As I sit to write this, my simple reflection is that it’s been a really great day.
Which is a simple reflection. But a wonderful one.
And it’s great to take a moment and just pause in the thankfulness of it.
I’ve just got in from a day spent at the wedding of two of my friends here in Sapporo. It was a beautiful ceremony, for two beautiful people, on a glorious-it-finally-feels-like-spring-beautiful day… But more than that, so much more, was the Beautiful God that the from-start-to-finish-celebration just focussed upon and around and within.
And as well as the obvious-massive-spiritual-and-emotional-blessings-of-a-great-wedding there is also the humorous-side-blessing of getting to see loads of your friends dress up in clothes they don’t normally wear. A few of us were enjoying this fact over the wedding-tea-party-lunch. Guys and girls that we are so used to recognising through their jeans and converse trainers and altogether-casual-clothes, suddenly appeared in tuxedos and dresses and the poshest of outfits. Excited Japanese words for ‘Waaaahhhh, that looks so cute/pretty/beautiful…’ could be heard all over the place.
It’s good fun right? To dress up posh sometimes? To put on the clothes and the colours and the styles that you don’t normally wear in order to celebrate a great occasion?
I was thinking about this as I walked the 30 minute stroll back home from the reception. The sun was shining. It was good to be outside. I’ve still been fighting off a bit of illness this week so it felt good to be breathing some fresh Sapporo air. My playlist was a selection of Rend Collective sunshine-suitable-worship, and I had some people in mind to pray for. And as I walked, slowly-but-surely, I became very aware that I was still wearing my wedding-party outfit. My posh clothes. The more people I passed, the more aware I became. My clothing drew attention to me.
Sometimes in subtle way. It was like I could tell that people were thinking, ‘Where has she come from?’ or ‘Where is she going to?’ But sometimes more obvious. A couple of older ladies gave little compliments as I passed a shop. That kind of thing. Now, I’m used to standing out a bit in Japan (I mean, check ginger hair and white-as-the-snow skin in a crowd), but this was different. It was because of what I was wearing.
And right there, at that moment, the Lord spoke to me.
It was more of a picture actually.
I was there, walking along, thinking about nothing profound other than the impact wearing posh clothes could have on random-passers-by, when my thoughts were invaded with a different image.
A different picture.
In this image a young man walked slowly down a long dirt road. He was dirty, dusty and unkempt. He was wearing rags. Barely rags. Less than rags. He looked thoroughly undernourished. He was pensive, his thoughts troubled. He wiped his brow and paused to frown at the sky, muttering under his breath. ‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. I am no longer worthy to be called you son….’
He shook his head, looked to the ground, and spoke his thoughts outloud. ‘I am no longer worthy to be called his son. Look at me?’
Spent up and burnt out. The prodigal. The one who had taken his rightful inheritance and squandered it away on the lusts of the flesh and the sin of the body. The one who deserved nothing but rejection. The one who deserved nothing. Nothing.
He took another step. And another. Eyes to the ground. Tears mingling with the dirt he stepped onto.
Another step. And another.
If he had only looked up he wound have seen the dust in the distance begin to shift. If he had not been so consumed with his own thoughts he would have heard the pounding sounds of footsteps in the distance. He would have seen a race begin a long way off.
He would have seen.
That as he shuffled slowly forward, thoughts of unworthiness and the weight of guilt filling his mind, he had been spotted. Sighted. By his Father. A Father who had watched and every-day-watched, waiting and every-day-waiting, hoping and every-day-hoping, for the one day that his watching would reveal his beloved prodigal coming home.
Taking one step down the dusty path.
A tiny figure in rags on the distance of the horizon.
A figure who had never been absent from his Father’s heart for a moment.
And so his Father ran. Even though his son was still a long way off, he ran. A reckless-running-in-the-dust kind of love that surpassed dignity and reason. A compassion that embraced the guilt of imperfection and the clothing of rags with the kiss of a Father who knew only mercy.
This, this was the picture Holy Spirit invaded my thoughts with. This running-undignifed-overflowing-with-love-collision. This Father-doing-everything-to-be-close-to-his-prodigal-embrace. This messy-emotional-beautiful-forgiveness. This bigger-than-our-rags-and-our-regrets-reality.
Because what does the Father say?
Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet… Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.
Stunning isn’t it?
His Father clothes him. In a robe of righteousness he doesn’t deserve, with a ring of authority he hasn’t earned, and with sandals he has no right to. The Father clothes him. Beautifully. Abundantly. Extravegantly. And all is grace.
When we have been clothed by our Father, we’re never the same again.
We’re never the same.
We’re dressed in the finest of garments. We’re clothed in the most radiant of outfits. And we shine with a reality that means we can only overflow the words that share who we were but where we’re going to. The answer to the question of all who see. The visible and transforming difference.
Or as my favourite Jon Thurlow song sings it,
You put the ring upon my finger, You put the robe upon my back, You throw Your arms around me and say, ‘You are my son, my daughter, don’t forget it’.
He gives us the best kind of posh clothes.
The ones we are given by grace.
Ok. That’s me done. Now today there were many far more superior photographers to me on the ground, so I don’t have anything to upload. So you can enjoy a throwback-sketch of what became my favourite painting. Clothed in His righteouness, speaking with Him face-to-face, overflowingly-thankful for the grace that means I am a child of God.