When no one's watching

Cars honk below. Turns out Hong Kong doesn’t sleep. And even though I’ve been awake for over 34 hours, neither can I. So I soak in the humid air and let myself feel awake with the earth below my hotel window. Neon lights flash, taxis swerve in and out of traffic, and street vendors still serve dumplings and roast chicken proving the moon itself can’t stop the steady rhythm of this city. And even though I’ve been here less than 24 hours, I know this is how it is 365 days of the year.

I long to be that consistent. To know I’ll keep being me night or day, rain or shine. But what does that even mean? In a world where Facebook and Instagram likes inform what’s “good” about us and our lives; where approval and disapproval can mean earning or losing a job; where you’re straining to hear through the chaos of the day to day what God is saying, it can be hard to grasp who we are and who we want to be. 

But tonight, despite the jet lag and humidity, it becomes clear me: we are who we really are when no one is watching. 

When I applied to the journalism program at my university, my advisor told me to prove in my application that I love to write. To prove I had a long history of writing before I ever thought of applying, and that whether or not I got accepted to the program, I’d continue to write. He encouraged me to stand secure in the identity I claimed when I wasn’t under scrutiny. He also said it would be a good measure of whether or not I would actually enjoy and excel in the program— he was right.

I would have never survived the refining of those skills if I didn’t treasure them in the first place.

These days it feels like I’m experiencing those refining fires again— to boil down what it is I love to do. To discover what I’m meant to do. In the chaos and strain of the day to day, what brings me life? And what brings me to closer to God? What helps bring others into his presence? What desires has he rooted so deeply in the fabric of who you are it doesn’t matter if anyone else is privy to it? What brings him glory and you joy when you do it?

And though I believe our ultimate identity is secure in Jesus and what he did on the cross, I also believe God has created each human with gifts that make up his or her being. To deny those gifts is to deny the person God has made. To covet someone else’s gifts is to deny the intrinsic value of the gifts that make up you…

It’s like Hong Kong. A city that doesn’t stop flashing its lights or close its shop doors just because most people aren’t looking. 

I bite my nails and take a swig of complimentary water. Hong Kong lives on.