Sunday, July 03, 2016

Green Glory

First blog post from our second term in Japan!

Greetings. It's been a long time, and we're in the midst of transition. I had hoped to be "further along" with various things by this point, but various other things happened.

(Quick update for those who are interested: we decided to live in the house our friend offered, but it needs work. We moved in on June 11. New "system kitchen" to be installed in August, currently working on stripping wallpaper in the bedroom in order to paint. Finally got a car last Friday, which enabled us to get bamboo roll shades for the living room and tea room. Meanwhile, we've been visiting various churches where we have friends, brushing up on our Japanese with a 3-month refresher course, and attending the OMF Japan field conference.)

I actually wrote the following over a month ago, on the morning of my first Japanese class, as I was preparing attempting to prepare for class. At that particular moment, this experience was a huge encouragement and reminder as to why I am here and what I ought to be doing.

Being in Japan, I have grown and changed in many ways. Japan has affected my aesthetic sense. I have learned to love (and cook) different foods. Seeing the Christian faith through the eyes of Japanese friends and in the Japanese language has given me a whole new perspective on my faith as well.

Reading hymn texts in preparation for a Japanese class, I had one of those perspective-shifting moments. My eyes came to rest on word 栄える (sakaeru), which means to flourish or prosper. This reminded me of another word, 栄光 (eikou), which literally means (as in, directly translating the kanji) glorious or flourishing light, and is a common Japanese expression for God’s glory. Many other words for glory use one of these two characters. But before I learned the noun, eikou, I learned the verb, sakaeru. You can use this word to describe what a flourishing business does, but "sakaeru" is also what a flourishing garden or a tree or a person does. In fact, the faithful person in Psalm 1 who is likened to a well-rooted tree “flourishes”--in the Japanese Bible, that’s the same verb, sakaeru.

In English, the concept of “glory” in my mind was gold-colored. (I wasn’t even aware that words and concepts went with colors for me, but apparently they do.) Streets of gold, bright light, and so on. This isn't an entirely positive connotation for me, since I prefer silver and shade… which reminds me of another delicious Japanese word, 木漏れ日 (komorebi), which means sunlight filtering (literally leaking) through trees. But I digress. I was surprised when I recalled that the Japanese word for glory included the character 栄, which in my mind was definitely green. It has a tree (木) in it, after all.

My understanding of glory was that it was something blindingly bright, unapproachable, and distant. But if I think about God’s glory as expressed in the flourishing of trees that he created, then I am in the midst of God’s glory every day. God is near. His love flourishes and grows in his creation and in the lives of those who are rooted in him. I hear God’s glory in the rustling of leaves outside my window and breathe in God’s glory in the cool forest air on a hike. It’s spring (or was, a month ago when I wrote this), so the evergreen trees have bright new growth--God’s glory grows and expands and flourishes.

Maybe my understanding of God’s glory was too small, and I needed to learn Japanese to understand it more fully. To me, glory is now a lovely shade of spring green.

Speaking of hiking, here's a few pictures from a recent hike to シャクナゲ岳 (Shakunage dake, which means Mt. Rhododendron).

Shakunage dake's namesake rhododendrons, growing on top of a big rock near the peak
The trail was rather wet.
When I think of the tree in Psalm 1, it looks something like one of these.

1 comment:

Faye said...

It was good to hear from you. I think you are doing very well this early on. Thanks for the comments.