Are you swimming upstream?

As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ -John 7:37

Dear members and friends,

Occasionally, I think about what I did when I was a child and am totally amazed and deeply thankful that I survived it at all. One thing I used to do with several friends was to play in the stream near our village. The stream was mostly gentle and not very deep, but a few times of a year, especially after heavy summer rains, the stream became rough and strong. We would dare each other to see who could swim the longest in the deep and strong part of the stream, especially against the current. One by one we would jump into the water and swim to the middle of the stream. Then, we would try as best as we could to swim upstream like salmon. I remember this as being a very silly challenge because the best any of us could do was swim a few feet upstream for 10 or 20 seconds at most before being pushed back to where we started. But more importantly, a few of us almost drowned doing this silly and unsupervised stunt!

I spent most of my middle and high school weekends at two Korean Presbyterian churches in Korea. I was one of the most active members of the youth group in both churches. One strange thing I noticed at both churches was that most people seemed to believe that God exists to essentially grant wishes to fulfill their needs and desires. Many Korean Presbyterians had experiences of God providing them with the things they asked for, which they called “miracles.” I felt this was strange because what the people wanted and asked for were mostly things that were valuable to their lives on earth, while Jesus teaches clearly that our treasures should be in heaven. In both churches, I never saw a single adult pray for truth, or the ability to cultivate one’s spirit to accept whatever the truth might be. Yet I have met many angry adults who were unhappy because their God did not give them what they wanted and asked for.

Would our life be easier and more fruitful if we were to believe in the living God? The answer is sadly or truthfully “no.” Simply believing in the living God does not decide which course our life will take. What dictates the course of our life is very often what we want or what delights our hearts. And many times what we want is not exactly aligned with the flow of the living God, because our hearts are not angelic innately, and thus what we desire is naturally of and for the physical world. In a way, it’s like we’re children trying our best to swim against the flow of the stream. We could go a little ways, but not by much before realizing that we are becoming overwhelmed. There is indeed a much easier and smoother way to go, but the big questions is, are we willing to go that way?

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee