Sometimes, I amuse myself.
I know, I know, I just wrote my last blog post on the biggest-failure-of-a-hair-mask-the-world-has-ever-seen… But…
At about 7am this morning I was enjoying the inside-comforts of an oversized mug of earl grey tea, some time reading the Bible and an unhurried couple of hours with God… When I suddenly remembered… It was garbage day.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I live in Japan. Every day is garbage day… Of some kind. I mean, this is the country that gives you a 30+ page manual of how to dispose of every-possible-item-of-household-waste-you-may-ever-produce, uses colour-coded bags for said groups of waste (that differ depending of the city you are in), and has no problems in returning wrongly-labelled-or-packaged-items to your door.
So for me, Monday and Thursday is burnable rubbish day (in a yellow bag), Tuesday is plastic packaging day (in a white bag), Friday is plastic bottle and can day (in whatever-kind-of-bag-you-want), and Wednesday alternates between paper/cardboard day and garden/plant waste day (there’s a little bit of flexibility on the bag you use, but a paper-one is appreciated). Occasionally there are super-exciting-and-long-awaited-days (I’m kidding) where you can get rid of small electrical items, batteries, sharp objects etc etc etc. But… BUT, if you miss the day… Well, you could be waiting a long time for the next one.
You leave your day-appropriate-colour-appropriate-trash at a ‘community’ pick up spot rather than directly outside your house. Mine is literally across the road… But, it’s a definite shoes-on-walk-outside as opposed to the dump-a-bag-outside-your-back-door-in-your-slippers kind of deal I was used to in the UK.
On the whole, now I’ve been living in Japan for almost 9 months, I’m into a pretty-good-if-not-slightly-bizarre-garbage-routine.
I’m normally pretty spot-on.
Except for paper.
There’s something about the fact that it’s not every week, and that I hardly ever produce garden/plant waste on the alternate weeks, that means I’m never prepared for Wednesday garbage day.
And this morning was no different.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so my extensive-plans for this morning involved not-leaving-my-house-before-9am and having the aforementioned and unhurried tea-and-Bible-time.
Consequently, at 7am, I was still firmly-planted in my pyjamas.
And then… I remembered it was paper-day.
I couldn’t, in all honestly, be bothered to get changed in order to carry a bag of trash across the street, so I just slipped my Birkenstocks on and thought I’d make a pyjama-clad dash for it. (In total seriousness, it isn’t the first, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time that I’ve done a pyjama-garbage-run).
Anyway, most of my pyjamas are just checked-lounge-pants-and-hoodie-combos, so they might not be the trendiest things in the world, but they’re totally appropriate to be seen in.
Except… I forgot. And only realised when I was face-to-face with a couple of my highly-entertained-and-bemused-looking neighbours at the garbage station… That I wasn’t wearing my normal lounge-pants-and-hoodie-combo.
I was actually wearing my *cough* teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-pyjamas.
Because I am 29 and I am that cool.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re also not inappropriate… They’re just… Well, bright.
And they have teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles on them.
And at approximately 7.03am this morning I had this profound revelation.
If you want to be inconspicuous… DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT, wear teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles pyjamas outside in Japan. If you want to draw attention to yourself and bring great amusement to the elderly people that live on your street… Well, go ahead and knock yourself out.
It made me think this morning: I wonder what people think when they see me walking towards them?
I mean, I can take a good guess at the specific thoughts my bright-cartoon-defined-pyjamas brought on, (‘Oh man, look at that crazy gaijin girl again…’), but I was thinking a bit more widely than that.
If people see me walking towards them, what do they think? How do they even know it’s me? How do they define me? What makes me recognisable?
At the end of June I saw a very clear picture as I was praying. A picture of the prodigal son. I was praying for someone I’d just met a couple of weeks before that and God showed me these very clear images as I talked to Him. But since then, the story of the prodigal son has been really capturing my heart again.
It’s one of those stories that I’ve been reading since before I can remember, and I kind of thought I had it drilled into the core of my being… But as God so gently does when He’s awakening Truth in us, I’m learning that there are more layers in His Word that I could ever imagine.
One question in particular struck me a couple of weeks ago.
I read this verse, that I know so well…
‘When he was still a long way off, his father saw him…’ (Luke 15 vs 20)
We know the story right? This prodigal son, who had taken everything he inherited and all his Father had given and squandered it away. This prodigal son, who is now penniless and hopeless and friendless. This prodigal son, who is so much like me and so much like you… Decides to go back to his Father’s house and beg to just be allowed to live as a servant. And then we read these words: ‘When he was still a long way off, his father saw him’.
And we know the end of the story. His father embraces him back not only as a servant, but as a son. More is restored than the son could ever have asked or imagined.
But here was my question.
How did the father know it was his son?
He was still a long way off, just a speck on the horizon. He no doubt looked drastically altered. Malnourished. Wearing rags. He must have walked differently.
I mean, from that vast distance, how did the father know who it was? How did he recognise it to be his son and not just some local beggar? What differentiated him? What defined him? What made him recognisable? Was he wearing his favourite-brightly-coloured t-shirt? His stand-out-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtle-pyjamas? How did he know?
Because this is important, right? If we believe that this story speaks into our lives and our hearts as God as the father and us as the returning prodigal… This is an important question.
God, do you really see me? Do you really recognise me? How can you run to me with Your arms of restoration when I’m just a speck on the horizon? Am I not too far away?
I was in my church praying the other morning and I was talking this through with God.
The conversation went a little like this:
‘Peta, ask me your question..’
‘Oh, that little question… It doesn’t matter.’
‘It matters to you. It’s okay, ask me your question…’
‘Well, it’s just… How did the father know it was the son from that huge distance? How do you know it’s me? Surely he would have been too far away…?’
And do you know what God answered? In one of those beautiful moments of clarity? This floors me.
‘Oh my child. Don’t you see? You may have just been a figure in the distance, but I’d spent the days and moments of your life memorising your frame…’
He memorises us.
He doesn’t just know us distantly. He doesn’t just know our name and nothing more. He actually doesn’t miss anything.
The reason the father knows it’s his son, despite the time, despite the change, despite the mistakes, is that the father so deeply loved and longed for his child. He’d not just been a distant father. He’d been a father who saw every detail. A father who had memorised every characteristic. A father who had spent the time putting every-tiny-detail into immaculately accurate memory.
A father who sees.
A father who loves.
A father whose love changes everything.
I was reading a blog by one of my favourite design companies yesterday, considerthewldflwrs, and this quote hit me.
I’ll leave you with it. Because, even on foolish days and pyjama days and teenage-mutant-ninja-turtle-days, we were forged and formed in LOVE and by LOVE. In the person of Jesus who IS Love. And in His wild, fiery and complete love, we are known and we are whole.
It is important for us to know that our desire to be loved, to be beautiful is not shallow or evil. In fact, we were created from love, through a desire for relationship, and we are destined to be beautiful through our heavenly breed. Our need for these things can be met and fulfilled. But it demands from us a willingness to step away from the tame standards of attraction and infatuation the world falsely offers as whole and a willingness to step into the wild, fiery and complete love we were forged in. (considerthewldflwrs.com)
Oh, and the last couple of days have been filled with some fun and laughter. On Sunday it was a friend’s birthday, on Monday I played some live music in another friend’s bar. Yesterday I had a beautiful morning with another dear friend from church and her daughter. So here are a few pictures from the proceedings… 🙂