I just recently began reading a book that tells the horrific story of a man who lived in and escaped from North Korea. He tells of his life and his heritage. He tells the stories of his grandparents and they chose to move their family to North Korea.
He tells that his grandma was a political activist who was dedicated to the communist cause. She was part of groups and activist circles. Her husband cared little about politics and social change. Instead, his drive was money and how to make more of it. They were very driven and successful people that were deeply committed to one another and to their family.
Though, one day, they were given an invitation that would ultimately shape the world for generations to follow. “The party” in PyongYang extended an invitation to them. The party promised wealth and prosperity for the family if they would relocate from Japan to Pyongyang. The party promised a life filled with everything they could ever want. There were promises made that their children would study in Moscow. He was told that he could make more money in the North than would ever be possible in Japan or South Korea. They promised her a place in the revolution that would bring about a perfect utopia for Korea and her people.
The couple excitedly answerd the call with a “yes” and moved their family to the capital of North Korea; pyongyang.
Upon arrival in North Korea, the residents silently questioned the family as to why they would ever want to move from freedom to tyranny. This was an easy question to answer. The family was given great jobs and allowed to drive their volvo (which they had shipped with them from Japan). They were on top.
Calling North Korea home, the couple’s children grew and married, and his children had children. (The grandson was ultimately responsible for writing this book.)
This “generosity” of the party lasted a few years, but slowly the family learned more and more how little they were truly free. Their happiness was daily sapped from them and they became bitter towards the system that had once made such grandiose promises. The grandfather became vocal in his workplace about any number of political andsocial frustrations. He became angry about the limitations and regulations. he hated bureaucracy. Most of all, he was angry he was the one who had brought his family into such bondage.
One day, grandpa never came home.
The party that had promised happiness had, without warning, taken the grandfather away from his family and put him in a concentration camp.
The government told the family he went on a business trip.
A few months later, the police came to the families house. They ransacked the apartment and took everything that was valuable. They then took the grandmother, a few of her children and her grandchildren (the youngest was 9 years old), by a truck to a concentration camp where they were kept for 10 years. The government took the family because the family had been “infected by a dangerous ideology.” They needed re-education and reform through hard work and education before being allowed into society.
As I read this book, two thoughts struck me.
1. We read the news and we go to work where we get worked up discussing and debating our politics and opinions with our co-workers. We want so many things that may or may not, in reality, actually be a good thing, all while painting one side or the other (people from both parties are equally guilty in this) as a “hitler” or “communist” figure…
But the truth is, the fact that we can make such statements, and hear such varying views, means we are undeniably free. We can mouth off on facebook or twitter about our president or the new congress without fear of not coming home, and without fear that such words will mean the lives of our entire family. We are blessed because we are free. Today let’s all take a moment to reflect on this.
2. The spiritual life is very similar to this story, as well. We can be wooed by such promising futures, only to find that the once pleasurable journey has become threatening and hope-consuming. We are promised green pastures that sound too good to be true, and in the end, we realize that they were. Not only has the journey consumed the individual, but we are horrified to see it consume those we vowed to always care for. The other day I came across a quote that said, “we are becoming permanently the person we only meant to be for the moment.” I pray that I become the man who’s life gives freedom to those who come after me.
May our decisions lead towards freedom, both for us and for our family. May our lives not pave a road through hell for all who follow us.
Blessings to you as you begin a new week. May you choose to live a life, and leave a legacy, of freedom.