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About me

I think of myself as a long-term struggler.

My story

It hasn't been easy.

Growing up, I was the victim of childhood abuse that has strongly impacted my mental health, then and now. In my adult years, I have become a mother to a special needs son, who faces his own struggles.

Throughout all of the ups and downs, I have learned to turn to the Bible as a source of strength and guidance. I can see my own story reflected in the words of Scripture, a resonance that gives me hope when I need it most.

My beginnings

I spent my early childhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with my parents and my older siblings. It was a very privileged existence because my late father was a top executive for a telecommunications company, as well as a leader in our local church. But beneath my father’s public appearance, trouble was brewing. 

Looking back, I believe that my father was himself struggling with undiagnosed mental illness during the last decades of his life that only worsened as he grew older. This mental illness could take many forms: religious fanaticism, outbursts of rage, knife-like criticism, and unreasonable expectations. But he was good at his job and commanded respect in contexts both sacred and secular. And so my earliest years of childhood do contain some happy memories because the captain still steered the ship more or less with a steady hand. Additionally, our family enjoyed significant friendships through our church and school communities that enriched and grounded our lives.

When I turned 16, my parents and I moved to the Dominican Republic after my father decided to become the missionary pastor of a Chinese church. My older siblings had all departed for college and beyond by this point, leaving me with a large target on my back as my far as my father’s increasing volatility and abuse were concerned. No sooner had we moved from a first to a third world country then my father decided that I was not “Chinese” enough compared to the flock he now pastored. (For one thing, I spoke Spanish rather than Mandarin as my second language, never having learned the latter). I think this disparity disturbed him, and so he demanded that I change into someone else overnight, someone more Eastern rather than Western in her ways and inclinations.

In addition to my confusion and distress over my identity, I also endured constant bouts of sickness while living in the Dominican Republic. I dropped weight, suffered fevers and infections, and was even hospitalized briefly. Despite the dear friends that I made at school, the two years I lived on the island were marked by misery as I tried to survive, keeping our family secrets about the chaos that was going on behind closed doors.

God, language and education

Growing up, religion was always a part of my life, but at a certain point, my relationship with my father caused me to conflate the concepts of Heavenly Father and earthly father. With the help of my newfound family at Yale and pastoral care through my church, I started to see the difference between the two entities, which transformed my relationship with God. That differentiation proved to be the key to becoming whole after so many years of fragmentation.

I was always a Bible reader, but my exposure to world literature at Yale sparked a desire to read the stories of the Bible in their original language. This led me to Yale Divinity School and the study of Biblical Hebrew as I pursued a Master of Arts degree. I was very interested in the role of memory in forming identity, which I had been inadvertently “studying” for years as I dealt with memories of my own past and how they had formed me. I spent much time in the joint study of Jacob in Genesis, the patriarch who returns home after a long exile, and Frederich Buechner, the famed American novelist, essayist, theologian and autobiographer, who published memoirs reflecting how his past had shaped him. It was here that I became convinced that we all must “go back home” in one way or another. This is where I learned that our lives are the narrative text of that journey, one which we interpret and re-interpret in the process of redeeming our pasts.

After Yale Divinity School, I moved onto an interdisciplinary PhD program at Boston University. My dissertation focused on Joseph in Genesis and how he interpreted two texts: 3 sets of dreams and his pain-filled life with his family of origin. Despite all his successes in Egypt, his work of interpretation and lifesaving intervention is not complete until he faces his brothers and “reinterprets” their family history. With one pronouncement — “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.” (Gen 50:20) — Joseph knits his family back together and preserves the tribes of Israel during famine. His own, troublesome dreams in Canaan take on new meaning, as the “binding” work of his hands (governing with God’s wisdom and mercy) supersedes the “binding” work of his brothers’ hands (selling him into slavery). As the evils of the past “bow” to God’s redemptive work in the present (Gen 37:7), the readers of the Joseph story learn that God’s communications are superabundant – cutting across several layers of human experience to bring life where devastation and death seem certain.

My inroad into the Joseph story was his direct speech. Both his downfall as favored son and meteoric rise to power as Egyptian governor all are mediated through the words of his mouth. I have been paying close attention to what Biblical characters actually say in stories ever since. This has greatly impacted how I read and hear the Scriptures as I continually search them for renewal and strength.

Sharing my source of sustenance

In the years since finishing my education, I have started a family of my own. My son is on the autism spectrum—a diagnosis that has brought my husband and me to our knees before God both in desperation and gratitude. In certain respects, I am facing another difficult childhood (although for different reasons) as I try to help my son find his path in this world. I have had to delve even deeper into the world of language and communication to cope with my son’s verbal deficits. As with most parents, I hope to shape his sense of “self” using all of the tools I have acquired through Christian community and therapeutic intervention. While supporting my son, I must also find the time to continue working on my own healing through self-care and the diligent use of the gifts God has given me: writing and speaking about my ongoing story and the Scriptures I am studying.

That is what has brought me here. I began writing blog posts and recording radio interviews that show how the divine narrative breaks through into our ordinary, everyday lives. In my blogs and interviews, I take a Scripture and lay it next to a personal experience to demonstrate how the interlacing of the two texts helps me interpret my past and present in a life-giving fashion. I hope that by sharing these intertwining narratives, I am showing others how they can do the same. 

Don’t give up. As impossible as it may seem, God can bring good out of even the most painful chapters of your life.

A Discussion of the Construction of Identity in the Odyssey and Genesis