By Grace Liu
Crazy Rich Asians (just released on DVD) will resonate with anyone that has studied abroad and came back to Asia to experience the immediate cultural pressures of family obligations. The tug of war between putting your dreams or your family first is real, especially for those who inherit the family company upon returning from overseas studies.
I grew up in North Carolina and New York. I moved to Indonesia during my early teen years and finished off my high school in Jakarta. I went to the University of Michigan and came back to Indonesia for family and for work.
But being Asian American, I saw the truths of both cultures portrayed in the movie. The western side of me believes that you need to stand up for what you believe in. So it is important to understand your passions and follow your dreams. Love who you want to love. You are your own person, it is important be secure and own the desires of your heart. At the same time, the Asian side of me understands the importance of being community-oriented; and how our personal dreams need to be in line with what is best for the family. This is not just about your immediate family, this involves your uncles, aunties, cousins, grandparents, nieces, nephews. Future decisions you make affect not just you, but your ENTIRE family.
Eleanor (the mother in Crazy Rich Asians) said that Americans are great with following their dreams and achieving their ambitions , but Asians are good with building things (such as family traditions, family businesses) that last. This is why in a culturally Asian family, who you marry is such a big deal. It is the prayers of the elders in your family that you find someone in line with your family values. Parents play a big role in this decision because you do not only marry the person, you marry into their family. Both families (their family culture, their reputation, their name) merge into one. When you marry, you carry the benefits and burdens of the family you choose to tie yours to.
What does the Bible say about following your dreams verses building up your family?
Philippians 2:3-4 says " Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
It is biblical to put the interests of others before yourself. It is biblical to sacrifice you your fleshly desires for the good for your family, your community. However at the same time the Bible also commands us to "forsake your mother and father".
Matthew 19:29 says, " And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life."
How do you find common ground with these two verses?
God has given us talents, gifts, ambition, vision for life and these are all good things! However God has also given us the responsibility to love and care for the people within our spheres of influence. This includes our family. Whether you are Asian or not, your life decisions do affect your family on some level. Making life decisions with or without the support of your family makes a difference.
Does this mean all our life decisions need to be agreed on by our parents? Absolutely not. Our parents are also human and can make decisions out of selfish ambition as well (not saying that all parents do this, but just know that everyone will have this tendency no matter what life stage you are in).
God has also given us to Holy Spirit to guide us from everyday little decisions to major life decisions. Sometimes these decisions may not make sense to our family. However, when God will call us to a season of life where our obedience to God will be challenged; are you willing to follow through what God wants for your life regardless of what other people say? I understand that this might be a big struggle for many of my Asian American friends when faced with this verse. It goes against cultural values; it is seen as rude or disrespectful when we go against family wishes. Following what God wants for our life is not about being politically or culturally correct, it is about being obedient and trusting that God even when you cannot see the bigger picture yet.
Crazy Rich Asians was a bit cheesy, over the top, yet entertaining and addresses some real struggles Asian young adults face when integrating back to their home country after studying abroad. One thing I took away is, no matter what ethnic or family culture you were brought up in, we should always revert to bringing the Jesus culture into our decision making and our family culture.
Grace Liu is our Jakarta City Director and has a passion to bring young adults together in community for the sake of the Gospel. Her and her husband Ronald have two kids and live in Jakarta.