Jogeum: A Memoir
Hi everyone. Jogeum(조금) means little, slightly in Korean. This word has no relevance to this memoir lol. Also this memoir is not small. In fact, it is probably too long lol. So there is absolutely no rationale behind this title except for the fact that some of my friends have been using it as slang.
Just some very informal reflections on a subset of my experiences & thoughts during my time in Korea. I was born in Daegu, South Korea. Currently living in Virginia. I last visited Korea in 2008.
The memoir is written in rough chronological order of when the experiences happened or when the thoughts came to mind. I have no particular theme for the topics discussed, and I left out various things for various reasons. Not everything is related to my experiences in Korea. Most of this is pretty philosophical but I make no claims. If I do, I make them without the intention of fully supporting them.
Watching the young and old in this country. Being in a new environment, I was particularly keen to notice the way that people seemed to carry themselves.
As I observed the young and old crowding to bars and restaurants and walking about the city with important business calls, I thought of one of the age-old mysteries of humanity: Purpose.
I wondered for what purpose these people did the things they did.
I am reading Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It is helping me put together the various purpose-related things that I have experienced and learned about in the past three years that I have been a follower of Jesus.
I have no business in analyzing the goals and drives of people. I simply thought back to the moment of my salvation when I remember one of the first things I shared was that I had found a purpose to my every day. Back then, I did not really know why. But I recall distinctly that my whimsical life suddenly had a lot more weight after my encounter with Christ. By weight, I don’t mean heaviness or burden. I mean a weight of making my days feel more significant and meaningful.
To me, this is one of the remarkable joys of Christianity. Clear, worthwhile, beautiful purpose.
One of the many Christian terms I had heard and also preached of for quite a while. Recently, spiritual bread has really begun to feel so… bread-like. I think I’ve started to hunger for time with my heavenly Father. I find delight and comfort in His still small voice and trusted presence.
Death without, abundant life with. Losing battles without, victory with. In thoughts, actions, and all other things.
I feel like a foreigner here. Not in a lonely, outcasted type of way. More of an aloof type of way. This is a very temporary stay (21 days) for me, and I know that I will not be here again for a while.
Even though I still speak decent Korean and love Korean rap, I don’t particularly relate to a lot of things in this country anymore. I can’t quite put a word to it. When I am in the scenarios I can sense this sentiment of foreignness but sitting down to write, I can’t quite put a finger to it. Perhaps just a general feeling of newness at the way that life is done here.
This made me think about a recent thought from Purpose Driven Life. As a member of the body of Christ, I am a citizen of heaven. A visitor and ambassador on earth. I am not of this world.
I wondered if I feel this foreignness when I am in the world. I wondered if I feel a fullness of home when I am in the presence of my Father and my family. I feel life in the fullest only when I am living and walking with God. I long to renew my mind, body, and soul such that I will feel stronger foreignness in the things of this world while experiencing deeper joy and belonging when I participate in the new Kingdom life. Not to build pride or look with contempt on the world, but in order that I may live in a deeper missional mindset to preach the best citizenship offered to us all.
I do believe enjoyment to be a core part of my relationship with God. More precisely, pleasure in creation in the way that God intended. Unfortunately, many things of this world are no longer in His original design. Not only that, often times my no-longer-in-His-original-design inner desires twist even the good things of life. It seems clear to me that there is a sharp distinction between enjoying creation and desiring the world.
Korean cash wars
One of the oddest gestures of love for me to receive is Korean adults forcefully giving me allowance. Often, when I run into one of my Korean relatives, he or she will wrestle against my mom to shove a wad of cash into my pocket. It’s always a dramatic and almost scripted scene.
This happened quite frequently during this trip. It is quite touching that my relatives want to love me in such awesome measures. Besides the money, I received great hospitality and welcoming, and I thank God that He is patient with me as I grow in this aspect of Christian maturity called generosity.
There is a very simple quote from John Wesley that I remind myself of frequently. Regarding money, he says to “Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can.” I particularly like that the giving comes before saving. What a display of Christ-like mindset, serving the other before the self. [Edit on 12/19/19 — Turns out the sermon Wesley gave actually had save as the second point haha. Anyhow, my point and mindset stands!]
I am challenged by the generosity of my relatives to devote to the sanctification of my sin of chasing personal comfort.
New and Old don’t mix
Through a Bible Project podcast, I learned about a Mosaic law which forbids the cooking of a young goat in its mother’s milk.
We know from biblical studies that the Old Testament laws have been fulfilled in Christ. We know that many laws were not only concerned with morality, but many laws were meant to set apart His nation from the others. We know that God reveals His wisdom in even the laws that may not seem applicable at all to the modern generation.
Tim from the Bible Project talked about a possible meaning of the goat/milk law reflecting a virtue of not mixing the living and the dead. The live goat and the dead mother, and the cruelty of the scene described.
I think this offers a really interesting interpretation that seems to piece together a few things for me.
We must not mix the living and the dead. The Mosaic laws talk a lot about keeping the things that are alive from being defiled by death. The need to cleanse after coming in contact with the dead.
Why does God do this? Is it a stubbornness of cleanliness? Does God have germaphobia? Quite the opposite. Jesus loved to associate with sinners. But God is pure, and sin does not belong in His presence. He wishes to preserve the living in fullness. Without even a trace of death. The Bible story follows a mission for this God who is alive, not dead, but enters death, so that He might bring us out of death and into life.
“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
The new and old do not mix. The alive and dead must not mix. God is not interested in giving us partial life. He gives life in full. For those who have died with Christ, sin is dead. Old selves are dead. New selves are made alive.
We must not mix the living and the dead. We must not let even a trace of sin remain in our living bodies. I think I have recently started to take this call seriously. To invite the cleansing fiercely until that day when Jesus completely renews us, such that not even a single trace of death might be found in us. And then we will live forever and ever. Amen.
Living in the Spirit
Aligning my mind to the spiritual reality of life. Seeing fears and worries not only as personal vices but as pointers to the ongoing warfare. Remembering who the enemy is.
The filial piety is so strong here. I actually like that quite a bit. It touches me to see young adults rush to serve their parents.
Visited a large church during one of my Sundays here. Warm greetings and solemn members. I was led into the choir practice room by an elder lady but later had to leave in order to not disrupt the practice. I was early for service, so I sat in the sanctuary for about half an hour.
I spent most of the time worrying about my conscription (see section below). Oh how many blessings I must miss out on due to my lack of trust which distracts me from the day that God has prepared for me. The service began with a praise song (하나님은 너를 지키시는 자) with lyrics from Psalm 121. God spoke to me to remember where my help comes from and to repent of my lack of trust. And I thanked God for the church. That I had a people group in a country across the ocean I could praise this God with.
Then my spirit felt an odd sadness. For those of you who have experienced/heard of my antics regarding church in my younger(?) days will know that I am serious when I say that I fear my quickness to judge. And praise God for the Holy Spirit is real and He has taken me to a wiser place where I know that I know little. And so as I talked with the Spirit throughout the sermon, I felt again and again a dry sadness over the formulaic prayers and the eisegesis based sermon.
Whether I was entirely correct in my discernment over this particular church, I have no business in determining. But I know that many churches do suffer in this way. I think today I felt the Spirit weep over the lost potential. The potential that was waiting to be birthed in this congregation but lies dry and quenched. God surely weeps for the many people who were once hungry for God and the clergy who got burnt out by the politics.
I have recently grown in my love for the church. For all that I’ve received. For the beauty that exists in the identity as the bride of Jesus. But I think many have had a different experience. Those who were not fed. Those who were hurt or disappointed by a church that did not live up to its true calling.
I thought back to the effect that I’ve had on the church. I thought back to the way that I had judged and hated brothers and sisters. The times that I had spread grumbling and disunity. I thought back to what I’ve received from the church. So much. Omega for amazing friends and my first glimpses of heaven. CUMC for a true church I can call home and have a longing for, for enriching my understanding of the Gospel message in an invaluable way. New Life for an active mission field alive in the power of God.
I thought about how much God loves the church in its brokenness. I thought to the particular place the Lord has put in my heart for the church. I thought to what I can do now to properly honor and serve the bride of my savior Jesus.
Even though I was completely legally allowed to visit Korea for the duration of my visit, I’ve been having worries of a conscription horror story (kind of like Tony Stark’s NY nightmares lol). I knew that this indicated not just a random, irrational fear, but it revealed that part of me didn’t trust where my help came from.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
I don’t really enjoy keeping up with trends or trying to do anything like that. I enjoy simple living. So I didn’t want to get circle glasses lol.
I went into the glasses shop to replace my worn old pair and then wow the two dudes at the store was were so awesome. It was a pair of bros. One dude was super chill, kept complimenting me with circle glasses. Other dude looked like a k drama dude and was super friendly.
I walked out with circle glasses, happy for those two bros that they were so awesome lol. It’s been a funny experience seeing people look like me everywhere I go lol but because of those two guys it has been a good time.
I realized today again why I like Virginia so much. And why I like Houston so much. I think the key to finding a great place to live is not a matter of ranking options based on factors of the area. It’s simply a matter of following the Lord in the path that He lays out then devoting to the community. Then the blessings flow.
My time here in Korea has felt kind of like a study abroad experience. I’m learning a bunch and meeting great people but I did feel lonely time to time. People talk about the west coast and its glorious QoL but I say come to nova or Houston because they offer healthy places for you to give your heart to :D.
Image of God
Recently I learned about the wonder of the human call to rule. This seemingly outdated part of the Christian call has escaped my mind for a while but man it makes so many things fit into place. In His image as the great King and ruler, we also rule.
The call of life — Adam. Rule over Earth and be fruitful. God invited us to rule with authority.
Result: Failure. Attempt to take the throne with our wisdom and our judgment of good and evil.
The call of new life — Christ. He has authority on heaven and on earth. Through his death and resurrection. We are now sent to go and make disciples. From Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth.
Our call is fulfilled & renewed by Jesus. We are to rule. Our rule, which nurtures and takes care of creation, is fulfilled by inviting people to be ruled by Jesus in His Kingdom. We rule by servanthood in this way.
A Proper Attitude of the Heart
To err on the side of loving God rather than loving my own gods of life. To err on the side such that there is sacrifice. This brings a pleasing aroma to the Lord.
Missed Blessings #1
Thanks to God I have a great purpose in life (Read more in Purpose Driven Life, the Bible, or other respected books. Or ask me about my thoughts!). Because my life is full of purpose, I must get up earlier. I must stop rolling around in bed. It leaves my mind vulnerable to sin before I can feed myself with living bread.
I think it’s like this: without being satiated by proper bread the Christian begins to seek food in lesser things. I want to get out of bed right away and begin with time with my Father, before checking my phone.
The Command to Love God
I noticed that when Jesus tells us the command of love He tells us to love God but there is no comment regarding the other side. I think the answer is quite clear why. The rest of the book is all about the message of God’s love shown and offered for us.
He need not command us to be loved in any way. We put forth our will in loving God. But we need not put any will in being loved. Only to recognize. Always only to recognize and receive, never to work for. Amen to this grace.
It slightly embarrasses me that my heart has only now figured this out, but I now know that I must obey God completely. Even without logic. I long to trust not my own understanding but His. I chase the discipline to make that choice a norm. Jesus is Lord, not just savior.
Continuing to learn about myself. I think in order to love myself I need to learn about myself a bit more. I know I am a quiet and shy person at times but I am not exactly sure. I have a big desire to make people feel welcome. I guess this is why God loves uniqueness. We are all made fearfully and the journey of getting to know oneself is in itself a worship of the creative nature of God.
I am a pretty shy person. Actually I’m not sure if that’s quite the word I would use to describe my sociality, but it’s something like that. I know I am introverted, I definitely need my time to recharge. But actually I love meeting new people. Getting to know someone’s story and building new relationships is quite exciting to me. As I’ve been getting to know my ever-changing self, I found that the common thread in my life has been that I often feel a comfort in conversational silence. It takes a conscious effort for me to keep a conversation going with most people, sometimes even with people that are quite close to me. On the contrary, it is natural for me to sit in a quiet conversation.
God revealed to me today that I can rejoice in this. I get a lot of time to observe because of this. My natural resting mental position in a conversation is to observe. Observe the other person’s life and style, the conversation state, and my current state. I lack in a natural capacity to welcome the other. But I think this is how God has made me.
I pray that I would use my observatory nature not simply to be aware but to listen well so I can evangelize and serve better. I also consider it a blessing that I can put in the effort and ask God to help me be a better welcomer and socializer, for his glory. Awesome.
Asking the Spirit
Seeking the answer of the Spirit not of human wisdom. I have a heart not of stone but of flesh, with the law written on it through the Spirit. I should utilize this more.
Do Some People Have Better Hearts?
Questions like this I think are better left unanswered. I think it’s fine to have an opinion of them, but my experience has been that it satisfied me more not to critique and rank the answers, but rather to see how to use this question in the most effective way.
The Christian faith, I think, would rather ask questions such as “What will you do with your sinful heart?” and “What does God think about people like you who have sinful hearts?”
I know that God has loved me knowing that even now I have sinful desires. But I believe in the resurrection and the renewal. I press on forward, knowing my true, clean heart found in Jesus. Rebuking the thoughts of my flesh, renouncing the lies of the enemy.
My sinful desire for human praise is quite subtle. Subtle enough that it actually feeds into more pride if left unchecked. I am thankful that God has allowed me to recognize the voice of the enemy which contradicts the Word of God. I pray that I would decrease and He increase. I fight this battle against the enemy 👍.
Since the narrative of self-praise is heavily written into the message of the world, I can see why this particular sin has been so difficult to uproot even though I have been aware of it for so long.
Missed Blessings #2
I think during this time of reflection and learning I got to explore many more areas. I think a lesson to take away is to listen more because I know so little. Not just in conversation but in general, listen more to what people have to say. Particularly to my peers and 후배s (underclassmen) because to think that God is not revealing mighty things to them is not only a sin of limiting God but is also missing out on receiving more from the church.
I had a fun and profound experience with my nephews. We broke the ice with some food, and got along well. Even though I didn’t feel much of a language barrier throughout most of this trip, I felt it in such a clear way with them. Their young, fast speech had me lost lol. I had trouble not only understanding everything but because my brain was trying to keep up in comprehension I think my ears also picked up only parts of their sentences.
Although I had this same experience when I first immigrated to the states in 2005, I was reminded again and this time, I was able to understand the difficult experience of both my parents and my international student friends.
Love for the Word, Power of the Word
For some reason, most of my Christian life I had this misconception that the Bible only meant power when I had profoundly revelatory experiences with it where God seemed to strike the nail and tell me exactly what I needed to hear at the exact time.
I now realize that this is true but every page of the Bible offers a profoundly revelatory experience at every moment. In truth the Word offers power. All it takes is my Bible, some time, and a quiet mind and soul. Praise God for this book.
Love for the Spirit, Power of the Spirit
Most of my Christian life I did not genuinely know about the Holy Spirit’s role in my life. When I began applying the power given to me, I limited it to very few occasions. Now, I am reminding myself to use the Spirit in making decisions and finding counsel.
Met up with an old friend. Amazing. He is a bright light in Korea. Shared with me a few amazing testimonies. God bringing the youth alive in his praise team. Him leading lost people.
It amazed me that I could get to hear stories of this guy doing amazing things for God. It gave me a glimpse of the many more stories I will get to hear and share with my global church.
It saddened me to hear his lack of local believers to spur him on. Give me the means to do my part in building your kingdom in whatever way. I’ll be praying for you friend.
The floating Jesus who sank
Jesus is a victor. He floats on water. He reigns over temptation, sin, and death.
Noah’s Ark. Walking on water. Ship in the storm. Temptation in the Desert.
And I’m sure there are many more accounts both in the Bible and in people’s lives about Jesus rising above the waters.
But he chooses death. He chooses to fulfill the prophecy told through his baptism. It begins with descent into humanity. He descends to the ranks below the servants. And finally, he chooses to descend into death itself.
Why does he do this?
So that we may float with him. But how can we float if he sank into death?
Praise God for the final word belongs to the resurrection. A savior who is loving and also powerful.
I’m sure no book is liked by everyone. Even the most respected of books likely have fierce, just critics.
I think personally it’s time I learned not to discriminate against books I do not enjoy. Because of the reason that I dislike them, I should educate myself on their styles, opinions, and values.
I think it’s a bit more valuable than simply getting more knowledge, however. There’s a sense of humility. Though I disagree, I choose to listen. I am currently having this experience with the renowned book called “Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton. I’m almost absolutely positive that the reason for my dissatisfaction with the book is a lack of philosophical/critical reading ability and/or sufficient attention & time given when reading this book. This is by no means a critique of the book. It’s a simple internal acknowledgment to maturely learn to sincerely listen to things I may not have a preference for when there is a good reason.
Calm in the calm
I have a confession which I think is a common experience in the Christian life. We read a lot about finding courage through Christ in the storms of life. We have multiple parables about it, and Jesus commands us to have faith in deliverance.
But I found that likely the more common sin of worry that I have is in the times of absolute silence. All is well, except my heart. Nothing external suggests to me impending trouble, but my frail faith cannot hold my thoughts of anxious worry about tomorrow run wild.
If Jesus rebuked the disciples for finding him during the storm, how sad it is for me to not know that God will not let me fall while I am standing? And I mean Jesus talks about this in the passage Matthew 6:26–34. That God will take care of people more than He takes care of the birds and flowers.
I think the answer lies in more than just a mindset or habits but in developing a closer relationship with the Father. Surely if I knew more of His love for me I would not even think to fear. The spiritual fruit of peace.
Conclusion: And the greatest of these is love.
I will end this memoir with a short story.
While listening to a Bible Project podcast, I cleared up a few misconceptions I had about the concept of heaven. As I remembered that heaven refers not to an upgraded place we go to but rather the presence and rule of God which both has partially and will completely come to us, I had a moment of deep sin.
My mind immediately judged the many times I had heard Christians speak of heaven in a misinformed manner. Then I thought to the many times I had heard Christians speak of whatever topic in a misinformed manner. It had happened again. My sin runs so deep that even a productive time spent in listening to biblical commentary could cause me to conjure up all thoughts of arrogant criticism. I omit commentary of why this is a deep sin. Hopefully, I have made that evident through my honest confessions of pride in my previous topics written above. It goes without saying that I am an even bigger fool to think that I have gotten things figured out, when likely even most of what I have written in this memoir will have chunks for me to revise and learn more properly about later. [This memoir was edited 07/29/2019, 12/19/2019]
Ironically, I think God was able to use the podcast to bring me back. They referenced 1 Corinthians 13:13.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
That was it. We have faith and hope. We also have Bible Project. We have podcasts and studies. We have all of these things that can teach us a great deal about faith and hope. But all of these don’t amount to much without love.
I pray that all this reflection and time spent in word thought and prayer has increased my love for the Lord as more of His story told through the Bible was revealed for me. It has been a joy building and refining parts of my theology.
I conclude with a reminder to myself and the reader that the Christian faith does not remain in private reflection. There is a truer form of wisdom and maturity that is outside of intellectual study.
It is in the simpler but more difficult things. The things pertaining to love.
Jesus said that the most important command could to summed to loving God and loving thy neighbor. Pretty hard stuff. But in Christ this becomes a greater reality in us. Let’s believe it.
So I pray that throughout my Christian life, every moment of learning and growth would be used to build a theology and an outlook that smells like love.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1–3
Through this trip, God has taught my mind and heart more than I can fully articulate. Korea was good and fun. I’m glad to be home though. Love home. But I’d like to go on a short term mission soon.