“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you,” prays prophet Isaiah (Isa 26:3). Apostle Paul likewise affirms that it is God who makes us stand firm in Christ (2 Cor 1:21) and that we are made strong by spiritual gifts (Rom 1:11). Storm clouds may fill the sky, but those who stand firm in the faith are able to see the silver lining. Psalm 1 gives us the reason why: Those who are steadfast in the faith are like a tree planted by the water; they find delight in the word of God and meditate on it day and night.
There is a silver lining among our church members, who are becoming more dedicated to daily Scripture meditation and prayer. Another is in our acknowledgment of uncertainty and unknowing, because it’s a sign of growing humility before God. With human confidence giving way, the command “Be still and know I am God” (Ps 46:10) is reaching us anew. I hear “be still” as the command to calm the noise within and talk less, but also to cease striving and withdraw hands from busy motion. Looking back, I was often busy traveling and talking my talk. While learning to be still and adapting to a different way of engaging, there’s a newfound joy in taking time to explore things I chose to pass by before.
For example, I used to often rush through mealtimes to get back to work. Nowadays I’m learning to take time and actually enjoy the taste of every grain in my morning cereal. Attending to the joy of any given moment helped to improve cooking skills too: I’m getting better at creatively choosing from a variety of ingredients and spices to add depth to dishes. Even dishwashing, which used to more of a nuisance, has become a strangely enjoyable process of making things clean. And then there is our communal lunch at church during weekdays. After trying out different approaches, our church staff finally settled in cooking our own rice and catering ‘soup du jour’ at a very reasonable price. We never know what soup it is until it arrives, and anticipation adds some fun to our daily routine.
I used to be certain about many things and rarely hesitated to express it. Now I’m discovering greater joy in listening to what others got to say. With our physical gatherings still restricted, there is a newfound joy in getting to know each person more closely through small groups on Zoom. In “being still,” there is growing freedom from the pressure to achieve – the burden I carried for so long. The physical attendance at our worship services is less than 10% of what it was before the pandemic. But along with such change came a shift in perspective: The presence of each person enriches the worship space and enhances our communal experience. Ministry goals have turned simpler but with a narrower focus on becoming a happy community through and in Jesus Christ. It’s a positive change that I’m thankful for.
This past year showed me how stubborn and biased my mind can be. God provided the training opportunity to step back and deepen discernment. It was a call to freshly have the mind and heart of Jesus toward everyone and everything, including the events of the world. I choose to obey and follow God’s lead rather than reminiscing the past and things that I took pride in. Looking back, I was quick to judge and often did not hold back from speaking my mind, even comments that could be quite hurtful. Change is not easy, but I am trying.
It seems like restricted physical boundaries opened space for the mind and heart to breathe and expand. With the shift from certainty to uncertainty, and with the realization that it’s not in my power to change the situation, I’ve become more desperate for God’s presence. What lies ahead may be unknown, but what a blessing to know that God goes with us! As I cling on tight, the heart of Jesus draws near, and the guidance of the Spirit is vividly real. With eyes freshly open to my limitations, I’m learning again. I began listening to sermons of other pastors and paying deeper attention to the current spiritual movement in Korea and America. Last week, I watched historical documentaries to better understand the truths of the Cuban and Russian Revolutions, as well as the rise and fall of the New Age movement and other fanatical religious groups.
The journey is still far. But I’m thankful for the grace sustaining us today, for the grace leading us into new tomorrow.