Eugene Cho

the most difficult year of my life

Since everything is so current, I may be biased but 2009 has been one of the most (if not the most) difficult year of my life – and yet, incredibly formative for the reasons I share below.

How was this past year for you?

As part of our human inclination and disposition, we make plans and we do all that we can to pursue those plans. Things turn bad when some of those plans don’t come to pass. Things suck when everything feels it’s moving in the opposite trajectory of what you hoped for.

In their hearts human beings plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

To list a few challenging things in 2009:

  • Absolutely bizarre but someone managed to hack into our ATM card and emptied out our account as we began 2009. We managed to work with the bank to get most if it back but it was so weird.
  • Two of my closest church staff moved on from staff. One is still at Quest but is traveling the world with his wife (lucky jerk) and the other moved on to greener pastures to plant her own church in Seattle (lucky jerkette). Thankful for them but emotional nevertheless.
  • I ruptured my Achillesthe other one. It really hurt – physically and emotionally. I officially retired from basketball and relinquished any ambitions to be the first 39 year old rookie in the NBA.
  • My wife practically became a full time student and that was exhilarating for me to see her soar, fly, and pursue her passions…but it was tough on our collective schedules. Really tough.
  • Financial pressures galore this past year as we sought to honor our pledge of donating our year’s salary to One Day’s Wages. Who in the world could have anticipated the financial crisis? The lowest point: Being quasi-homeless and couch surfing for 8 weeks. Thankfully, we had dear friends who took us in. Thank God for friends.
  • Had one of the scariest experiences of my life when our eldest daughter (food allergies) had a bad reaction and resulted in us doing what we feared the most: injecting her with an epi-pen and the ER when she began to have difficulty breathing.
  • It felt like numerous folks questioned my leadership, sensibility, and integrity or at least that’s how I felt. But then again, how could they not? But it was tough – really tough. And after awhile, I began to question myself until Grace sunk in again. In my weakness, He became my sufficience again.

Yeah, I think it was the most difficult year. But as the year winds down, I can’t convey how grateful and blessed I feel. Why?

We made it through. I feel like my family and I endured the eye of the storm but nevertheless, our love, respect, and care for one another has only grown. My faith, trust, and love for Christ not only endured these trials but only grew deeper. I was humbled this past year and learned to trust again, rest again, and rely again

I share all these things to give God glory for the ways that He works in my life – even the ones I dislike –  and in some way or another, to a be a source of honest encouragement to you.

And I have this strange feeling in my gut (that’s also hard to explain)…

that 2010 and beyond are going to provide some of the most abundant and fruitful years for me, my marriage and family, and my ministries and leadership.

A videographer from Recycle Your Faith swung by Seattle several weeks ago and interviewed me about life. It was a fairly long chat but here’s one of the clips about things not turning out as you expect…

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16 Responses

  1. Janet says:

    I agree. You had a pretty sucky year. May the Lord continue to bless you.

  2. luke says:

    i always appreciate the reflection process at the end of a year–something that quite possibly could be more important and impacting than any resolutions about the upcoming new year. at the very least your resolutions will be much richer coming out of significant reflection. thank you for the reminder to look back on the year.

    2008 was quite possibly the worst year of my life, and i remember sitting on the verge of 2009 literally cursing the past year. but now as i think over 2009 in hindsight, God has really shaped some things and made this year a true blessing. not only that, but much has happened that helps color 2008 in a better light because i understand more and see with greater perspective.

    i guess my question though is if things hadn’t have gotten better, would i still appreciate 2008? if things do not turn for you in 2010 will you still feel thankful and blessed? do we define our bad times only through the lens of future goodness? just questions i suppose–not too much sense to them.

  3. Wow. It seems that you and I as well as some of my closest friends have the same observation about 2009. This year was marked by hope and then crashed into grief and financial disaster. I just posted last night about trying to redeem the entire year by seeing what God has taught me throughout the year.

    You’re right: we made it through. To God be the glory when I don’t understand the story.

  4. Eugene,

    Thanks for everything. I had a great visit.

    Like I said, those shiny and spirit-lifting skyscrapers would not stand long if it isn’t for the depth of their foundations. Sounds like that’s what God has been doing with you in 2009. I am totally looking forward to praying with you throughout and enjoying with you your 2010.

  5. Matt says:

    your faithfulness to your commitments and convictions inspire. thank you.

  6. Kacie says:

    Eugene, I just want you to know that I find great encouragement in your blog and your ministry. You mentioned that you felt many questioned you, and you know, the more publicly active you become, the more those questions will come. You are human, you and your humanity will be on display.

    I personally find your honesty and your pursuit of truth and passionate service and sacrifice to be a huge encouragement and challenge. I DO see you as a person, with flaws. I’m glad, though. I’d much rather watch the example of a flawed person than a false facade.

    Thank you, brother.

  7. Rebecca says:

    There is always pain involved in bringing new things into being-just think of this year as labor pains! The blessings and fruit will come!

    2009 was a worst and best year. Obviously best because I met and married my husband, but health issues have been the worst of my life. Mono, allergies, eye infections, skin infections, you name it. Looking forward to good health in 2010!

  8. For me this year has been one of the most difficult, and yet the best of my life. There have been a constant stream of trials and problems, and yet God has shown Himself strong through it all, and brought me through it all. Glory to His awesome name!

  9. chrisbscott25 says:

    Thanks for your endurance and your faith in trusting your very family to God. Its been an inspiring and challenging story to watch from a distance (San Francisco), but please know Eugene, that through your story God is working…. Thank you, thanks to God. Kyrie eleison, Christi eleison!

  10. Kris says:

    These last two months have been personally difficult (and for Scot too as my spouse) as I have had two cancer scares which resulted in two biopsies (breast and uterine) and a day surgery. Thankfully, just today I have been given a clean bill of health with respect to these two matters and ultimately both biopsies came back cancer-free. It has given me a new respect and empathy for friends and acquaintences who are going through cancer treatment. The anxiety that goes along with this whole process of biopsy, waiting for the results, etc. is quite wearing on the soul.

  11. Tyler says:

    It has truly been amazing to see tough things come your way all year long and yet God’s provision has been steady as well.

  12. […] Last year was tough but I learned so much and look forward to the adventures and lessons for the upcoming year: […]

  13. […] Eugene Cho, author of the blog beauty and depravity.  I love reading his blog because Eugene is so transparent and open.  He is a courageous and compassionate person who is an inspiration to me.  I have to admit that […]

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One Day’s Wages

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Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer. Seattle. 7:00pm. Desperately holding on to summer. #goldengardenpark #nofilter Happy Birthday, Minhee! I'm so grateful for you. You radiate faith, hope, and love.  No...you don't complete me. That would be silly and simply humanly impossible but you keep pointing me and our family to Christ who informs and transforms our lives, marriage, family, and ministry. Thanks for being so faithful. I love you so much. (* And what a gift to be in Korea together.)

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