Promised Lands and Vagabonds

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By Daniel Chou
Cover illustration by Terry Yang
Oct 01, 2016 | min read
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THE TWO-CAR GARAGE of my three-bedroom condo only had enough space to fit one car. 

What took up space wasn't the random assortment of furniture, knick-knacks, and kitchen appliances I had slowly accumulated over years of living at that place. It was the cardboard boxes that these things came in.

Because of the constant moving in-and-out of apartments after every year of college, I had developed a habit of keeping every item's boxes to help facilitate my moves. There was the big box — complete with styrofoam corners — that my microwave came in. Right next to it was the box for my printer.

Believe me, I had a lot of stuff. After years of being told by fiscally-conservative parents to not buy unnecessary items, a free reign of my own bank account and credit cards, and a desire to fit in with middle-class Southern Californian social standards, resulted in habitually purchasing whatever I could logically justify.

Imagine the things I amassed. One-off items that were used once and cast aside. Good deals that were saved as potential gifts for others. Design tools. Bike parts. Clutter. 

Then, a whirlwind of events.

Last October, I moved from the three-bedroom condo to a studio backhouse; INHERITANCE was generously donated a house to use as an office, with the only request that we rent out the remaining rooms to offset the cost. It was a process that required a severe paring down of my possessions.

This August, I moved out of the backhouse into my new wife's parents' house. And by the time you read this, my wife and I will have already settled into our home for the next two years — a tiny apartment in New York City after having sold both our cars and reducing our living items to six luggages.

Although every decision was made with painstaking reflection and with great anticipation and joy toward the next step, I couldn't shake the notion that I was somehow doing life wrong.

I couldn't shake the notion that I was somehow doing life wrong.

Wasn't going to school and getting a degree supposed to lead to stability and upward mobility? Wasn't I supposed to be more rooted in a place — not this feeling like I knew less and less of what was in front of me? What happened to owning cars and having secure savings accounts and investing into retirement funds?

My spiritual director, though, had different ideas. He recalled the story of Abraham, called by faith to leave a place of stability. I dismissed it — after all, Abraham was guaranteed something better ... the Promise Land!

"But did he ever get there in his lifetime?"

"But did he ever get there in his lifetime?"

I'm grateful for my immigrant parents' sacrifices and journeys to raise me in America. And yet, I find difficulty in separating and deconstructing their experiences from my understanding of the Christian narrative, a story where "making it" is not guaranteed in this life, no matter how hard you try. 

Our hope is that as you read these stories, you not only find similarities with your own family's stories of migration, but that you also find surprising moments of God's grace actively working throughout history. That our ultimate hope isn't just in America, but in something/some place/a future even greater.

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Daniel Chou

Daniel Chou (he) serves as the editor-in-chief of Inheritance and is also one of the magazine’s founders. He holds a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. Outside of Inheritance, he is co-founder of Winnow+Glean and enjoys roasting coffee. He posts sporadically on Instagram @dchou and even more sporadically on Twitter @danielchou.

Terry Yang

Terry Yang was born in 1992 in Los Angeles, and earned her BFA in illustration from the Art Center College of Design. Terry Yang’s paintings feature hidden figures displayed in observational journalism of household diaries and outdoor expected behaviors, ruling to serve a break in the border of rejection and disbelief.

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