Heavenly Joy

I will skip the obligatory apologies for slacking off and not blogging for three months and just jump right in.

Christmas was amazing. I was so very glad and grateful to go home and spend that time with my dear family and a few close friends. The three weeks at home could really not have been much better. The family time was precious, the meals scrumptious, the sledding delightful, the Bateman Ball magnanimous, and so on. When it was time to come back to Korea, that was okay too, though. From beginning to end the trip was really a blessing.

I came back to Korea with so much strength, or heem, as they say in Korean. I felt refreshed and re-energized for my life here. Washing dishes at home by myself one afternoon (in the U.S.), I was struck by the fact that it was my only alone time in three weeks. Every other waking moment I was with family or friends or both, hanging out, playing games, shopping, traveling, and so on. For an introvert like me, that is usually kind of draining, but honestly I hadn’t noticed at all when I was home. So when I came back, I felt more eager to socialize and ready to try new things again.

I enrolled in a Korean class almost immediately and have really enjoyed being a student in a more formal setting again. The commute is a bit long though, 5 hours round trip every Saturday. But there’s enough to do in Seoul that I can make a day out of it if I want. Last weekend, Karen and I went to Yangpyeong to visit our dear friend Juhee. It was nice to catch up with them and enjoy a walk in the countryside. Spring is on it’s way! Today I went for a walk with one of the new teachers next-door and savored the first ice cream of the season. We could also savor the bom naemsae, or spring smell, which really translates to manure. The farmers are getting ready to prepare their fields for planting.

God is preparing our hearts too. If I didn’t believe this, it would be hard to live in this community, so far from home, and with so many challenges to endure. In the month since I came back, several hardships have come up, but God is walking with me through each of them. A few days ago, I felt deeply hurt by something that had been overlooked in our community. I went to my favorite place to pray that night and knelt down in front of the cross, pleading desperately with God, “Why am I here? What can I do? I am so weak. I’m weak at teaching, I’m weak at learning Korean, I’m weak at sharing my life in community. I’m so weak.” And I was reminded of the verse, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9a*) But it didn’t seem possible. So I rather accusingly reminded Him, “You promise that your grace is enough and your power is made perfect in my weakness! But how?! Show me!” I calmed down a little and stopped my crying and began to pray for others. Then I went over to the piano and began to play, first hymns of encouragement and then hymns of praise. My heart felt lighter and lighter until my sorrow was replaced with joy and adoration. And I realized, “Yes… His grace is enough. His power is made perfect in weakness.” I don’t know how it works, but it does. I asked Him and He showed me. . .

Later that night, I shared my burden with a friend and became angry and upset all over again. I guess it’s like Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. Heavenly joy is not something we can fill up with at the beginning of the week and expect to carry us through for the next six days. It’s something we have to keep going back for. Every day. Multiple times a day. But it is there. And we find it in walking with Jesus, sharing his burden, placing our trust in him, and—my favorite—singing his praise. And not only will you receive joy, but it’s a whole lot harder to get worked up about things when you’re focused on Him instead of yourself. As one of my friends once put it, “Christians should be the least offend-able people.” Think about it.

And here’s to having a bi-weekly blog, starting today!

*In looking up the scripture reference for this verse, I realized that the follow-up verse is just as fitting (2 Cor. 12:9b-10): “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”