Spring is in the air! Just these past two weeks or so I’ve noticed subtle, yet sure signs that we are starting a new season. This weekend I woke up and heard birds chirping out my window, and it hit me that I hadn’t heard that sound in months. The sun is starting to rise about an hour earlier than just weeks before, and I have found myself very grateful that I invested in some curtains for my window/wall (no more pushing my bed into the kitchen on the weekends to avoid the sweltering sun!). I can actually smell the season. I’ve noticed that during the winter months there is no scent in the air because everything is seemingly boarded up and covered with snow or ice, and everyone is scurrying from one place to another with their face covered, thinking of nothing but the heater waiting for them at end of their destination. During springtime, however, I can smell the food as the shops start to open their doors and windows, I can smell the dampness of the night starting to evaporate as I walk to work in the morning, and I can smell the dust and fresh dirt being stirred as a cool (but not freezing!) rain falls. We’ve also had the freak snowfall four days after it was “officially” spring so the new season must be here.
Along with the changing from winter to spring comes my favorite holiday – Easter! Easter is a time of renewal, a time of rebirth and new beginnings. I found a nondenominational church in Seoul for foreigners that I really enjoy going to, and although sometimes I feel like I have to drag myself on Sunday from my cozy apartment and get my butt there, I always find that it’s worth it. It’s a time for reflection, and I often find myself facing my flaws and thinking about ways to make myself a better person. The service renews me and prepares me for the week ahead, as I often feel a bit drained by the time Friday rolls around. Here’s the thing about church for me: I don’t exactly know how to identify my beliefs. The best way I can think of how to put it is “I believe in all paths to God.” Whether you’re a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, etc. I believe that it is the condition of your heart that matters and that your prayers eventually go to the same being most people call God. Not everyone agrees with this, of course, but that’s OK. It’s what I believe and I am happy with that, learning and taking from the different religions and not overruling or tossing anything out. I find that I most identify with a church that welcomes all people and lets you worship as you see fit. At this church the past two services really hit on what I’ve been thinking about lately: judging, forgiveness, and being a good and positive person. I’ve felt that these are things in my life that needed to be reexamined, and then BOOM, there’s a sermon about it.
I walked into church one Sunday and felt myself becoming very observant. Sometimes I do get judge-y when I see Christians worshiping in a “showy” way – arms spread wide, jumping up and down, yelling “Yes, Lord! Yes, Jesus!” in the middle of a song or prayer. It’s not the way I worship and sometimes I feel that people are doing it just for show. Like, look at me! Look how devoted I am in my faith! But that Sunday I really watched people and their faces and felt my judgments being quieted. One guy had his arms spread wide in the air, and his face looked so concentrated on feeling God’s love. Like he was reaching beyond the ceiling to the heavens, waiting to feel God traveling through his arms and down to his heart. Some people had their hands folded to their chest with their eyes squeezed shut, others were jumping up and down singing, the look on their faces was one of excitement to finally be in their house of worship, as if they had been starved for it all week. Some people were crying, maybe asking for forgiveness or praying about a loss, praying that God will heal them and make them whole. It felt good to be an observer and take a nonjudgmental view on their personal ways of connecting with a higher being. The main verse for the sermon that day was Luke 6:37-42:
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
The verse for the following week was on being a good person and having your core values based on something real and good, which made me think about what I have been placing my values on lately. Have I been too focused on money and having material things now that I’m not actually completely broke all of the time? This verse continues from the previous; Luke 6:43-49:
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against the house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
What kind of person am I? Do I store real goodness in my life or not? Why don’t I follow everything I know that is good and real? Maybe because temptation is strong, because I don’t totally trust in the unknown, or maybe because I feel too influenced by others’ opinions. I sat and thought about these and reflected on my past and present. When I hear myself complaining or saying things about others, it actually reflects poorly on me and my character. Seriously, how bad do I have it? I could be in Japan right now. A country right next to me has suffered this terrible catastrophe and I was left untouched. So, I had a bad day. Someone irritated me. It could be worse, and I need to keep myself in check and not only be grateful for what I have but act grateful for what I have. Looking at my journal entries and blog posts about going by faith in my decision to move to South Korea, I realized that this is a big theme in my life. I know that I have a faith that everything will work out in the end how it’s supposed to, and so far my life has been amazing because of that. Once I stop stressing and start doing all that I can towards a goal that I really want, I know that either it will be accomplished or something better will come along in its’ place. Call this a faith in God, a faith in the Universe… whatever you want to call it, I believe that it’s real and it has served me well so far.
I’ve now been living here in South Korea for five months now, and things are wonderful. I think about my desire to move to Europe, and then realize what all I would have missed out on if I had not ended up here. Although I am completely aware of the fact that I do not want to be a teacher for the rest of my life, and sometimes I struggle with going to work day after day with the same trials and tribulations with the feeling that my time would be better spent writing and reading and traveling, I still feel blessed. When it comes down to it, the perks and life experiences that I gain from this job that will prepare me for my future are worth it. I believe that all will come in good time, and I should be in no rush to accomplish all the goals that I have set for myself right this instant. Live in the now, enjoy today, keep my faith and keep my mind open to all those things that I do not understand. Spring is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts – what are some things in your life that need renewing?