My friend Richard is visiting Sapporo at the moment. It’s AMAZING! I mean, time with him is really encouraging because he loves Jesus a whole lot, and we haven’t had a decent face-to-face catch up in 18 months… But also… Richard visiting means I (and some other friends) get to do all the crazy touristy stuff that we secretly love, but can’t justify doing on a weekly basis.
Like eating at our favourite pancake place.
And our favourite bakery place.
And our favourite tea place.
And visiting the snow festival.
And doing day trips.
And making wondering comments about the snow and the well-below-freezing temperatures as if it’s a new experience.
And like eating at our favourite soup curry restaurant.
Definitely like eating at our favourite soup curry restaurant.
Which we did last night.
Now for those of you who don’t know, (which as they only make soup curry in Sapporo, is actually most of the global population), soup curry is perhaps one of the best foods to ever be invented in the history of forever.
It involves a base of about 20 types of vegetables, paired with a meat of your choice, combined with a soup base of your choice, matched with a spice of your choice, and served with a rice size of your choice. Plus extra toppings.
So my beautiful dinner of yesterday evening consisted of 20 types of vegetables, with hamburger, in a coconut soup base, with a level 5 spice, a medium rice, and extra toppings of egg and broccoli.
Here’s Richard super-excited to begin some serious eating…
So anyway, we went for a pretty medium spice level last night, and I eat soup curry on a pretty regular basis. Which meant I was relatively confident in my ability to cope with said level of spice level without inducing some kind of critical health condition.
Which would have been totally okay.
Except for the chilis.
The hidden, deceptive chilis that were wrapped unsuspectingly in cabbage.
If it hadn’t been for them, everything would have been okay.
But we all accidentally ate at least one over the course of the meal. Richard first. And honestly, it was like your entire throat was consumed in the hottest flames imaginable.
I am not kidding and I am definitely not exaggerating.
You drank water, but it only made the burning worse. So you drank more water and it got hotter and hotter.
You tried to eat rice.
It made it worse.
In fact, it was like everything you tried to do to make the burning stop made it worse.
If you touched the OUTSIDE of my throat, it felt like it was burning.
The OUTSIDE people.
Eventually we bailed and order yoghurt lassies, and even they took a good ten minutes to help the situation.
I have, in total honesty, never eaten anything so hot in my entire life.
But here’s the thing.
These last two weeks I’ve actually been fighting a bit of a chest infection and a pretty bad lingering cough. These last few days I’ve been a whole lot better, but this lingering stuffiness has remained and my throat has still felt like it’s coated in tar from the inside-out.
But… No more.
Eating soup curry as hot as the sun might have felt like it was burning my inside to a crisp for a little while, but an hour later… I could actually breath more clearly than I had done in two weeks.
I didn’t cough last night.
Not one little bit.
Those chilis had healing qualities.
I’m kidding a little. Please don’t seriously think I’m offering any kind of serious medical advice. But I am being honest in this reflection.
What was painful for a season actually helped my healing process.
And so it is so much of the time.
In matters of heart and life and love and the mess that goes on in all of them.
I shared pancakes and quality time with my friend for a few hours this morning and this was the theme of our conversation actually.
That God teaches us something in the seasons where everything else is stripped away and burned up, that actually enables us to walk into our future and our healing with more wholeness than we could have asked or imagined was possible.
At the time, it burns. And we don’t understand the fire. And we don’t like the fire. And we just don’t get why it has to be so flipping hot or so flipping hard.
But then we get to the place of healing.
And we realise.
It was only possible because the heat of the fire refined us, and it burned away the chaff that would have hindered, and it positioned us to sit at the feet of Jesus with our sole attention on Him.
The fire deepens love that is real.
The fire, that feels like the wilderness of no water, is real.
In the wilderness we learn to lean. We learn our own weakness.
It’s like God has this *thing* about it.
His mountain is always there.
I mean, it’s super inconvenient. There’s not a highway, or a bus route, or any convenience stores along the way. It’s a trek into nowhere. It takes a heck of a lot of time to get to.
And I sometimes wish the wilderness was… I don’t know? A bit more accessible? Convenient? Comfortable?
I am brought back to the Song of Songs.
Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?
I read that single verse and I am left going… ‘Oh. THAT’s why the mountain of God is there…’ It wasn’t ever meant to be somewhere we could just stroll into or out of with all our pride and strength intact.
Because of the journey.
Because of love.
Because leaning on our beloved, who is our Savour, who is Jesus, is the position of love.
Because of crying for yoghurt lassie drink to the waitress in desperation and humility.
That’s why the rest of chapter 8 is a proclamation of this love.
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised.
Nothing comes close.
Not to Him.
So this wilderness that we are coming up from in the position of love, speaks of weakness.
But in the wilderness, the seal of God (that seal of love that burns and marks us in verse 6) grows most effectively on our hearts.
Because Jesus invites us to lean.
To learn how to love.
To learn what love is.
The reward of verse 6 is found in the wilderness of verse 5.
The anointing to love is found in the desert place.
The fire has a purpose that’s greater than we always see.
And a lot of people say, ‘Once God delivers me, then I’ll be totally on fire for Him!’, ‘Once this place is over…’
I know I’ve said that time and time again.
But what I’m learning over and over again, is that the wilderness is where God captivates my heart and ruins me for anything less than Him.
And in that place we learn His strength.
And we learn that His strength alone will carry us through.
So I loved last night’s dinner. Chilis and all. In the same way that I rejoice in every moment of this life that is lived hand in hand with Jesus, knowing that the fire of yesterday brought fought the fruit of today.
His healing is always perfect. His plan is always best. And He is always trustworthy. Always good. Always God.