1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23)
This passage is usually read during funerals – bringing words of comfort to those who have lost a loved one. For me, this passage has special meaning. When I was pregnant with my first child, it became very clear how important it would be for me to produce a son. Thank God, I had a son. Not just “A” son, but first son of the first son of the first son of the first son. Ian was the first grandson and great-grandson on the Kim side. It is Korean tradition for the oldest male to choose a part of the child’s name. This chosen name will be shared with all the children born in that generation in that family. For example, my husband’s name is InHo; his brother’s name is Won Ho; and his cousin’s name is Junho. They all share “ho” in their name. For my son and now my daughter, their Korean names are SooJin and SooYun, respectively. “Soo” means “water,” but not just any kind of water – “still” water like that described in Psalm 23.
There are many images of water in the Bible. Some are violent, creative, healing, living, nourishing, and life-threatening. But it is the still water that my children’s great grandfather chose to be a part of their name. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that this is the image that he would like associated with his grandchildren. He has always been a faithful man – a leader in his church, family, and community. He has lived a long life, filled with the ups and downs of living a life in Korea during tumultuous times. When one’s life has seen a lot of pain and loss, I can see why his prayer for his grandchildren would be one of peace, stillness, restoration, and companionship.
In 2006, we traveled to Korea for a family reunion. The first day, we went to the Kim family burial site. There were rows of tombstones with etchings of familial names in Chinese characters. You can feel the history, legacy, and connection of those who have gone before us. At the time, my son was only 16 months old. As we sat on the grass, great grandfather began reading from the Bible and singing some of his favorite church hymns. In the midst of so much history, we were having church worship right there. Later, he pulled out a long family tree and pointed to my son’s name – the last name on the list. The beauty of this moment was lost on my son as he was too busy running in between the tombstones and minding his own business.
As a 2nd generation Korean-American, I have grown to appreciate my familial connections to Korea. Growing up in the United States, I spent a good chunk of my young adult years traveling between Korea and America, trying to figure out where I belonged. In the end, I concluded I had to redefine what being Korean and American meant. This soul and identity search has informed not only the way I see myself, but the way I view the world, my faith, and my relationships. I name my blog “Still Waters” because I believe it best describes the viewpoint in which I write – as a 2nd generation Korean-American pastor, mother, wife, and child of God.