Though I would consider myself to be a world traveler and explorer at heart, I have not always been so adventurous or fearless. But then, I traveled to Korea once, twice, and now I am on my fifth trip, solo, with little planning, little funds, a small command of the language, with two large suitcases and a false sense of security in tow. I’m a mess in the most orderly way possible, but as I walk the busy streets of Itaewon, I think about how many people that I pass are giving themselves to futures that are not clear in strange new places, and perhaps, without much guidance.
Then I read about people like Abraham in the Old Testament. He was told to leave his land to go to an unknown place, with an unknown people, for a purpose that was hidden from him, with a God he barely knew leading the way. His life, and that of his descendants, was full of wandering through deserts, surprising adventures, strange miracles, and burning bush experiences. To that, I attribute my chase for life. Many times, I find myself in front of a fierce Red Sea that threatens to swallow me up while chariots rife with fears and doubts chase after me. I often want to run away or stop the chase all together. But, I press on — because now I know better.
During my travels in South Korea, I have paid several visits to a tourist attraction called Homigot. It is an area in Pohang City with a beautiful folk tale about Yeonorang and Seonyeo. Here’s how KBS World Culture tells the story:
In the year 157, the fourth year of King Adala, who was the eighth ruler of the Silla Dynasty, there lived a man named Yeonorang and his wife Seonyeo in a remote fishing village. One day, as always, Yeonorang went out to the sea to pick some seaweed. On the seashore, he saw a big, black rock that he had never seen before. Out of curiosity, he climbed up the strange rock, which suddenly began to move. It rapidly drifted out to sea, so he couldn’t get down from it. He had no choice but to stick to the rock and let it float on the sea wherever it went. After a while, the rock reached land, which turned out to be the island of Japan. Local people were very surprised and amazed to see a man who had crossed the sea on a moving rock. They believed the man was a great figure sent from God and they hailed him as king.
Back at home, Yeonorang’s wife, Seonyeo, was waiting for her husband, who never came back. She went out to the seashore and wandered around the area in the hopes of finding a trace of her missing husband. Unfortunately, all she could see was the vast blue sea and the burning sands… when she saw something. It was a big, black rock. She ran toward the rock and picked up a pair of shoes. At a glance, she was able to recognize that the shoes were her husband’s. Seonyeo climbed up the rock, as her husband did before. The rock, again, started to move and floated across the sea. In the same way, the rock took the woman to the same island of Japan. Local residents were, again, astonished to see another person coming from nowhere on a rock. They took the woman to the king, who was none other than her husband she had missed so much. The couple was finally reunited in the island country. There, Yeonorang became king and his wife Seonyeo became queen.
After their arrival in Japan, however, something extraordinary happened in their home country, Silla. The sun and the moon stopped shining, never rising again. A fortuneteller explained to the Silla king that the spirits of the sun and the moon had moved to Japan and that caused all the chaos. The king sent an envoy to Yeonorang and Seonyeo in Japan and asked them to return to Silla. However, Yeonorang was already king in Japan and he believed he had gone there by God’s will. He thought it would be impossible to return to Silla. Instead, he suggested that the envoy take a beautiful silk fabric the queen had woven herself. He told the envoy to take the fabric to Silla and offer a memorial ritual to heavenly God with it.
When the envoy returned, he conveyed Yeonorang’s words and Seonyeo’s silk fabric to the king. As instructed, the king held a rite for the heavenly God with the fabric. Instantly, the sun and the moon started to rise again, and peace returned to the country again. From then on, the silk fabric was designated as a national treasure and was stored in a royal depot. The depot was named “Guibigo,” meaning “a room where a precious silk is kept.” Also, the venue for the memorial rite was named “Yeongil-hyeon,” which refers to a place where the rising sun is greeted. The site is present-day Pohang in southeastern Korea. Today, there are the statues of Yeonorang and Seonyeo at the Homigot Sunrise Square in Pohang as a symbol of Homigot, the very first place where the sun rises in Korea.Korean Folk Tale via KBS World
The reason I share that story is because life seldom develops in the way we assume it will. One minute we are standing on a rock, and the next minute we are being swept away by the waters into a new land. The message I take from the story is that these two lovers get swept away into an opportunity for success. They become rulers in a new land, and then they reciprocate what they found by sending help to their native land now in dire need of rescue.
Things won’t always go as planned, but shouldn’t we trust that God has our best interest at heart wherever we land? Perhaps, in our bravery, we may find a blessing in disguise.