When a foreign country becomes your home, there is much adjusting and things to get used to…
Like driving on the other side of the road, on the other side of the car.
And never being able to read anything that’s around you.
And odd smells and eatery choices.
These things are certainly adjustments, but living overseas also comes with adventure, new appreciations, and an abundance of Grace.
My husband and I are stationed with the Air Force here in Misawa, Japan, which will be our home for the next three years. And in our short time here thus far, one of the things I’ve most appreciated about this country are the people. In the travel I’ve done, it is very evident to me that every culture, every people are covered with the fingerprints of God. There is something, or many things, that are so unique about each people and that speak so clearly of the God who crafted them.
Beautiful things. Inspiring things. Things to treasure and learn from.
For the Japanese people, what’s stood out the most to me has been their grace. Could there be a more gracious people on this earth? I do not know.
Like when you’re speaking with someone who keeps profusely apologizing for their “poor” English, when actually you’re understanding each other just fine, not to mention the fact that you yourself know basically zero Japanese and are in fact in JAPAN for heaven’s sake. ‘Good morning’, and ‘Where’s the toilet’ and ‘Nice to meet you’ will only get you so far…
Whether it’s just extreme politeness in every interaction or going above and beyond to make sure you are comfortable and happy and content, these people have so beautifully captured the heart of servanthood. It’s humbling, to be given so much grace.
To be getting what you do not deserve.
Consequently, grace has been on my mind frequently here.
I recently read again about Simon Peter’s first encounter with Christ (John 1). Simon, whose name means “Shifty” was going about his life when confronted by the Son of God. And what does Christ do? He renames him. No longer Simon, but by Peter will he be known. And the name Peter, it means “Rock”. But if you know the rest of the story, you know that Peter certainly didn’t act very rock-like from then on (Matthew 14). He was often afraid, distrusting, and even denies Christ (Mark 14). After Christ arose, He began living in the reality that God called him, but Christ choose to name him Peter, Rock before all that.
Before the fear, before the rejection, in all his shiftiness. Peter, Rock.
Christ saw in him who he really was. Who He made him to be. And he called him that. He loved him towards that end. He believed in him towards that end. Giving Peter what he did not deserve. Grace.
What if I loved like that?
What if instead of wading through love that’s disillusioned by what is before my eyes, I saw instead who God made that person to be. And called them to that. And loved them to that. And believed that with them and for them. What if instead, I heaped grace upon grace on their life and like Peter, I treated them as the Rock Christ knew they already were?
Not because of their own efforts or boot-strap pulling, but because the very Spirit of God dwells within them.
Because listen, isn’t this the grace I’ve been given? Isn’t this the way I am loved by my Savior, getting what I do not deserve?
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
While I was a sinful mess, shifty and weak and marred by my sin, Christ died for me. He saw in me who I really was, who He made me to be, and made a very costly choice to rescue and rename me. To be his child (Galatians 4). To be his redeemed (Isaiah 43). All the while knowing I would still live in fear, and distrust Him, and even deny Him by the actions and inactions of my life.
What incredible love. What amazing Grace.
I now have no excuse to not extend it. And in my relationships, wouldn’t this just change everything?
Grace that says you are a Rock, and I’m going to pray it and believe it and see it and will love you towards it even when you think you’re really Shifty. Because you house the very Spirit of the Living God within.
Grace that extends undeserving love, because of the love undeserving I’ve received.
So it’s in our new home of Japan that God is teaching me about Grace. Because the grace-prints of God on these beautiful people? They’re a reminder of the extravagant and costly grace that He has lavished upon us.
Grace that He longs to teach us how to extend.
A lesson of Grace He yearns to teach us all, right where we are.