God sees all people, even when humanity does not
“Sometimes I wonder if the Asian-American experience is what it’s like when you’re thinking about everyone else, but nobody else is thinking about you.”
— Actor Steven Yuen
"Minari," a film about a Korean immigrant family seeking to build a new life in the strange and foreign land of rural Arkansas stars Steven Yuen. The film has been nominated for best picture in the upcoming Oscars on April 25.
It is both exciting and painful to see the rise of Asian-American representation in media and film. Exciting because of the ways in which our horizons of what’s possible is constantly being expanded. Painful though, because we know instinctively that even given how far we’ve come, our lived realities are still misunderstood, marginalized and largely ignored in the wider public.
The shootings in Atlanta on March 16 have been a watershed moment in bringing the history of our invisibility into the wider public conversation. Since then, more and more of our Asian-American sisters have boldly begun to raise their voice and acknowledge that despite this invisibility, they will no longer be silent.
We have a long way to go to reach the equality that is at the essence of the family of God. In order to get there, I think we must constantly be looking to the spiritual resources that will give us strength to endure for the long haul. In a world that isn’t thinking about us, how do we make our presence known with boldness and faith, hope, and love?
One of the most crucial steps is to look deep into the heart of God. Genesis 16 gives us a picture of who this God is. In this story we see Abram and Sarai in their desperation for a child make a decision that leads to contempt, violence and betrayal. Sarai convinces Abram to bear a child through Hagar and immediately after is filled with jealousy and contempt and drives Hagar away to survive on her own.
In the midst of her fear and abandonment, God meets Hagar and grants her a promise. It’s in that moment when Hagar acknowledges God as El Roi, “the God who sees”.
God sees us, and dare I say, is thinking about us. When nobody else is, He is. The invisibility that many Asian-Americans have felt throughout our history is met by the one who knows us and sees us in all of our humanity.
Theologian Timothy Keller put it well. He said, “To be loved but not known or seen is superficial. To be known and seen but not loved is actually our greatest fear. But to be fully known and fully seen and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
In the midst of anti-Asian hate and violence, we need all the fortifying we can get. My encouragement to you, whoever you are and wherever you are in life is to look to God. Lean on Him, cry out to Him, meditate on Him. Let the reality that He sees you in your pain and is bringing healing to your life fill you with hope and strength. It did for Hagar, and I believe it can for us, for the long haul.
Tim Wang is a graduate and faculty campus minister at the University of Texas at Austin. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org.