I recently found myself in Hong Kong for a few days.
On our way back from the UK, a friend of mine (whose family is based in HK) had suggested that we chilled there for a little bit on the return journey to Sapporo, rather than just transiting through the airport.
As I felt it was also a little shameful to have been through Hong Kong airport about 6 times without ever venturing outside of the airport hotel, I happened to agree with this rather brilliant plan.
So, three days and two nights in Hong Kong.
It was an altogether great experience.
We stayed for the first night in a hotel in the city, and the second night in a country club outside of the city. My friend's family picked us up, drove us about, and took us to some seriously great places. It was super relaxing (which after the epic-fun-craziness of a visit to the UK, was greatly needed). And I just kicked-back and enjoyed the culture, the food, the shopping and the friendship of somewhere I'd never been to before.
The trip was made extra special by a couple of surprises when we checked into the first hotel.
I'd actually had a slight problem with my booking before I arrived. Nothing major, but just a mix up with booking through an agent to get a deal and using my English bank account.
Basically, the mix up cost me about £5 that I hadn't been expecting. The day before we were due to arrive.
Not a lot, especially when I'd got a really good deal on the hotel anyway. But enough of an inconvenience for me to shoot off an email to the hotel before I hopped on the plane to Hong Kong. I was hoping they'd give us some free water for the hotel room or something.
So we arrived in Hong Kong the next day and headed to the hotel. And upon my check in I was met by a really apologetic manager.
That £5 turned out to the a bigger deal than I thought for them.
She explained that they'd decided the least they could do was upgrade our room to this deluxe suite on the 26th floor with epic views over ten city.
Like, this was our view…
And then she said, because they felt really bad, they'd also offer us a free super-expensive-high-tea-with-all-you-can-eat-cake-buffet up on the top floor restaurant. Which was, quite frankly, AWESOME…
Like, super, amazingly delicious.
I mean, I love it when stuff is free.
That's my absolute favourite.
But as I have been talking about my great time in Hong Kong over the last few weeks, I've been thinking about the extravagant gifts of this hotel. The fact that me being charged an extra £5 led to about £300 in free gifts.
Gifts that were free to me, and yet still costly.
Gifts that cost me nothing and yet were still of great price.
Which makes me think about grace.
Grace is free. It's extravagant.
But it's costly.
It cost Jesus everything.
And He paid that price so that we could be with Him forever.
Sometimes we can make this costly gift into something cheap.
Something that gives us the liberty to give in to our desires rather than standing firm against sin.
We can even have the best intentions. But our human nature and our sinful desires and the prideful-parts of us that say, 'Don't tell me what to do. I'll do whatever I want. I know best!' ultimately mean that we end up stuck in the gluey-tarlike-substance of sin that sticks to our emotions, our actions and our memories and tarnishes everything.
Now, I believe in the beautifying and perfecting forgiveness and work of Jesus.
I've given my whole life and my whole hope for the fact that grace is true.
I believe that in an instant everything dark in us is made clean and that everything can be changed.
But still… Sometimes it feels like we we've been on this process for a long time and still we're a hot mess.
You get me?
My testimony, like all of our testimonies, involves some messy-kind-of-redemption. Well, the redemption isn't messy because God is the perfect One who runs that show… But the mess… That's messy. When I talk about the rescue of my Heavenly Father and the transformation of Holy Spirir, it means I have to be real about abuse and failure and being saved from a darkness so black I didn't think I'd ever see the sunrise again. It means I talk about failure. And rejection. And freaking out when I should be standing strong. And getting so many things wrong before I start to get then right. It means I admit that I get scared sometimes. That I don't have the answers most of the time and that the only good in me is that which Jesus so patiently plants and grows and waters.
But then I remember the grace thing again.
The costly thing.
That wasn't in any way cheap.
The Grace Thing.
Because it's not real grace if you don't really get what it is you've been rescued from.
But real grace is the costly grace that pays for our sin, presents the beautifying Gospel and changes everything.
It changes. Everything.
Even in the process of growing, in the messiness of life, in the learning to not only be forgiven but also to forgive, Holy Spirit is so faithful. So kind. So true. He gentles holds me and rinses another lot of water through my heart and says, 'Listen to the truth I speak and hold onto it this time…'
His kindness leads us to repentance.
His patience is exquisite.
So the journey is sometimes long and yet beautifyingly long, hard and yet purifyingly hard, and tough but yet being-refined in the toughness of it all.
And the cost of the gift spurs us on to run this race in love, growing to be made like Him.
Because He can take anything and make it beautiful.
We don't need to exaggerate the character of God. He is abundantly kind, abundantly merciful and abundantly righteous. He is perfect in His righteousness, and yet delights in showing mercy.
He is everything and more.
And He is worthy of it all.
And that, is what I remember when I think about Hong Kong.