I’m raising my head above the intrepid-waters of dissertation research for 30 minutes to try and construct this blog post… Which could be ‘interesting’. Other open-pages on my trusty Mac screen include a link to the latest human trafficking stats for Japan, an English-translation of the 2013 Japanese white paper on youth matters, a Japanese government labour report and some of the latest OECD statistics.
Yep. My brain is a really fun place right now…
It says something that I opened my WordPress home page, considered what to write, and had two thoughts hit me simultaneously…
1) I need to share some thinking about starting a Japanese NPO (non-profit-organisation) next year.
2) I need to share that I had a haircut.
Go figure… 🙂
Actually, for completely different reasons, both of those thoughts lead me back to this quote:
You can’t make it to freedom and not try and take everyone with you.
Because I believe that and I love that and I totally think that’s true. I guess that I truly believe that every-single-person-on-the-entire-planet is looking and searching and hoping for freedom. We can try and satisfy that quest in relationships, and status, and money, and what job we have… But it’s futile. We can try and find freedom in bars, and in alcohol, and in a persona that everyone else thinks has everything together, but it doesn’t satisfy. BUT, and here’s the but, when you find true freedom, I think there’s something in you that longs to take everyone else with you. At least, that’s my story.
So, let’s look at number 2 first. I had a haircut.
My (American) friend and stunning hairdresser Alicia saved my curly hair (because remember the trauma of going to visit a Japanese hairdresser who excels in straight, thick, black hair… But freaks out a bit when seeing curly, fine, red hair!) and just did an awesome job.
But let’s rewind further.
Last week I had to get some photos done for my long-term visa application (please pray for that by the way!), and in the process I was showing my good friend my last lot of passport photos from about 2 years ago. And she was shocked! She actually said, ‘You look so ill here. You have bags under your eyes, and your hair is nothing, and your face is so, so, thin’. You’ve got to love honest friends.. 😉
The thing is, she was right… And if we go back even further, I would have actually looked even worse.
Because stress affects your hair. And when you’re stressed or sad or depressed over a very long period of time, you might be able to hide it from everyone else, but your can’t hide it from your hair. Your hair knows. And it cries for help by being dull and lifeless. By refusing to grow. By falling out. Or by breaking off. By being subject to nervous hair-picking/pulling/split-end destroying antics.
My Doctor once told me that hair and skin were the first things to show signs of emotional trauma and the last things to recover from it.
Which is why, I think this is a picture that gives some serious testimony to the healing of God.
And you can’t make it to freedom and not try and take everyone with you.
Remember, I’ve been working with young people for over 10 years now. Broken young people. Angry young people. Cocky young people. Every kind of young person you can think of.
Everyone is looking for freedom.
Freedom from our mistakes. Freedom from our regrets. Freedom from the things that have been done to us. Freedom from memories. Freedom from nightmares. Freedom from fear. Freedom from rejection. Freedom from bitterness. Freedom from sin.
And there’s only one place we find true freedom.
At the feet of Jesus.
This passage is taken from a stunning book by Steven Estes and Joni Eareckson Tada called When God Weeps and as hard-hitting and gritty this is… This is where we find our freedom. Freedom from our own sin. Freedom to forgive others. Freedom.
The face that Moses had begged to see – was forbidden to see – was slapped bloody (Exodus 33: 19-22).
The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth’s rebellion now twisted around his brow…
‘On your back with you!’ One raises a mallet to sink the spike. But the solider’s heart must continue pumping as he readies the prisoner’s wrist. Someone must sustain the solider’s life minute by minute, for no man has this power on his own. Who supplies breath to his lungs? Who gives energy to his cells? Who holds his molecules together? Only by the Son do ‘all things hold together’ (Colossians 1: 17). The victim wills that the solider live on – he grants the warrior’s continued existence. The man swings.
As the man swings the Son recalls how he and the Father first designed the medial nerve of the human forearm – the sensations it would be capable of. The design proves flawless – the nerves perform exquisitely. ‘Up you go!’ They lift the cross. God is on display in his underwear and can scarcely breathe.
But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread. He begins to feel a foreign sensation. Somewhere during this day an unearthly foul odour began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart. He feels dirty. Human wickedness starts to crawl upon his spotless being – the living excrement from our souls. The apple of his Father’s eye turns brown with rot.
His Father! He must face his Father like this!
From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes His mane, and roars against the shrivelling remnant of a man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognise these eyes.
‘Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped – murdered, envied, hated, lied. You have cursed, robbed, over-spent, overeaten – fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled and blasphemed. Oh the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk – you, who molests young boys, peddled killer drugs, travels in cliques, and mocks your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end!
Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp – buying politicians, practicing exhortation, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves – relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, loathe, these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?
Of course the Son is innocent. He is blamelessness itself. The Father knows this. Bu the divine pair have an agreement, and the unthinkable must now take place. Jesus will be treated as if personally responsible for every sin ever committed.
The Father watches as his heart’s treasure, the mirror image of himself, sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah’s stored rage against humankind from every century explodes in a single direction.
‘Father, Father! Why have you forsaken me?!’
But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot, who will not, reach down or reply.
The Trinity had planned it. The Son had endured it. The Spirit enabled Him. The Father rejected the Son whom He loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished. The Father accepted His sacrifice for sin. The Rescue was accomplished.
My sin both led to and was forgiven by that act of love.
And it doesn’t end at the cross. Jesus didn’t just perish for us. Jesus defeated death. He died for us and rose from the dead for us. He still lives, pursuing us, and calling us into freedom. One day He will return and lead us into that eternal freedom.
I love speaking His hope. Looking into the eyes of a broken girl who is pouring our her heart and her story and her hopelessness and telling her she will be okay. That it will be okay. That it can be okay. And she asks me how I know. Because she doesn’t know. And all my good-theology and intelligent words can do nothing to convince her otherwise. So instead I look at her (‘her’ represents the countless faces that I can fit into this scene), and I simply say, ‘Because I know. If He can do it for me, He can do it for you. He’s that same mighty-restorer-God. And it there’s freedom for me, then it’s there for you. And if He can heal my wounds and my heart then He can heal yours. And if His perfect love can cast out my fear, then it can cast yours so far away. That’s the power that there is in the might name of our precious Jesus. His forgiveness is perfect. His grace abundant. And His mercies are new. And I’m going to walk this journey of freedom with you and not give up on you everyday until we make it…’
Which leads me to the first point.
I’m seriously and prayerfully looking into setting up an NPO in Japan next year. There’s an entire blog post behind that statement… One for another day. But will you start to pray with me and for me? Will you fast with me?
Because there’s freedom waiting.