A Soul Bare Interview: Neglect, Healing, and Grace with Angie Hong

This month we’ve loved sharing with you more about the recent IVP release, Soul Bare. Our regular contributors, Tammy Perlmutter and Tanya Marlow, have an essay in this collection (as do Sarah Bessey, Emily P. Freeman, Trilia Newbell, and others). Make sure you read about the dreams behind it from editor Cara Sexton, and the interviews with Jennifer Camp and Serena Woods. Their stories are so important. Today we’re pleased to bring you this interview with Angie Hong! Make sure you purchase your own copy of Soul Bare and let us know what you think! –AH
Soul Bare
 
How did you get involved with Soul Bare?

This is a great question.  I had been working around another book project with the amazing IVP editor, Helen Lee.  Knowing that I was wanting to grow stronger as a writer, she was gracious enough to include me in Soul Bare. I loved the topic and some of the writing samples I read, and this really seemed to tie into the desire for me to explore identity.  So many times we want to present the perfect versions of ourselves, when we know that life is more real than that.

 
You write about abuse and neglect from your mother, which came partly a result of growing up as a second-generation Asian American. Can you tell us more about this — how did you not fit in in your family and in the culture? (See Alia Joy’s Mudroom post on that here).

I think a lot of second generation kids experience this sort of liminal space, not being fully Asian because we were born or raised in the U.S., but not considered fully “American” because we didn’t look the part.  Many of us have very diverse narratives depending on the environment we grew up in, but for me growing up in a white suburb of Atlanta I just didn’t fit in physically, mentally, and emotionally.  My Korean parents raised me according to their culture, which often clashed with that of the typical American family.  We weren’t taught to have an emotional connection to our parents, and the way love was shown was through providing material needs and access to the highest level of education. The children in turn showed love by pursuing the American dream: house, cars, job, education, and money. It was quite the contrast from the way my white friends had related to their parents.  

 

You ask in your essay in Soul Bare, how does one go about unraveling the wounds of the past? How have you done so? Or have you used other ways and means to decipher your past?
I never considered professional therapy an option because there was such a stigma around it, but after seeking pastoral care and finally receiving healthcare benefits through getting a job after college I decided to go for it.  Plus, at that time I was at a complete rock bottom and physically unable to get out of bed.  It was definitely time for some professional help!  I didn’t know what I was getting into, but a professional therapist really helped me gently unravel the complicated layers of my soul.


We’ve all suffered at the hands of others. And yet, what hope would you provide for Mudroom readers who have undergone abuse and don’t want to perpetuate the lineage? 
It really is amazing how common child abuse and neglect is, isn’t it?  It’s quite disturbing.  What’s even more disturbing is the fact that we keep it to ourselves in shame, which can contribute to the perpetuation of the broken script.  I think that the shame leads to locking up our pain in the basement, which is hard to hide for very long.  The hope that I offer is that there is so much healing in being honest with yourself and God, as painful as it may seem.  It’s not as if God doesn’t know everything you’re experiencing, but God waits patiently for us to bring our full selves to him, scars and all.  And because of the delicate nature of shame and pain, I highly recommend considering a professional help you, or a really great group of trusted friends.


Tell us a bit about how God met you in your place of darkness. What hope can you offer our readers in their own versions of darkness?
It’s kind of amazing, the process of laying it all down before God.  Every time I show God a little part of myself that I’ve recently discovered, I feel God saying, “I’m so excited that you discovered a little bit of my creation in you!  Isn’t it cool?  Keep exploring!” or “Thank you so much for risking everything and laying this before me.  I’ve got you, and you can do this.”  There’s no shame in what I’m hearing from God, such as, “Why can’t you get it together?  Why do you keep taking me for granted?  Why do you keep insulting me and other Christians?”  I don’t think it’s God talking at that point.  Keep going until you hear the truth from God.  

What is your hope for this book, your story and your words?
My ultimate hope is for every broken, imperfect person to know that they are among other broken and imperfect people, and to be encouraged to be open and authentic before God and each other.  Every person’s story is important, and we need to start telling these imperfect stories to build authentic Christian community.  I want people to know that God wants us to be real, not perfect, and that is the good news of the gospel we need to spread.
 
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Angie Hong is a mom, wife, and worship leader. Angie and her family recently moved to Chicago and she is now the Creative Director at Willow Creek Chicago. She has a background in music therapy and leads worship at conferences locally and nationally. She is the main facilitator of Menders, a band exploring the intersection of worship and reconciliation. She writes at www.angiekayhong.com
 
Ashley Hales

Ashley Hales

Writer and Editor at aahales.com
Ashley Hales holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. But she spends most of her time chasing around her four children and helping her husband plant a church. She writes at AAHales.com and loves to make friends on Twitter.
Ashley Hales
  • I’m enjoying these interviews finding a little about the story behind the stories in the book. Angie’s words have hope and I love this: “I want people to know that God wants us to be real, not perfect, and that is the good news of the gospel we need to spread.” Real, not perfect! Amen.