Dear #SongSongCouple: Why Has Your LoveSONG Ended?

Image taken from Song Hye-kyo’s Instagram

 

Dear #SongSongCouple,

It wasn’t too long ago that you announced your marriage to the world, after a whirlwind romance following the success of your 2016 monster hit Korean drama, “Descendants of the Sun” (DOTS)—where both of you played a sizzling onscreen couple.

How is it that just after one and a half years of marriage, you’ve decided to go separate ways?

Now I don’t consider myself a Korean drama fan, but I was one of the millions of viewers who found myself hooked to the military romance when it started airing in February 2016. In three months, I had finished watching the 16-episode drama (even re-watching some episodes numerous times), played the original soundtrack on repeat, learned how to play the drama’s iconic song “You Are My Everything” on the piano, and even wrote an article about relationship hacks based on the drama.

Image taken from Korean Times

 

Imagine the elation I felt (as millions of other DOTS fans did) when news broke that your reel love story had turned into a real love story. It seemed as though for once, the sacrificial, romantic, and pure love that Korean dramas have been renowned for could actually become a reality. So like many, I followed the news of your wedding closely, eagerly cheering you both on when you tied the knot in October 2017. My friends and I even contemplated throwing a celebration party to mark your fairy tale ending.

Or at least, that’s how we thought things would end.

But rumors began to surface at the beginning of the year that your marriage was on the rocks when Song Hye-kyo was spotted without her wedding ring. And despite Song Joong-ki allaying fears by saying he had become more “emotionally stable” after marriage just one month ago, that wasn’t enough to keep your marriage together.

Image taken from Business Insider

 

Turns out, even the perfect love story doesn’t guarantee a perfect marriage. I had already learned that from the Brangelina episode. But I guess what really stunned me about the announcement of your split was how short your marriage was.

Your agencies have attributed it to “differences in personality” and have urged the media and public to “refrain from writing sensational or speculative articles and comments”. But speculations have been rife; even among my friends, some have called your marriage and divorce a publicity stunt, while others have attributed your break-up to infidelity.

As a fan, I wish both of you had given your marriage another shot, or at least tried to work things out for a longer period. Perhaps if you had learned how to give and take a little more like your onscreen characters, things might have ended differently?

You must be thinking: What do you know? And you’re absolutely right; all I know is what the media tells me. At the end of the day, only the both of you know the real reason for the breakdown in your marriage and why you’ve opted to throw in the towel instead of trying to work things out. And being individuals who have lived your entire lives under the spotlight, I know the days ahead cannot be easy.

But one day the media storm will blow over, and the world’s attention will be turned to the next golden couple who finds themselves in the same situation as you, lamenting once again, that “love is dead”.

So if not for anything, here’s one thing I think we all can learn: nobody—top Hallyu or Hollywood star or not—is immune to failed relationships and being let down by others. By our own strength, we will never be able to guarantee that  our love for our partners will remain consistent and permanent. That’s just human nature.

Should we then just give up desiring “true love” altogether? Definitely not. Because love is far from dead, as long as we turn to the right source—not to ourselves or any other human being. And His name is Jesus. He is the ultimate bridegroom, and showed how much He loved His bride (us), to the extent of dying on the cross for our sake (Ephesians 5:25).

As you lead your separate lives from this point onwards, I hope this truth encourages you. Love is still very much alive, in the person of Jesus Christ. And because of His love, we can now love others (1 John 4:19).

Taylor Swift, Could You Please Calm Down?

Dear Taylor,

Welcome back to pop music’s center stage! In 2019, you’ve burst onto the scene, dropping new music, setting up a new host of Easter egg clues, and letting us all see how carefully you’ve constructed a season of unashamedly using your platform and music to share a message. Some of the Swifties are calling it “TS7”, as we’ve all sensed it’s an era worth marking.

You should know that I’ve been here since the guitar-playing, sundress-wearing and concert hair-flipping days, cheering you on from a distance and eagerly soaking up each new sound and style you’ve shared through your albums. It’s been fun to see how much your music has grown and changed over the years, and I’ve found myself totally willing to let each album carry me into a new place, learning to appreciate a new sound, a new genre, a new Taylor!

So, after having your first single from the new album stuck in my head since its release in late-April, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the next track and scouring the Internet for any clues about your upcoming music that I might’ve missed. Just before the weekend, we finally got another peek into your new album through the release of the song “You Need to Calm Down”.

From the lyrical references to the LGBTQ media organization, GLAAD, the line about how “throwing shade” has never made anyone less gay, and the snide comment about people staying up all night to make signs (presumably for protests), it was clear to me right away that this song is a nod to your LGBTQ “friends” (as you call them in the top of the second verse).

But the obviously pro-LGBTQ lyrics didn’t surprise me much. It was the video, dropping three days after the track was released, that really threw me for a loop. After joining the hundreds of thousands who pressed “play” within the first hours after its release, I found myself re-watching it several times, trying to make sure I saw everything right.

The bright, colorful rainbow palette, as well as the wedding ceremony between two men and drag queen competition affirmed what we all were thinking—this song was built to be a pride anthem. But what caught me off guard . . . the thing I had trouble swallowing, was the not-so-subtle jabs at Christians.

 

Screenshot taken from Official Music Video

 

About a minute and a half into the video, I got my first glimpse of the protestors. They’re mostly wearing plaid, the men have long beards, and some are sporting American flag clothing and cowboy hats—perfectly fulfilling the stereotype of an ignorant, unsophisticated hillbilly. Initially, I assumed this was a dig against the heartless and unkind sort of people that I, too, find myself wishing wouldn’t be so vocal.

As I got a closer look though, I saw that the toothless protestors in your video were brandishing signs that read “Homasekualty is a sin” (surely misspelled with intention), “HELL” in fiery flames, and “Adam and Eve NOT Adam and Steve”.

Screenshot taken from Official Music Video

Screenshot taken from Official Music Video

 

The biblical references registered in my mind, and it dawned on me what was happening here—or rather, who was being stereotyped. It was me. My faith. You were characterizing Christians to be hateful and mean, people who should be written off as unintelligent. After an initial wave of the offensive, my next emotion was just sadness as  I realized this video would go viral, reaching tens of millions with a message about Christians that was so misconstrued.

Most of me hopes that this was unintentional, that it was not a deliberate attempt to interweave my faith with a stupid, harsh, and un-loving narrative. But you misspelled words and made references to the dark ages, implying that anyone opposing homosexuality is simple-minded. And maybe you don’t know this, but the worst part is that in doing so, you solidified a stereotype that genuinely loving Christians have to diligently work against every  time we want to engage with anyone about topics as sensitive as this.

I’m a Christian who doesn’t hate gays, but you’ve successfully perpetuated the narrative that there isn’t space for me in today’s culture.

I hope you’ll give me a chance to clarify . . . to invite you into understanding what Christians really are like—or at least who we should be like.

 

It’s not our self-expression you’re tryna mess with.

You might wonder why Christians would care so much about how other people are living their lives—why we don’t keep our offensive “self-expression” to ourselves. It’s because it just isn’t that simple. Because it actually isn’t about me. And it’s not just about you, or your friends. Or what any of us want or think is best. It’s actually about God.

This life isn’t about self-expression. It’s all about living to honor God’s expression of creating us in His own image. And as His image-bearers, when we love Him and conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, we find hope, joy, love, and peace.

 

We’re already trying to restore the peace.

In light of this, I had a particularly difficult time with the line in your song that directs the protestors to take a seat and try to restore the peace.

From the song, it’s obvious that this petition for “peace” is actually a desire for those with opposition to sit down and stop vocalizing it. Christians though, have a different idea of peace. Peace involves wholeness—not just staying silent. True peace is about being complete. And not just as individuals, but as a people, wholly restored to a relationship with our Creator.

I wish that we could both agree to pursue this kind of peace. That you would recognize that when Christians long for peace to be restored, it’s a big-picture, whole-world kind of hope. That it’s hope for the restoration of heaven and earth—for an entire world to be fully free from mourning, crying and pain (Revelation 21:4). This is real peace, real wholeness. And this, is what we long for.

 

It’s not about screaming at all the people we hate.

This was probably the hardest part for me to hear and see. It’s hard because I get it. We’ve probably cringed at the same news stories where people who call themselves Christians yell and shout and spew hateful slurs in protest. There is a lot of pain and offense that is undue, inappropriate, and uncalled for. But this is not what Christianity is supposed to look like.

Christians aren’t out to scream and spew hate towards those who don’t live like we believe God has instructed. Our faith isn’t about attacking the way a certain group of people live. Rather, we want to help all of mankind see how sinful and broken our nature is. How each and every one of us at our core is selfish and sinful. How desperately we need God’s grace so our relationship with Him can be restored and we can begin to understand that our very purpose is to live to honor Him.

I’ll be the first to admit that Christians need to ask God to help us truly love people in the process, because it can get messy. But I hope this letter has come across as loving. I hope you see that I appreciate and respect your work, but that you’ve gotten something wrong in this video. I hope you recognize how you’ve exacerbated an un-true and hurtful narrative about Christians being hateful.

My greatest hope though—for you, your friends, and for all of us—is that we do calm down. That we would put our own thoughts, desires and tendencies in subjection to God’s direction. And instead of living as if we all have our own crowns like you sing, that we’d live in pursuit of the ultimate crown—the crown of eternal life that we are promised if we persevere and love God.

When Social Media Determined A Teen’s Death

Written By Shu Huan, Malaysia

On 13 May 2019, 16-year-old Davia Emilia from Sarawak, Malaysia posted on social media expressing her weariness at life. Via an Instagram story, she requested that her followers vote on whether she should continue living or die: “Very important. Help me choose D/L”. Sadly, 69 per cent of those who responded voted for “D” and as a result, she jumped from the third floor of a building, bringing her short life to a heartbreaking end.

When I saw this news, my heart tightened. In addition to grieving the tragedy of this young girl taking her own life, my heart also went out to the followers who participated in the poll. How would they respond after finding out the girl actually committed suicide? Perhaps they had treated the poll as a joke, thinking that the girl was simply one of many youths seeking attention—that “choosing life or death” was simply a ploy. And yet, irrespective of intentions on either side, the painful conclusion was that her young life ended.

It’s a heart-wrenching situation that convicted me to reconsider how very powerful our words are. James 3:5 says:

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

Indeed, a small spark can set on fire a great forest. It’s terrifying to think that a simple tap on the phone might be able to determine whether another person lives or dies. In this verse, the apostle James reminds believers to watch our words—because a single sentence can build up or destroy a person’s life. What if the followers had chosen instead to encourage the girl with words such as, “How can I help you?”, “I am here to chat”, or, “You are not alone”? Perhaps then there would have been a chance of re-writing the tragic ending to this story.

Of course, the votes from her Instagram followers likely wouldn’t have had the same tragic impact if she didn’t already feel trapped and suffocated by the circumstances of her life, so much so that she had no hope for the future and entertained thoughts of bringing her life to an end. Ultimately, it was her decision to take her own life.

In some ways, I can relate to how she felt. When I was a young teen myself, I also struggled with suicidal thoughts. I felt suffocated by the pressures of life and everything felt meaningless. I was also upset at my family for not giving me the wealth and happiness I desired. Yet every time I thought of suicide, I could not work up the courage to do it, and so I never followed through. Looking back, I am so thankful for that.

In retrospect, I realize that it was all the grace of God. If I had chosen to give up my life then, not only would I have caused immense sadness to my family and friends, but I know now that I would have regretted it myself. Although there are seasons of life that are disappointing, discouraging or hopeless, I’ve learned that life is also full of seasons and experiences that can be exciting and joyful, and these are worth exploring and cherishing. Having experienced both the highs and lows in life, I now know that life is a gift from God.

I have been married for many years, and my husband and I have always hoped for a child. Although we have gone for physical check-ups and are both very healthy, we have  experienced disappointment over and over again. We are left mystified as to why we are unable to conceive.

This struggle with infertility has helped me further realize how precious each life is, and to not take it for granted. If not for God granting us life, we wouldn’t be able to exist on this earth for even just one more second. He has breathed life into mankind, and it is in Him that we live and move and exist (Acts 17:28). Life is God’s grace to us.

As Psalm 139:13-14 says:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

May we cherish our time on earth. After all, it was not in vain that God brought us to this earth. He has beautiful plans for each of us. We are children beloved by God, and we exist with value and purpose. If we chose to obey God and remain in His love, then we will experience true joy in life (John 15:9-11).

I pray that as we enjoy the pleasures of life on this earth, we will also courageously face the difficulties and challenges that may come our way—learning to appreciate our gift of life, and may we use our words well to love those beside us so that we may be a blessing to the world.

 

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, we encourage you to reach out to a church leader or look up your local suicide helpline to seek professional help. 

Another School Shooting: How Many More Tuesdays Will I Read About Senseless Killings?

Screenshot taken from The Charlotte Observer

On 30 April 2019, a gunman burst into a lecture hall on University of North Carolina Charlotte’s campus on the last day of classes for the semester. The students were giving final presentations when the gunman started shooting. Two individuals were killed as a result, and one of them died tackling the shooter in an attempt to stop him.

Though the news broke on Tuesday, it was only several days later that I finally opened an article about it. I wasn’t intentionally avoiding it—it’s just that, “Student Killed While Fighting Shooter” didn’t draw my attention like it used to. It wasn’t until I saw several articles about the same topic that I realized something had happened.

As I grappled with the news of this shooting, I found myself perplexed as to how or why I didn’t pay this story any attention until several days after it occurred. If I’m being honest, once I actually registered a headline, my first reaction was, “Really? Another one?!” After a record number of school shooting incidents in 2018 (at least 23), it seemed I was becoming numb to them in 2019.

While I was still trying to process the impact of the violence at UNC Charlotte, it happened again. On Tuesday this week, only seven days after the loss at UNC Charlotte, another shooting took place.

Another school, another shooter, another life mercilessly taken.

This time it was in Colorado, and prefaced by a dark irony that just last month, the school, along with hundreds of others, closed temporarily as the 20th anniversary of a particularly deadly school shooting known as “Columbine” approached. As of today, at least one person is confirmed dead, and several others were shot and injured.

I find myself, yet again, just reeling.

What do I do? What can I say? How can this happen? Why does this happen?

 

I can honor victims and their family in my response

I realize that I have no idea how to answer any of these questions. And that’s exactly why I feel myself becoming more numb to such news. Tragedies are horrible, and it’s easier to turn a blind eye than to engage with them. This is perpetuated by the fact that most of us feel utterly helpless when it comes to responding to tragedies.  Personally, I don’t feel like I can do anything to affect the situation positively, so I tend to give an article a casual read, then turn my mind to other things. However, something about a school shooting happening two Tuesdays in a row convinced me of one thing: I must not become numb.

The minute I stop reading the stories of parents grieving the senseless loss of their sweet child, or listening to the accounts of eyewitnesses, or hearing about how students and teachers are grieving the loss of any semblance of security in their place of study or work, is the minute I start the process of not caring. I need to listen to and read these stories, because I need to acknowledge the reality before me.

The reality is that though school should be a safe place where students can learn and feel protected, it has instead become a place where they’re practicing active shooter drills and listening for loud sounds that may indicate the worst-case scenario they have trained for. In acknowledging this, I pray that God helps me understand how I’m supposed to respond to it.

 

I can re-think how I’m praying

I think part of my response must include prayer. And that can often feel minor, empty, or like it just isn’t enough. But another thing I’ve remembered during these tragic couple weeks is that prayer is one of the most powerful things I can do. Prayer connects me to an all-powerful God who is able to provide peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7), even in desperate situations. I am comforted in knowing that the Lord listens to the cry of the righteous. He is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34: 15-18), and it’s worthwhile to spend time calling on Him. Prayer is vital, but I’ve been challenged to reconsider how I pray about something like a school shooting.

Do I simply pause to muse over it just long enough to offer up a simple prayer asking God to comfort everyone affected, and then move on to checking my email, or responding to a text message?

Or am I taking time to learn about the pain that I need to pray God heals?

Do I let the senselessness of it all inspire a desperate cry to God for restoration and peace that only He can bring?

Because I know that my God is the author of life. In fact, He sent Jesus to the cross so that us sinners could have abundant life in eternity (John 10:10). These violent school shootings are the manifestation of death and injustice in our world today. . . the stark opposite of the life that will define the restored world that God will bring (Revelation 21:1-4). They are senseless, often random, and without an identifiable motive. I have found that turning to prayer when I see death and injustice helps me to set my mind on the promised life in the new heaven and earth.

Understanding that situations like school shootings also break God’s heart and go against His ultimate plan for eternal life shifted my response to such tragedies. Instead of allowing my heart to become numb to these senseless shootings, I decided to take some time out to pray.  As I engage with the pain and grief of those affected by this tragedy, it helps me to pray more often and genuinely. As I take time to hear stories of parents who spent hours not knowing if their children were still alive, it helps me know how to pray for them. Taking time to learn about these tragedies also helps align my heart more decidedly to God’s plan for ultimate restoration and life. That alignment inspires me to pray for the pain, hurt, and violence that I see all around me on a daily basis, whether big or small.

I hope that you will join me in praying for the lives that were lost and forever changed as a result of the recent school shootings in the U.S. I also hope that you are encouraged to engage with the reality of pain and grief that I am certain surrounds you as well. Let the engagement settle your hearts on the life and restoration that God values and plans to bring to this world. And remember that when you feel helpless, prayer is powerful.