I was in Crazy Rich Asians, and it showed me how I want to live
Jonathan Cho // August 27, 2018, 3:45 pm
Yes, that’s right. I was in Crazy Rich Asians, the movie that’s recently made history for minority representation with an almost all-Asian cast – and placed our little red dot on the Hollywood world map.
The truth is, I didn’t even know what Crazy Rich Asians was. Not the movie or the book on which it’s based. So I have to admit I wasn’t particularly excited about being asked by a friend (of a friend, of a friend) to join the calefare cast.
Well, the hype did eventually pick up for me when I arrived on set at MBS. Aside from the glamour and opulence of the scene we were shooting, it was an unforgettable experience to be surrounded by famous personalities I’d only ever seen on screen.
Another thing I remember was a quiet thought that surfaced in my heart, strangely familiar yet never quite as clearly articulated before: Would I have a chance to be seen? It’s not an uncommon story, but if I hadn’t been a lawyer, I’d have joined the entertainment scene in a heartbeat.
Forget the nonchalance from before, something in me suddenly wanted to be a visible part of the movie.
In July 2018, about a year after filming, I started to see interviews, articles, trailers and movie stills being circulated. Even my friends and family were getting excited and making plans to watch the movie. Knowing that this could be my moment of Hollywood fame, I couldn’t wait for it to be released in Singapore.
But the questions I’d kept inside also returned, this time more desperate than before: What if no one finds out I was a part of this?
Before I could catch the show, my brother texted me from Sydney, where it’d been released earlier, to say: “It was a great movie! But sorry, I didn’t see you inside.”
My scene had not made the final cut.
HEIRS TO THE GREATEST INHERITANCE
One of the main themes of Crazy Rich Asians is “inheritance”, what its predecessor The Great Gatsby terms “old money”. The male protagonist, Nick Young, is essentially modern day royalty. From a young age, he was primed to take over his father’s legacy – his business, possessions, and of course, family name.
Perhaps some part of me craved to be part of a grand story like that, and while the line between fiction and reality is obvious, being part of a movie like that did seem to give me a sense of significance – even if just for a nanosecond.
In the midst of googling production images to find out if I was truly nowhere to be found in the movie, I suddenly understood what my heart was grasping for: It wasn’t as simple as a superficial desire to be seen in a movie. I wanted to be known.
The fact of the matter is that many of us tussle with this – even in the Christian ministry that we do “for God”. Underneath much of our Christian activity and service lies a heart-cry to be known, to find significance, value, and our place in the Kingdom of God: Who am I if nobody sees me?
Do I count it my riches that I am known by the King of Heaven and have been brought into His family as His child and a co-heir with His Son, Jesus Christ?
The premise of Crazy Rich Asians is precisely that the glamorous, quantifiable – visible – nature of one’s life is what determines a person’s worth.
The characters in the movie are part of the “seen” crowd – they are at the forefront of fashion trends, constantly are the talk of the town and are so ridiculously good-looking that you cannot not pay attention to them. That is their inheritance and their legacy.
But what about me? What riches do I have to my name?
Is it to have people lauding me as a respectable and skilled member of my profession? Is it being recognised as an “anointed” worship leader, preacher or mentor in my various Christian circles?
DO YOU KNOW WHO YOUR FATHER IS?
In 1 Samuel 18, we read about a prince – one primed to take over the kingdom from his father, but who chose to lay it down in order to offer it up instead to God’s anointed. I’m talking about my namesake, Jonathan, son of Israel’s first king, Saul.
“Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” (1 Samuel 18:3-4)
Jonathan was content not to have his name known or celebrated in the public eye. Indeed, how many of us remember Jonathan as a once future king of Israel? Most of us remember him only as “David’s best friend”, something he was totally fine with it because he understood what was of greater importance.
In partnering with God, Jonathan knew he possessed a far greater inheritance than a crown or throne. People would’ve said he was crazy for giving this up to an unknown shepherd boy. I say that this was his true richness and mark of kingship – not the royal robes, sword, bow or belt.
When we recognise whose Family we belong to, perhaps we’ll start really living as children of the One who owns everything in Heaven and on Earth. We have in our possession, conferred onto us as believers, the fullness of God’s power and provision for everything we need for life and godliness.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature …” (1 Peter 3:3-4)
He acknowledges us as His, the way He did at the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:17). We are His children, whom He loves, and with us He is well pleased. In Him we find all identity, security and significance to live the craziest and richest lives possible.
That, my friends, is true privilege.
We are crazy rich Christians.
I guess I should mention that I did have some screen time after all, but the joy of knowing this was incomparable to the fact that it was my mother who spotted me amidst the crowd. And she was able to not because she saw someone crazy, rich, or both – but simply because she saw her son and knew it was him immediately.