I generally try not to let more than a couple days pass without posting but with the consecutive, beautiful chaos this past Golden Week, I didn’t even realize a whole week had passed! Golden Week is a term applied by the Japanese to the cluster of holidays (Emperor’s Birthday, Constitution Memorial Day, Citizen’s Holiday, and Children’s Day) in the span of a week – April 29 – May 5 – so during this time, most people get about a week off from work and school. I definitely had the time of my life traveling to various places during this time off: I visited the famous Wisteria flower tunnel in Fukuoka, friends in Korea, and Universal Studios in Osaka (aka Harry Potter dream come true!)! I spent yesterday, the book end to my golden week, recovering from exhaustion and catching up on sleep.
This morning, I reconvened reading scripture (Proverbs to be exact). As I was reading, I noticed something: this past week, despite the height of my joy, I also felt a deep-rooted indignation and insecurity pop up intermittently that I hadn’t felt in a long time, which led me to attribute it to this: I did not “consume my daily bread” that has been my true sustenance – the word of God. Almost everyday, if not everyday, since coming here, I’ve read scripture; and throughout the day, no matter how happy or frustrated I was, I’d felt grounded, always recalibrated to try my best at exemplifying holiness no matter what mood I was in.
But this week, immediately snapping out of insecure and vengeful thoughts triggered by some things were harder to do. I noticed myself harp on these thoughts instead of instantly turning to prayer like I’ve been doing. So this morning, I realized that reading scripture often indeed has physical effects: the more consistent I am with it, the better I am at diverting negative and angry thinking; with consuming the word of God, the more grounded and focused I remain. It’s literally my compass – when I begin to harbor or entertain negative thoughts, scripture immediately points me back to my goal of holiness, thus extinguishing such thoughts; scripture is my spiritual water – when I don’t drink it as often as I should, I become spiritually fatigued, making me weaker and more susceptible to temptation. And scripture is my armor. In retrospect, I felt like I went through this past week without that armor so spiritual warfare that are negative thoughts seemed more intense because I wasn’t protected. The blows hit me directly, which made it harder to ward off, instead of it hitting my armor, deterring it from threatening my virtues. Some virtues were nearly compromised, but by the grace of God, I am happy to report that they were salvaged. There were definitely some close calls though. If I wasn’t as vigilant (or if I was the old me) I would’ve fallen through the cracks.
The truth is I’m having the time of my life here. Some days aren’t perfect and some days I get really homesick, but for the most part, I really am basking in this dream-turned-reality. But as I’ve experienced before, I must be careful not to become complacent in my worldly joys for all this will pass. Placing my happiness on temporary things only leads to disappointment. Don’t get me wrong – I am not depreciating the things and the people that give me joy here; if anything, I appreciate everything and everyone more deeply because of my heightened awareness not to take things for granted and to really live in the present. Last week actually, a friend of a friend taught me this:
一期一会 (ichigo ichie) Ichigo Ichie literally means “one opportunity, one encounter” or “Treasure every encounter, for it will never recur.”
So it’s the Japanese way of saying don’t take things for granted, appreciate everything for this may be the last.
And that’s what scripture has been helping me do – focus less on the temporary, mortal things, and more on the everlasting and invariable. And by focusing on those, I am better able to embody 一期一会 (ichigo ichie).
I know everyday is a learning experience, so I’ve definitely learned something from this crazy week: consume scripture like you consume water to avoid spiritual fatigue; put on the armor of God:
“Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Eph 6:10-18
St. Francis De Sales said: “pray for 30 minutes, except when you’re busy, pray for an hour.”
That’s what I need to remember – the busier I am, the more I need to drink my spiritual water and put on my armor: scripture.