Saturday, September 21, 2013

On the Shores of Babylon

There is a song I've heard before now, but only recently listened to carefully. It speaks to me, putting into words feelings I've had since I settled in here in Korea: "Until I die, I'll sing this song, on the shores of Babylon. Still looking for a home in a world where I belong." (Where I Belong - Switchfoot) I live in Babylon. I am a stranger in this land. Even when I am 'home', in the USA, I don't quite belong. Home is here, in Korea, but it isn't. I'm a 3rd culture person.

The Israelites experienced something similar - they lived in exile in Babylon for 70 years. Children were born and parents died, but they did not belong there. They were waiting for the time when God would allow them to return to their true home, Israel. If there's one thing life in Korea teaches me, it's that I don't belong on this earth. My ultimate citizenship is in Heaven.

Since moving here, I have found myself underlining every verse I read about foreigners or aliens (My ID card states that I am an alien.). There are quite a few of them, verses about foreigners. In the Old Testament law, God made special provisions for widows, orphans, and aliens. I recently read a booklet which summed the three up as being prone to "relational poverty", lacking a family or support network to sustain them. (The Jubilee Roadmap by Guy Brandon - It's "worthwhile reading", to borrow my dad's turn of phrase.) I agree. Here, as an alien, I can't call on someone my dad knows from seminary who knows someone who can help with something (for example). My network is small, partly because I'm not a 'networker', but also because my early networks, from family, church, college, and school, are irrelevant to my life in Korea, being an ocean away. Nonetheless, God has provided in every circumstance.

Whether my fair, foreign face (complete with "strange" blue eyes), or my relational poverty, it is easy here to remember that I am not of this world. I don't belong here, in Korea, or there, in America. I'm living in Babylon, awaiting the time when I may go to the world where I belong.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Honeymoon's Over

A year and a half ago, another foreign teacher I had met told me she was leaving Korea 'while the going was good'. She didn't want to wait until after the glow had worn off, for the rust to show. I was confounded by her opinion - What did she mean, that life in Korea would someday sour? Despite my previous challenges, I still loved being in Korea, and couldn't imagine living elsewhere. Now, I know.

Korea certainly has lost its glossy finish for me - one too many ahjummas (pushy middle-aged women), one too many times being battered by an unforgiving language barrier (after a certain amount of Korean, my brain can and will shut off its 'foreign language function'), one too many differences of opinion with those I need to cooperate with (acting like a grown-up takes a ridiculous amount of effort), one too many plates of food that just doesn't quite appeal to me, one too many bouts of aphasia or Konglish. Yes, the gloss is gone. The honeymoon is over.

Now for the waking up with Korea, and continuing with Korea, and the loving it despite its myriad flaws. Now for the choosing to love Korea for affectionate little children who marvel that other countries have books and can read (no lie, that happened today), for caring bigger children who will devour massive amounts of ice cream while playing card games with me, for providential grandfathers who tell me, whether the weather is growing too hot or too cold, to "take care of your health", for new friends who think I'm fascinating, for fresh chances to bridge chasms between me and old friends, for foreign friends who know exactly what I'm going through, for a dad who proudly tells strangers that I live in Korea, though it seems an unremarkable feat, for little ones who beg for a big, tight hug, then wiggle and cry out, then ask for another.

Yes, the honeymoon is over, but my time here is not. And so, for every time a student compares me to an elephant (today, and, yes, she was old enough to know better), I have the opportunity to slough it off, remember I am ultimately here to serve God, and keep going.