight back to Asia the next day after the internship finished. But not without a few seeds of hope being buried with my dead self.
On my last day as an intern, I served with the hospitality team. I decided I wanted a more low-key job on my final day cause I was not in the mood for chirpy introductory talk, so I ended up cutting fruits or something in the kitchen before service begun. Only one other person was washing the supplies, Brianna.
I’ve served with Brianna once or twice but didn’t know that Brianna was once a Mosaic Intern until that day. She’s my grandma intern, which just meant she did the internship in 2017.
We talked about ‘the punk intern’, and all the intern gossip of 2019 that she needed to know, and her life in LA after the internship. I asked, “What was your biggest takeaway from the internship?”
Brianna went quiet for a moment, and said,
“The internship stretched my capacity. I didn’t know I was capable of so much.”
What she said reminded me of the Monday of 2 weeks before this moment. I had already started feeling sad about leaving LA 2 weeks prior, because I knew it meant saying goodbye to my life in LA. I’m a planner.
That Monday afternoon after the penultimate intern seminar, I opened up to Pastor Brooke about this being a hard week because I knew the internship was ending soon (reminder: I had 2 more weeks), and started crying for the second time in front of Pastor Brooke. She hugged me and said a lot of nice things about me to encourage my post-internship life, but out of all the things that stuck was ‘Grace, you are so capable.’
Anyway, that same night, the boy sensed something was up with me. I slowly spilled my guts out – all my thoughts and fears about my post-LA life – until he was basically holding a puddle of tears. After I was done unravelling, he said a bunch of sweet things that didn’t fully register.
But what stuck in my heart was ‘You are so, so capable. And God is watching over you.’
Another seed that was sowed was through Pastor Chad. If you ever have the honour of having a conversation with Pastor Chad, you’ll sense the warmth of Jesus from the moment he says hello.
A distinct memory I have of Pastor Chad was on a hectic Sunday night. It was the end of the day, almost 10pm and I hadn’t had dinner yet. But thank God that night Mosaic called in a Kogi truck (Mexican Korean fusion street food, amen), so the boy waited in line to get food as I rested in a darker corner away from people.
Pastor Chad popped out of nowhere because he, too, needed a break. We exchanged pleasantries, and then he asked how I was actually doing. I opened up saying I was incredibly exhausted from constantly saying yes, for not feeling like I’m allowed to have my usual boundaries as an indentured intern. And he said he understood the exhaustion, and that he hadn’t eaten all day.
No one is allowed to skip meals around my presence. So I got up, asked for his order, ran to the boy right as he paid for our meal, and told the boy to order another meal. The boy rolled his eyes at me for double ordering, but I told him to be nice.
A few minutes later, the boy came back with our food. Pastor Chad met the boy and they hit it off. I ate my tacos in less than a minute and ran off to continue serving. 45 minutes later, I went back to that corner to look for the boy to tell him I was wrapping up and we could go for a proper supper, and the boy and Pastor Chad were still talking.
A few days later, Pastor Chad and the interns were hanging around Mosaic waiting to close up the building as the last few people were wrapping up in the building. Pastor Chad asked me about me and the boy. Overhearing the conversation from a few feet away, Rebecca’s eyes went wide open.
I said things are going well (true), but then tried to brush off the relationship with the usual reasons.
Instead of the usual dismissal of the relationship as I’ve gotten used to in Christian settings, especially with mentor figures, Pastor Chad pointed at me and said
‘But that’s how it starts right?’
Then Rebecca fell on a tree trunk and got a concussion so the conversation never really continued. But I haven’t stopped thinking about his words ever since.
So a part of me fully died on that August 6th redeye flight. And even though my initial LA dream died, the death created an empty grave that gave God the fertile soil for Him to grow and rebuild, for the seeds He planted to take root and grow.
In the 3 months after the Mosaic Internship and attending Mosaic Conference, I reminded myself: if I survived the internship, I can do whatever is in front of me, and I will say yes. This mindset turned out to be extremely useful for the new job I started in Hong Kong.
Not only is Hong Kong an overwhelming city (not just because of the recent events), the work culture is non-stop. On top of a demanding work culture, I am overwhelmed by this behemoth of a project that I’ve been entrusted with.
But I’ve learnt that if I say yes at every little step, someday I’ll look back and I’d have climbed a mountain.
After the internship ended, the boy and I ended our romantic relationship. We did not want to. But we knew we had to.
When we had the talk about where our relationship was going, the boy tried to describe what our relationship felt like after the past 2 months, and the first word that came to his mind was ‘broken’.
And he’s right – it was broken.
Broken not because we couldn’t communicate or were incompatible or that a future together was impossible, but because the relational path we were on was not towards Jesus, towards life.
Instead, we were both trying so desperately to hold onto this beautiful thing that we were choking the peace out of both of us. And before this relationship could fully deplete our souls, I had to kill it. Our relationship had to die or else our individual souls would.
As much as the process of sanctification is necessary and beautiful – dying to self, and living for Christ, becoming more like Jesus – there is a sacrificial cost of the process that we, as Christians, have to bear for ourselves.
Yes, Jesus paid it all on the cross. The entire cost of all sin and rebellion and iniquity of past and future. That’s the good news. But Abraham still had to bring his son Isaac on a 3-day trek up the mountain and was 300% ready to sacrifice him until an angel literally stopped his axe.
At the end of the summer as we discussed our relationship, I sincerely hoped for the angel to come to stop my axe from coming down and killing this relationship.
But the decision was made and the goodbye was finalised as soon as he dropped me off for my flight back to Asia. I cried and cried over the death of this relationship from the moment the plane took off from LAX, to the very night I arrived back in LA for Mosaic Conference.
Yet in the midst of the first sobfest on the flight back to Asia, God comforted me with the words:
the story’s not over yet.
And those words anchored me through each step of the way of going through the grief of missing him, through each new day filled with new obstacles of my old self, through every moment of doubt and fear that this sadness is it.
But with every moment of death, of sorrow, of loss, I learnt to remember: In the Kingdom of God, death is no more because there is resurrection. Death to self is another opportunity for more life to Jesus. Death is a chance for new life.
A lot of me had to die and stay dead through those 3 months, so that by the time I landed in LA in November, I was so empty and hungry that I could be filled with the new. New words, new orders, new wine for the new wineskin, new beginnings.
After all, an ending is just a beginning of another chapter, or another story.
After all, isn’t that how it starts right?
We’ve made it to the end of Mosaic Moments, and of 2019! Thank you for being with me through this year. I’m still going to continue writing in 2020, so stay tuned! Drop your email below for the latest blog updates.
Have a #blessed 2020!