Since I was out in Suginami this morning, I had the rather nostalgic experience of being packed on a rush hour train this morning on the way into Tokyo. Nothing like standing so close to people that your feet are about three inches to the right of your center of gravity while you're holding a backpack in front of you with four people pressed in on every side. But it wasn't packed quite tight enough...the danger of falling over was real. ;-)
Friday mornings are a nice break from the norm...a Bible study of Isaiah with a couple friends and then Japanese class. Japanese class today was pretty difficult...our sensei has finally understood that, when she reviews concepts with us, she will find out how much we didn't manage to memorize the first time. I walked back home from Japanese class too tired to even get lunch and just read and napped for awhile.
Tomorrow is Etsuko's birthday, so I bought two special small cakes and brought them with me. We had a nice time talking over tea and cake. I've gradually come to understand that Etsuko is pretty much my adopted Japanese mother, and I am pretty much her adopted American daughter. We take care of each other.
Tonight for Christianity Today we were supposed to talk about David dancing and worshiping in front of the ark of the covenant, but we never actually managed to crack the Bible because we never got past the opening question of "What do you think worship is?" I let them talk for maybe 20 minutes in small groups because it was just too good. In the back of the room, a near retirement age Christian woman who seems to emit peace into any situation was carefully explaining the rituals of a worship service to a non-Christian woman, who was listening with a kind of fixed attentiveness that I don't usually see in her. To my left, an older Catholic doctor and a college aged girl were comparing their feelings of something beyond themselves in nature. To my right a Christian woman from Germany and two non-Christians (both so close to the line that when the Holy Spirit so much as hiccups they're going to go toppling into Christianity) were talking about the necessity for praising God for keeping our eyes fixed on Him in our daily lives. One of these "non-Christians" said, "The best way to praise God is to pray...but I don't pray very often." I praise God often for the students who bring raw honesty into my class. This same "non-Christian" said later on, "The best way to praise God must be by loving other people."
Every last Friday of the month our Coffee Hour topic is a Bible topic. This week we were talking about forgiveness. I was astounded once again at our students willingness to share very openly. Two things from the evening were particularly striking.
Our older Catholic doctor shared a story about forgiving his teenage son. He said that his son had been very upset after school one day and had gone into a room and broken something. He had been ready to be very angry with his son, but his wife pulled him aside and explained that the son was going through some really tough times at school. What really struck me was that the man decided to apologize, but he said, "I thought a father shouldn't have to do such a thing to his son [as apologize] because he should be respected by [his son]." Then he described how the apology really shocked his son, and it was the beginning of a new relationship between them that they had never had before. He said it was the first time that he really understood God's forgiveness of us as well.
I was also really struck by two of my "on the line pre-Christians" who are the pair I've mentioned before that I am trying to pray for daily. Both of them shared very independent stories, but both said the same thing. "Being forgiven means there is meaning to my existence." A gallop poll of Japanese teens found that 85% wonder why they exist...contrast that to the same poll done in America, where the number was 22%. I was fascinated by this link between being forgiven and purpose.