Last week I visited a country that will always hold a special place in my heart. In South Korea I became a father, I made many friends, and I grew tremendously as a high school teacher and basketball coach. I traveled to many places and saw many incredible things.
Sunday night I took my last Transpacific flight – possibly ever.
That weight sat heavy in my stomach on the train ride to the airport on Easter Sunday. As tears streamed down my face, I noticed a few blonde hairs stuck to my fleece vest. They were an immediate reminder of what (and more importantly who) I was leaving behind. As I held the thin blond hair between my thumb and index finger I reflected on my time in Asia.
7 years. It seems like a lifetime ago when I think back to 2008 when I moved to Taipei – and yet it seems like yesterday. As memories flashed to the forefront, I began noticing a common theme: Duality. As one pleasant memory visited my mind it would often be followed by a sad, tragic or unpleasant memory. How appropriate that my time in the continent that is known for their YinYang philosophy can thus be summed up.
Asia was the place I found out that I cannot have children naturally. It is also the birthplace of my beautiful twin daughters. It saw me seek out my first accountability partner but because of a lack of true accountability my addiction worsened. Asia was a place that shaped me into the teacher and coach that I am today. Unfortunately it also had a hand in shaping me into the addict I am today. I developed and cultivated some of the closest friendships I have ever had in my life. I lost many friends as well. In many ways my marriage was strengthened and I learned how to be a supportive husband and loving father. Asia was also the place my marriage came to an end because of my infidelity and deception. In the end, I was not the husband that I needed to be.
I was not the man people thought I was.
So how will I remember my 7 years in Asia? An amazing adventure? A life-changing experience? A place of growth? A tragic chapter in my life? A beautiful cultural enrichment? A place full of sadness, guilt, oppression? The answer is all of the above. I loved my time in Asia. I hated my time there too.
I cannot have one without the other.
They co-exist and that duality sums up my life. I am not a good person but I am not just a sinner. My moral inventory is not only filled with all the bad things I have done. Because despite my addiction, God was able to use me to touch others. Through my teaching, coaching, friendships and many ways in between, I was used by God to further His kingdom. At the same time I was in a very dark place in those 7 years. I was sick. I still am sick. The only difference is unlike my time in Asia – I am treating the disease.
So onward to the next chapter. Onward toward healing. At the end of my life my 7 years in Asia will have shaped me no doubt but it will not have defined me.
Those years are still ahead of me.