So today we travelled back to Nara to spend a brief 36 hours with a non-Christian Japanese couple called Akira and Keiko. They are a wonderful older couple, with a beautiful home, an abundance of beautiful sketch books, and Akira is a Doctor who is enthusiastic about learning English. Time just feels too short!
On the way to meet Keiko this afternoon, we also went to see a bit of Nara, do some praying, and make friends with my favourite hang-out-on-the-street deer. I was so struck today by praying in such a beautiful place. Many temples and shrines in Japan are built within the most stunning scenery, and I find that as a Christian, you can’t help but recognise the mighty beauty of a Creator God. But it’s so sad to see that the root of this religion misses that. Because what should give hope in displaying the awesomeness of a God who loves us so well, instead becomes warped into idolatry.
I was talking with a non-Christian Japanese friend about her beliefs in animism, as she shared that she thought that all things had a spirit within them. We were walking under a very old temple gate and she said she could feel the spirits very strongly because of the beauty and age of the wood. And I shared with her that I too recognised the beauty in creation but for different reasons. I explained that I believed that there was only one God, who was the Almighty Creator of everything. But I also explained that just as when a potter leaves faint fingerprints in the clay he is working with, so we can see the beauty of God’s fingerprints throughout the beauty of creation. I talked to her about how instead of created things having a spirit in and of themselves that could or should be worshipped, seeing God’s fingerprints pointed us instead back to the One true God who is worthy of praise. And as we walked around Nara, I couldn’t help but pray that reality would be the one known; that these beautiful places of creation would be redeemed by Jesus for His glory and Name’s sake.
The place that really broke my heart today was around this statue:
This statue is one that people travel a long way to touch. They believe that if you are sick, you can rub the Binzuru statue, and then rub the corresponding part of yourself, and that you will be healed. My friend was talking about climbing up the statue to touch it’s eyes. And today I looked at this idol, make of wood and bearing no ability to heal anyone, and I looked at the people who were in need of a miracle, some desperate, and it moved me. I remembered the story about the crowds around Jesus, and the woman who was desperate for healing. And with one touch of His robes she was healed. Totally healed. Completely restored. And today we saw people pouring their hearts out to this created, crafted piece of wood, and I thought instead about Jesus, who battles through the crowds to find the one who is in need. Who we can trust to carry us and our burdens. Who is the true healer and the true Lord. And I wanted to shout, ‘Pray to Him! Pour out your heart to One you can trust! He loves us so well!’ And I prayed, and am still praying.
We also went to a Buddhist museum, and that again broke my heart. There were what I can only describe as the most haunting models of a group of Buddhist monks and their faces were so lifelike… And in utter anguish. It was reminiscent of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus where the rich man realises too late that he has invested everything he is into the wrong things and pleads for those left on the earth to not join him in torment. These were just statues, but they seemed to mean so much more. But our God, the true God, is so joyful. He is so happy. Deep joy and deeper love and abundant forgiveness and healing and restoration. And that is the reality that we pray would pour out on Japan.
The other thing that I have been inspired by today is Marcus’s Japanese ability. Keiko doesn’t really speak English, and it’s so incredibly cool to hear them talking away pretty fluently to each other. One day… I can only pray! 🙂
Please also pray for this couple we are investing in this weekend. They are such a blessing and so open, but it would be incredible to have more opportunities to share the Gospel and the love of Jesus with them. And pray for those who are in need of healing here, that they would find the touch of the miracle working God whose name is Jesus.
P.s. On a completely random note… I thought the sun in Japan would turn my hair a bit blonder… Turns out I’m getting more ginger every day I’m here: