Cell phone screen.
Photo by Brett Jordon on Unsplash
Blessing in disguise
March 7, 2023
Recently, my email was hacked. It wasn’t the first time and I know it won’t be the last time. When it happened, I suddenly started getting text dings, a phone call from a colleague in the East Coast, and when I looked down on my phone, my text and email inboxes started to climb in numbers! Unbeknownst to me, some scammer got hold of my email address and started to send out messages by me asking for time to chat or purchasing a gift card to help someone who has cancer. While I know that getting hacked is increasingly common, I still felt violated and, in my heart, I experienced remorse for inconveniencing friends, family, and colleagues on my contact list. I spent the rest of the evening responding to people who contacted me to see if I was okay.
The blessing in disguise is that I heard from people I haven’t heard from in a long time. I reconnected with a priest whom I had met at Tantur in Israel when we were both on sabbaticals. There was a former church friend who is a tractor trailer driver helping with the supply chain. There were many pastors, denominational colleagues, and church consultants whom I have shared ministries with over a lifetime. The amazing takeaway is that people displayed care when my email address was hacked. The nuisance of this gave me an opportunity to respond to each inquiry and ask how they were doing.
As people of faith, we are to see the bright side of difficult situations. When people come to religious leaders to seek a reassuring word of hope, we cast a bright light on darkening problems. Whether we ourselves might feel doom and gloom, we are expected to remind people that the sun will rise tomorrow. I have been accused of being an eternal optimist when the cup is always half full. But I believe this is what is ask of us.
Recently, my email was hacked. While I know that getting hacked is increasingly common, I still felt violated and, in my heart, I experienced remorse for inconveniencing friends, family, and colleagues on my contact list. I spent the rest of the evening responding to people who contacted me to see if I was okay.
When the wedding at Cana ran out of wine, the host saw this as a disaster (John 2:1-12). But when Jesus took plain water from clay jugs and transformed it into top quality wine, the host was complimented for offering better wine as the celebration went into the evening. There was a cloud over the wedding when the wine went out, but the silver lining was Jesus’ miracle!
Officiating a funeral at First Chinese Baptist, San Francisco includes the distribution of a white envelope and a red envelope at the end of the service. The family of the deceased purchases these two kinds of envelopes from a shop. In the white envelope, there is a piece of hard candy, and the red envelope contains a coin. As visitors file out, helpers recruited for this task give each person a white and a red envelope. The white envelope with the piece of candy represents that although you have come to a bittersweet occasion, the family blesses you with sweetness in life. The red envelope with the coin represents the family’s blessing of prosperity and good fortune for having come. This tradition, while rooted in Buddhism, has been adopted by Chinese Christians. When there’s a cloud, there is a silver lining.
For some time now as the result of climate change, California and many parts of the western states have suffered from unprecedented historic drought. On the one hand, many who live in other parts of the country envy the dry outdoor West Coast style of living. But on the other hand, Californians continue to live with mandated water use restrictions. The days of our lives are never all sunny, nor they are always rainy. Whatever the weather forecast might be for the day, we seize the day with the promise that all is bright and beautiful. Even the rain is beautiful.
I wonder who the scammer was who hacked my email address that led me to change my password and caused me to reassure many that I was okay, to worry that someone I know ended up a victim of this spam, and to experience other emotions associated with feeling violated. But I can also say, “Thank you, Scammer, for the opportunity to reconnect with many friends who cared and reminding me that I cared for them too.”
Rev. Donald Ng was president, American Baptist Churches, USA, 2014-15, the first Asian American to serve in this elected position. For 17 years, he was senior pastor of the historic First Chinese Baptist Church in San Francisco. He retired from full-time ministry in 2015.