On Monday evening, post a day of early-morning-running, breakfast-eating, guesthouse-cleaning, and English-teaching, my awesome housemate sent me a message with the words,
'Do you want to go to the sento?'
Now, for those of you not in Japan, or unfamiliar with what a sento actually is, it's a public bath house.
I've blogged about onsens before, (you know, hot springs and natural water), and sentos are basically the same idea, but with regular water. It's just a giant bath house.
Where you sit in hot water, relax, and chat with your friends.
So as Monday had been a super-duper-jam-packed-day, at 9.30pm, me and Ayumi headed to our local sento, which is about 4 and a half minutes walk from our house.
And we sento'd. For about an hour. We talked about our days, and shared some jokes and just encouraged each other.
And then we headed home.
At this point it was about 11pm.
Now, because of the lateness of our evening excursion, we'd both gone to the sento wearing pyjamas, and left phones, wallets and other such troublesome personal possessions at home.
So between us (once we'd paid for the sento and bought an ice cream afterwards) we had about 30 yen to our names.
And so, if you live on our street and had looked out of your window at about 11pm on Monday evening you would have observed a rather ludicrous sight.
That being, me and Ayumi, towels wrapped firmly round our heads, pyjama-clad, eating ice creams, make-up free, without any personal identification, health insurance documents, money, or mobile phones. Ayumi was also, for some unbeknown reason, still wearing high heels. I was in Birkenstocks.
We looked, quite frankly, absolutely ridiculous.
I'm relatively sure that if the police had driven past us and happened to stop us for an evening chat, we would have received the rollicking of our lives for not carrying ID and insurance documents…
I know at least 3 good friends who will give me a supposed-all-knowing-and-critically-judging-gaze for this story…
But, for that brief 5-minute walk home, eating ice cream and laughing our heads off under the stars, completely unrestrained from the call of social media, or LINE messages, or uncomfortable clothing, or make-up, or temporary distractions… It was a beautiful thing.
It reminded me, in a strange way, of one of my favourite a Henri Houwen quotes.
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
I guess what I am left reflecting on, is that I can so easily live my life with my hands tightly grasping for the things that I think I deserve. Or the things that I think I need. Or the things that I think are important.
When actually, what is really needed is to let go of everything.
To walk in my pyjamas under the stars and laugh loudly in the freedom.
To discover that I'm not my own.
I've always been and always am and always will be His.
And when I live open-handed before Him, when I let go of the things that wrap me up and keep me preoccupied, that's when I can hear the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit to my heart.
That's when I am close to the One who loves me so well.
That's when I realise that the open-handed me is the me that God treasures and created and fought for.
So today soul, stop fighting, stop striving, stop gripping onto everything that you treasure, and instead with open hands let go and sacrifice it to the God who's love is steadfast, perfect and true.
The God who's got this.
It's a beautifully wonderful thing.
Oh, and I painted this picture the other day… Enjoy! I love you guys! 🙂
And I had this particularly fetching photo taken…