In the summer of 1992 the couple pictured above gave birth to their second child: me! It was a momentous event considering they now had a little devil-daughter to make life “interesting,” as they so euphemistically put it. I guess in relation to the angels that my mom, dad, and sister are, I am somewhat of an dark presence in the family. Dark physically, too:
In this week leading into Father’s Day, I’ve written this post to honor both my parents. Growing up I witnessed my parents’ love for God and their love for others, so much so that I bitterly felt as though I shared my parents with everyone else they knew. But what I hated as a child, I now count as a blessing: my parents selflessly live their lives for others.
You wouldn’t believe the wealth my mom was born into. Decades ago while Korea was still a desolate, war torn country, my mom was born in a mansion. She tailored brand name American clothes, attended international mission schools, owned cars, owned tv sets, lived in Gangnam. She even had a summer home!
My dad couldn’t be any more different. He grew up with nothing but kimchee, so he says. Still he managed to put himself through a top university in Korea, join the army, train in unconventional warfare in the Green Beret 7th Group, rank up to major by 31 — *HOOAH*. Most importantly, he put a ring on my mom :O !
Anyway. Later he realized all this wasn’t for him. He convinced my mom to leave it all behind and follow him to America where he would attend graduate school. The two worked day in day out to put my dad through seminary and raise their 2 children. My dad, who used to jump out of planes, was now going to seminary in a foreign country and moonlighting as a janitor to finance his education. My mom who had been raised as a princess was now working 60-70 hours a week.
I used to think it was unfair that my mom was never available for me. She was always so quick to leave me when someone needed her but so slow to come back home when I needed her. I used to think it was foolish that my dad gave up a lifetime pension, honor, status to scrub toilets or offer church members rides at 4:30 in the morning. In my heart I would criticize them thinking they had no vision in their lives, and that they lived to gain nothing of value. In my own foolishness and I tried to run in the opposite direction and live exclusively for myself, hoarding all good things I could possibly obtain. But that left me terribly hollow and lonely. I guess their blood really does flow in me.
The older I become, and consequently the wiser I become, the more my perspective shifts. I recognize the wisdom in their meek and humble ways. Their workplaces are modest, and they spend their spare time sharing the gospel, visiting the sick, consoling the lonely and grieving in their own ways (my mom more than my dad — just had to add that hehe).
My mom used to be a little girl who lost her father, mother, fortunes and inheritance, and homeland. Still she has an unquenchable fountain of joy. My mom tells me she’s never felt richer than she does now. You see, back then, she didn’t know God and she didn’t hope in heaven. She tells me not to cry once she passes, but to take comfort in knowing she lived a full and satisfying life where she had intimacy with God.
My parents won’t be leaving me an inheritance of any kind, but they are leaving a legacy behind. They’ve shown me that it is much more honorable to give up what you have than it is to obtain it in the first place. Yes, they have very little, but that’s okay because they don’t live for things; they live for people. They live to serve and love.
Now it’s on their bent and broken backs that I build my own future. Now I realize that’s the unfair part of all this. I see how foolish I had been all this time. God’s reward and favor is so visible in their joy, and that causes me to realize that there is nothing more valuable, more worthwhile, more satisfying than a life of service to others. The world’s system of happiness is a lie — it does not come with wealth and possession. It comes with a simple purpose: doing everything with love. It is the most overwhelming, consuming purpose. Money, recognition, fame, power, status, education all stand eclipsed by the power of it.
In realizing this, I am humbly prompted to accept the same calling. I understand I have a long, long way ahead, full of discipline and sacrifice, but I’m learning. Slowly.
Happy Father’s Day everyone! I wish you all lots of love and food ❤