Reflections on my experience at PQ and a passage from “Fathered by God”
Reflecting on Wilderness Camp
In 2007, I was sent to a wilderness camp in South Point, Hawaii (big island) called Pacific Quest, a center for “troubled youth.” Umma and Abba (parents) sent me there because I had gotten into some trouble with the law, but most importantly, I was a living menace and demon child at home. There was nothing else they could do to turn me around. Counselors, psychiatrists, shrinks, public humiliation, group-counseling, medication, and psychologists had all failed. After spending a week in juvenile jail, I was court-ordered me to choose between an 8-12 week, expensive-ass, organic farm rehab, buddhist-philosophy wilderness camp (pacific quest) OR go to a foster home in Aurora, Colorado.
It was at this camp, where I had my first turn-around experience in which I was able to reconcile with my parent and my siblings and start over with God. We were taught to always “be present” and not worry about the future nor ruminate about the past. Being reduced to the simplest lifestyle made us incredibly grateful of everything we had previously taken for granted, including simple hummus and pita bread meals, sleeping on a yoga mat, and pooping in a stank compost-latrine. Being in a remote place (literally a mountain on an island) away from all the distractions allowed me to finally reflect on myself and work on a real plan to change. I was able to learn the value of recognizing my emotions and managing them appropriately. The letters I wrote back and forth with my parents slowly healed the wounds we had accumulated over the years. And of course, my dad had whole nun convents and family friends and church friends praying for me. When other parents ask me “what changed you? How can I make my son/daughter go through the same realization as you?” I simply tell them, “It was neither the counselors nor the camp that ultimately did it for me. It was the relentless and fervent prayer on the sidelines from my parents and family that finally broken down my heart and pushed me in the right direction. Pray, pray, and pray if you really want a person’s heart to change.”
In my 7th week of the camp, I finally decided to say a prayer to God, someone who I had neglected, hid from, ignored, and hated for the past two years. I was angry that he had “allowed” me to spiral down a black hole. I blamed him for making me so damn short (4’10” in high school) and for not putting me on the much-coveted school basketball team. That evening, the sun had already set and I was just sitting at my desk (outdoors) by myself in the dark. I put my hands together for the first time in what seemed like forever, closed my eyes, and started to pray. As soon as I began with “Dear God,” I broke down crying. I couldn’t say any more out loud because my body was shaking and I was uncontrollably sobbing. I said the rest in my head as I felt God’s peace again… As a huge load lifted off from my shoulders, my heart began to heal, and I let out a huge sigh of relief at the end of this prayer. God had been there all along, he was just waiting for me to knock on the door.
My Personalized Intent
At this camp, we had to come up with our own personalized “intent”, a statement that we would proclaim over ourselves several times a day to help ourselves walk out in those words. At least once a day, we had to step on top of a tree stump in the middle of the camp and shamelessly shout it out to everyone, as loud as we possibly could. My intent was “I AM A HUMBLE MAN WITH HEART.”
Each word in my intent was deliberately chosen for a specific, meaningful reason.
– HUMBLE: I realized that almost all my issues with my parents and siblings were stemming from pride. I was too stubborn to admit that I was wrong, I was too prideful to let things go and so I would always fight back. Pride fueled my grudges and hardened my heart. But Jesus was the epitome of a humble leader. I realized that in order to truly get past these issues with pride, I would have to be intentional about being humble.
– MAN: Though I was only 17 at the time, it was about time I started growing up. A true man has integrity, independence, confidence, maturity, self-control, and takes responsibility. I learned that “The more I take responsibility, the less I need to blame others.” If I wanted to be treated like an adult, I needed to act like one.
– WITH HEART: To put this into simple words, PQ Wilderness camp softened my heart.
For some reason, after this camp, I became one of “those sappy guys” who would cry at sad or happy scenes in movies and get teary from just hearing bad news, disasters, or personal testimonies. The camp helped me get back in touch with my emotions, and allowed my heart to actually feel again.
Listen to Your Heart
Another reason why I wanted to focus on being a man WITH HEART was because over the years I had become incredibly analytical, guarded, and skeptical. I was constantly rationalizing and justifying. I wouldn’t allow my heart to speak, nor was I interested in listening to it. I thought that “listening to my heart” was pathetically weak or “something girls only do.” I had prided myself as a harsh critic and strategically merciless and logical arguer. But I learned that heart and mind must work together, since we are given both. Sure, listening to our heart and opening up our heart can leave us vulnerable at times, but it can also lead to one of the most fulfilling moments.
My heart is what makes me Compassionate, Loving, Affectionate, Thoughtful, Gentle, Remorseful, Generous, Grateful, Peaceful, Feel loved, Genuine, Forgiving, and Trusting. My heart is what attracts the kind of woman I am looking for.
(A letter I wrote to myself while I was at PQ) : https://www.facebook.com/notes/sunoh-choe/one-year-letter-to-self-from-wilderness/40810339364
A Reflection on a Passage from Eldredge’s “Fathered by God”
Today, Hugh shared a quote from John Eldredge’s book, “Fathered by God.” In this passage, John begins by comparing the way women and men think: saying men compartmentalize, excelling in logic, analysis, spatial abstractions, “making them excellent chess players and auto mechanics” while women are more balanced, connecting the right and left brain, logic and emotion. But John challenges this “disposition” by urging men to NOT “hide behind reason and logic. A man must grow beyond mere reason, or he will be stunted as a man, certainly as a lover.” He goes on to say that woman should not be treated as a problem to be solved, but rather a “mystery to be known and loved.” He gives examples such as David in the bible, the cunning tactician and warrior and also the poet. Even Jesus was an brilliant theologian and teacher but also a storyteller and artist (creator of this world).
This passage from Eldredge’s book was what reminded me of my INTENT from PQ wilderness camp and prompted me to reflect on it today, 6 years later. I am reminded that I’m more than just a logical human being–I have a heart that seeks a God, a heart that can feel, a heart that can love, and a heart that wants to be loved. There should be a balance so that I am not only led by emotions or reason. This balance is what a marriage probably is… two human beings united, often one being more mind-driven and the other being more heart-driven–but together, they create the perfect, complementing balance that each one of us is trying to master in ourselves.