Ji Seong-ho smiles as U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office of the White House on February 2, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

Ji Seong-ho smiles as U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office of the White House on February 2, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

Ji Seong-ho left his homeland in 2006. He says he crossed thousands of miles on crutches after enduring years of hunger, grievous injuries from falling on train tracks, and torture at the hands of North Korean police.*

"I understand you still keep those crutches as a reminder of how far you have come," Trump said during his State of the Union speech. (Ji Seong-ho was there)

To some extent, we can be defined by the things we keep and those we don’t. 

We keep photos (either by posting them on social media or saved on our phones or in hard copy) of cherished people and moments we want to remember. 

We keep talismans of love – dried flowers, love letters (or texts), a baby blanket made by a grandparent, etc. 

We keep reminders of our victories – a diploma, a sobriety chip, a clean bill of health, the first dollar made in a new business, etc.

Unfortunately, we sometimes hold onto things that would be better let go – anger, a grudge, worry or fear, hurt, portions of our old selves prior to conversion, false teachings we just want to be true, things (ideas, teachings, items) that make us feel secure although it is false security. 

The things we keep are usually passed along to the next generation for them to cherish, share, deal with or dispose of. Therefore, we have to give some thought to what we keep and what we throw away, for our own sakes as well as for the next generation. 

Recently, I was listening to a book on Audible called “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.” (By Margareta Magnusson, published by Simon & Schuster) Sounds a bit morbid, I know, but it is really about giving some thought to decluttering your home so you won’t leave a mess to for your heirs to deal with. I think this is good advice from both a physical point of view and from a spiritual one. 

Sometimes it is difficult to let physical things go – like that skirt I am sure I will be able to get back into and the last wallet my mom carried before she died (her driver’s license is in there). 

More importantly, it can be difficult to let some things go, when we really should – like the pain of a terrible tragedy, like the voice of unworthiness someone placed in your head, like life-long prejudices, like offense, like habits of sin. 

But the life of a Christian is about is very much about what we should hold onto and what we should let go.

Because we pass along the things we keep, we should:

  • Let go of anger as quickly as possible and replace it with love and peace. [Eph. 4:26; Psalm 34:14; 1 Peter 3:11; John 15:12, 17; Romans 12: 10]
  • Let go of hurt by way of forgiveness. [Matt. 6:14-15; Luke 17:4]
  • Let go of worry by way of trust in the Lord. [Psalm 125:1; Prov. 3:5; Isa. 26:4]
  • Let go of pride by embracing humility. [James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:6]
  • Let go of revenge and leave it to God. [Romans 12:19]

Because we pass along the things we keep, we should:

  • Keep hope alive even in the darkest times and pass the message of hope onto the next generation.
  • Keep love in our hearts for God and man, and pass it along to everyone we meet at every opportunity. [1 Peter 4:8; Mark 12:30-31]
  • Keep/hold onto our early passion for God – our first love. [Romans 12:11]
  • Keep peace, pursue it. Keep the peace to the best of our ability. Sow in peace, reap a harvest of peace and then replant it so that the seeds of peace never run out. [Romans 12:18]

Ji Seong-ho currently lives in South Korea, where he works to raise awareness about the situation in North Korea and to help fellow defectors. He may choose to keep those crutches to remind himself of the triumph of escaping the horror and pain of his life in North Korea. His heirs, if he has any, will likely not keep them after he is gone. But hopefully they will keep the legacy and lessons of Ji Seong-ho’s post escape life spent helping others. 

This is Ji Seong-ho’s more important legacy – a life turned from ashes to hope, one of unbelievable grit and triumph against evil turned to help for others, blessings used to lift up others, hope shared. 

Some things are meant to endure from generation to generation – to be held onto tightly and passed along. 1 Corinthians 13:13 [NKJV] And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these [is] love. Maybe if our hands, hearts and lives are full of these things, we would not have room for anything else. Truly, if our hands, hearts and lives are full of faith, hope and love, these qualities are themselves the reminders of how far we have come. These are the things to keep and pass along.

Each day, we choose what to hold onto and what to let go. We would do well, sweet sisters, to be very careful in the choices we make. 

I’d love to hear your comments and questions. You can write me at

*You can learn more about Ji Seong-ho at