By Longkee Vang
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverancethe race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
(HEB) (12:1-2) The first time I ever saw this passage, this is how it was written out. It wasn’t spray painted across a concrete wall, nor was it written in something spiritual. The first time I saw this passage, it was scrawled across the face of University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. At the time, Tebow was the most polarizing player in college football, and would write inspirational Bible quotes on his eye black. He would be asked in post-game interviews what the scripture was and every time he would recite it from memory. Every game brought a new passage, and more interviews about his face AND faith. Suddenly, Tim Tebow was a spokesperson for young Christian communities across the United States, whether they wanted him to be or not. Some players stated that they didn’t mind Tebow being a Christian; they just minded him being loud about it. They would mention how they were as devout; they just chose a quieter path. And of course, some people just hated the fact that an already annoying player was being EVEN MORE annoying. The next season, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) adopted a rule banning all players from writing messages on their eye black, nicknamed The ‘Tim Tebow’ Rule.
My father passed away in 2008, and not only did my life change, but people’s view of me changed as well. I remember that we had at least a hundred people over at my house every weekend the 3 weekends leading up to the funeral. Traditional Hmong funerals are 4 days long (Friday-Monday) and are open 24 hours; in total, there were approximately 700 of my dad’s closes family, friends, and colleagues who stopped by that weekend. I had never experienced such love and support from the wider Hmong community before. But once the funeral ended, so did that atmosphere; and reality began to sink in: I had no dad. The Hmong Community is so patriarchal that having a father means EVERYTHING. How you are viewed in regards to status and self-worth in the community all depends on who your father is as a person. Fathers are so important that it influences the very language that we speak. In the Hmong language, there really isn’t a word for children of widows; they’re all grouped together with and called orphans. If you lost your mom, your dad could easily remarry and move you on with your life. But if you lost your dad, it was a lot tougher, and the “orphan” label was harder to shake. I remember going on dates with Hmong girls and meeting their families, only to have them tell me later they couldn’t date me because I didn’t have a dad.
“You’re great Longkee, but I don’t know how my family is going to react with you not having a dad.”
I figured I was going to hear this for the rest of my young adult life. However, when I started working with youth, my view on the whole situation began to change. I was working with some youth whose fathers had minimal involvement in their lives. The mothers were so involved in their children that, at one point, I thought that I didn’t need to build a relationship with the dads. If I could do it without a dad, these guys could too. But as I became closer with them, the flaw in my logic became more apparent to me. You see, from my dad’s passing to this point, all I cared about was proving people wrong. I only saw people who doubted me in my ‘cloud of witnesses.’ I had forgotten about all the people who had been there, encouraging and nurturing every crazy pursuit I had. I was so dead set on life being a sprint that I forgot it’s actually a marathon, and marathons have multiple facets to make it work. I had forgotten that life is about balancing that which is good and bad.
Believe it or not, we all have a little Tim Tebow in us; I think that’s what makes him so fascinating. People hate and judge him all the time, yet he keeps moving and doing what he believes he is called to do. He understands that having detractors and motivators are necessary for us to grow in life. He understands that God has set the path out for us and that we need only trust in the Lord. Most importantly, we all have things that hinder us from moving forward. It can be the disappointment of not being promoted at work, losing a loved one, or the inability to throw a football accurately. But I’d like to think that during this Holy Week, it’s more about overcoming our hindrances to reach our goal than it is about the hindrance itself.
Longkee Vang is a Youth/ Young Adult Minister in the Diocese of Minnesota. When he’s not out and about disturbing the peace, he can be found in his secondary career as a Teen Heartthrob.