I’m having a mild panic attack because I just accidentally quit Chrome and lost all the tabs I had open and I CAN’T REMEMBER WHICH ONES WERE OPEN. Conveniently, one of the tabs was an unsaved draft of the current post I was working on. Darn it all.

My fondest memory of my mother:

The night before taking my SATs for the second time, I’m woken up in the middle of the night when my ma comes into my room and rearranges the blankets. I fake sleep as I always do, waiting for her to leave when I feel a hand on my cheek. It doesn’t register at first that it is my ma caressing my cheek and when it does, I half wonder if I had imagined it. It is the softest touch I have ever remembered receiving from her and I find myself silently asking God to let me do well on the exam tomorrow because I cannot bear to disappoint her.

My recollections of the two accounts where I told her I loved her:

[1] She has moved all her clothes out into my room. I don’t remember the last time she’s eaten. She stares motionlessly at the TV screen and a bottle of wine rests on her nightstand, nearly empty. I sit beside her bed contemplating whether to shout at her or leave. Finally, I drape myself across her and breathe through the knot in my chest. She can feel me shaking and she tries to push me off but I stubbornly hold on. “You know I love you, right mom?” I finally force out. She gives up trying to push me off; she doesn’t answer me and I start to cry.

A minute or so later, her hand comes up to pat my back once before she puts it back down by her side. Her voice is hoarse as if she had been crying all day. “I know. Don’t worry.”

[2] Fast forward two and a half years to Mother’s Day, I’ve packed all my stuff into my car and I stand outside for a few moments before I work up the courage to walk in, casually strut up to her room and tell her I’m leaving. She asks if I’ve remembered to bring watermelon with me and I nod yes before saying thank you. I turn around and walk out, then go back in, spilling out the words before I can second-guess myself. “Happy Mother’s Day, I love you.” My voice is incredibly high pitched and squeaky and sing-songy and it sounds so insincere and she scoffs/laughs. “Okay, thank you,” she replies but by then I am already out the door, down the stairs, wiping away my tears.

My strangest (and rather fond) memories of my dad:

[1] He used to squeeze my nose all the time, when we were in a restaurant waiting for food, when we were in a car ride and he’d reach back from the passenger seat to reach me, when I sat beside him on the couch and watched basketball with him. He’d tell me that pointy noses are the most attractive and that my nose was too flat but don’t worry, he’d sharpen it up for me.

[2] He tells me to hold my breath and close my eyes and that this is all in the name of science before he dunks my head in a bucket of water. When I come up choking and completely terrified, he explains that he is measuring the volume of my head and guesstimating the mass of my brain because he wants to predict how smart I will become. It didn’t make sense to me a decade and a half ago and it still doesn’t now.

My recollection of the one time my dad told me he loved me:

We’re sitting in his office and I’m talking to him about high school and all the crazy sh*t people do in high school. He laughs and looks at me and tells me if I ever come across any trouble, I could talk to him about anything. Boys, drugs, alcohol, sex, anything. “You know I love you. I’m here for you,” he tells me. I am half startled by his exclamation but more preoccupied with my growing mortification with the turn the conversation was taking. It doesn’t even pass my mind that I should have told him, “I love you, too.”

In my household, if I bring up Jesus, my parents tell me to shut up or get out. (Not quite so meanly and abruptly; they do it in a sort of jocose way but the harder I push the harder they become). RoX is a touchy subject and Christianity only comes up when my father wants to ridicule me. They’re not comfortable with my faith but seeing as I refuse to be moved, they live with it on the condition that I don’t push it onto them.

Most of my prayers for my family have been passive; “God, let them know Christ. God, open their hearts. Jesus, do some sort of miracle and make them believe in You.” But, God has slowly been starting to remind me that He works through people and He has been challenging me to take bigger steps regarding my family.

The first step was a simple thing.

“Tell them you love them.”

I’ve probably watched this video around five times by now and every time I watch it, I still manage to tear up. WATCH IT but know I gave you fair warning; if you’re an emotional sap like me, you’ll cry:

Telling my dad that I love him was a spur of the moment, convicted by the Holy Spirit kind of thing. Grace had just given a talk at RoX about how God is love and had showed the above video as an opener. I had seen it before, felt convicted to tell my parents, but never went through with it. But, that night as I was procrastinating writing my paper, studying for my exam, etc., I finally could not stand it and went, “What the heck, let’s do this.”

I had no idea how he would react and I didn’t worry about how he’d react. All I wanted to do was to be able to force the words out of my mouth before my voice cracked.

I got as far as, “I love you,” before my throat closed and swallowed all the words I had been planning to say to him. There were so many words I wanted to say.

He graced me with an “Uh huh.”

30 seconds later, both of us still aren’t talking before he mutters an, “Okay.”

I still am not composed enough to open my mouth a minute later so he breaks the silent with an, “Ahh, I love you, too.”

His words are shy.

(I haven’t heard those words from him in years and I mistakenly count it as the first time I’ve ever heard it from him.)

He seems to realize that I’m having trouble speaking so he changes the subject. He asks me to update him on the job search front. Immediately, I am able to talk and I tell him about all my exploits (hah, no actually, not many to share there) and I calm down more and more.

He puts my ma on speakerphone at one point and I tell her I love her, too, just for the sake of it. I’ve now told her three times. She scoffs again and says, “Now you tell me,” the undertones of it whispering, “Why are you telling me this?”

The phone is passed back to my dad and we continue our conversation. At one point, the conversation turns to the subject of the ISIS attacks. He tells me that his friend in Florida, a missionary who started a church there, just recently informed him that one of their missionaries was most probably killed in Iraq. She had left the church in Florida because she felt called to go to Iraq and spread the Gospel there. She frequently emailed the church, keeping them updated on what was going on. She was successful; often times she would email back, saying another family had accepted the Word of God and was ready to follow Christ. All was well until the city she was staying in was invaded. Before all communication was lost with her, she informed the church that ISIS were killing children of families who refused to renounce Christ. Feeling burdened because she believed that she had brought death upon these families’ children, she decided to stay when she could have left. Nobody has been able to reach her since.

I know what my dad is waiting for and I tell him not to worry. I tell him I’m not going into a war struck country anytime soon, that I’m not going to pursue any humanitarian endeavors that could endanger my life, that I’m not going to end up like the missionary, etc. “Don’t worry, dad, I’m not going to do anything crazy.”

There’s a faint voice in my head that warns me to make no such promises.

He pauses for a moment before answering. “I know…because you said you love me.”

I can hear the smile in his voice and the hesitation that comes with his statement. Still shy.

It breaks me.

It is at that moment I realize how much my dad loves me. And it is at that moment I find it the most tempting to stop following Christ, the one who tells me to take up my cross, to deny myself, to leave my family (Luke 14:26-27). I realize that one day, I’m going to break his heart, that I’m already breaking his heart, that I am no longer his little girl, that he has lost me to Jesus.

I start to realize more and more that all my father’s efforts against my walk of faith are spurred by his love for me. Of course he doesn’t want me practicing a faith that seems to condemn people to a life of suffering, persecution, and even death. He loves me and wants the best for me.

But so does the Lord, my heavenly Father.

I later sent my parents an elongated text telling them how much I appreciated them and wanted to thank them. I shared with them the video, not expecting any reply. My ma texts me back the day after (my silent, distant, deeply introverted ma who absolutely does not talk about feelings); “The video is so touching. I want to cry. Asian parents prefer showing their loves in action than their words. My feeling just like the parents’ reactions in the video. Thank you very much for your words.”

Needless to say, I cried like a baby.

I’d say that was progress.

I can’t wait for the day when my parents will finally let me tell them about the Gospel. I fear the day and I wait for it all the same. And I have full faith that God is good and that He listens to my prayers and that day will come.

But for now, He teaches me to take small steps.

“Tell them you love them.”

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:12)