In Japan, spring has officially begun with blooming sakura (cherry blossoms); they are everywhere. We happen to live within a 10 minute walk from a large park that is known for sakura, and that park is filled with hordes of visitors these days.
Sakura season is significant in Japan – stores sell pink sakura-themed items, including Starbucks with its new sakura drink; there is even sakura mochi (sweet rice cake); people gather in parks for hanami parties (picnicking under the sakura trees); food trucks have lined the sidewalks in the park to offer delectable culinary delights for sakura revellers. The emergence of sakura heralds that the deadness of winter is over, and the renewal of spring has begun.
Sakura themselves are breathtakingly beautiful (and I mean “breathtaking” in the fullest sense of the word!). In a span of a day or two, the park transforms from winter’s skeletal, spiny trees to spring’s expansive billows of white petals, creating ethereal canopies of frosty pink clouds. Photos cannot accurately depict the experience of walking under sakura trees; it transports you to another world.
But sakura blossoms are only here for about two weeks. Then they are gone…until next spring. The ephemeral beauty of sakura is what draws marveling crowds of people…and I think this also sheds light on the Japanese mindset. They embrace this fleeting pleasure with full knowledge that it is temporary. This beauty is passing, and that’s what makes it even more beautiful. (Side note: perhaps this very awareness of temporary existence contributes to the pervasive hopelessness which leads to depression that plagues this nation.) Then they wait for next spring when the cycle starts again.
This is a wonderful picture of the reality of the temporary world in which we live. The beauty of this world, while we can enjoy it, is fleeting. As Christians, our hope and joy is in the everlasting gift of heaven given to us by God in Jesus. While we live in this temporary world, which we can enjoy fully, we know that our permanent joy is grounded in the glory of heaven that we will one day experience and know in its fulness. My hope and prayer is that the Japanese people would see the temporary nature of this world, and rather than waiting until next spring to enjoy it again or falling into the despair of hopelessness, they would seek an everlasting hope, love, and joy that is found in gospel of Jesus.
This world and the things we experience in it are fading (our careers, material comforts and possessions, status, financial security, fame, etc.). In Christ, our priority and true hope is in our future home in heaven, which is a very present reality now. I need to be reminded of this daily. Let’s pray together that we would live with this perspective today…and join me in praying for Japan!
Thanks for reading and for your support,
(See photo slideshow below!)
- Praise: Last Friday, our shipment (which was sent before last Christmas) arrived! We were concerned about some issues with customs but everything work out well. It was like Christmas morning in March, receiving our old possessions again! Thank you for your prayers.
- Health: Please pray for health for all of us. The girls have had several colds, and YM’s stomach has been bothering her.
- School: The girls start next week (April 8); please pray for a smooth transition for them. YM’s language school starts on April 14.
- Increased faith and focus on God: We (all 4 of us!) need increased faith and trust in God in all things, from the daily mundane to greater decisions.
- Continued diligence and wisdom: We are continuing to visit churches and need much wisdom about selecting ministry opportunities and how best to utilize our time and resources.