My family recently had an extended family holiday in Japan. Three generations, coming from all different parts of Australasia, met up at Haneda Airport and spent eight days exploring and experiencing all that we could.
It was the first time in my six year old’s life that all twelve of us had ever been all together, and the last time that I’d been with both my siblings was eight years ago. So all in all it was a very special time.
Japan is a very interesting country – how the people manage to hold onto their heritage and things integral to their culture, while still making all the technological advances they do – I don’t know – but they do it so well. There was always something fascinating to look at/ touch/ feel/ eat (for the more adventurous!).
One of the things we did while we were in the city of Kyoto was stay in a traditional Ryokan, a guesthouse/ inn. My brother had arranged for my husband and I, my sister and her husband, to have a night away, and he and my parents looked after our kids for us.
The whole Ryokan experience was pretty fancy. And unique.
This wasn’t just some Motel 6 where you rock on up at whatever time of the days suits you and your travel itinerary, then you’re handed a key and off you to go to find your room, lugging your luggage behind you.
No – we were greeted by the staff the moment we stepped out of our taxi. The staff were waiting for us. They unloaded the taxi for us. They carried out luggage inside for us and stood by our sides while we checked in. Then before we were escorted to our rooms, we were sat down and given cloths to wipe our hands clean with, a cup of hot green tea to drink, and a little snack to eat. Then we were taken up to our rooms and were told about all the how tos and what not to dos with staying in the inn. Our dinner, all nine courses of it, was waiting for us in the evening, at the set time we’d requested. Our breakfast was also set and waiting for us in the morning. When we left the inn the morning, we had the same help with our luggage – after the inn staff had summoned a taxi for us. Then as we drove off – the staff stood waving us goodbye.
Now I’ve stayed in a fancy pants hotel before. A very long time ago. But still. While three star accommodation is my norm, its not like the whole fancy pants scenario is totally foreign to me. But I’ve never had people eagerly anticipate my arrival to anything/ anywhere in such a way before. My husband tracking my leaving work to have a hot cuppa ready for me when I get home is lovely – and appreciated – and maybe that’s the closest I’ve had to this treatment.
And you know, the whole thing about our night at the Ryokan. Yes it was lovely to be able to experience this side of Japanese culture, and it had been a very long time since my husband and I had been away from our kids overnight (the last time was when my brother took us to New York and we had a glorious 56 hour adventure, four years ago now), what was amazing about the whole thing was; it was a part of the whole trip. The whole trip that didn’t have a price tag on it for us. Someone else paid for it. Someone else arranged it. Someone else sacrificed a bit of themselves, purely for our benefit.
All we had to do was show up, and accept the gift of the trip offered to us.
Sometimes there are a lot of words thrown around in Christian circles that sound a lot like gobbledegook and are a bit hard to explain, and its an even harder thing to really walk through your life with an understanding of them. ‘Grace’ is one of these things.
I’ve been thinking that our Ryokan night away is like the whole concept of grace. And maybe this will help you understand that, if ‘grace’ is something you struggle with.
My husband and I, my sister and her husband, all got to have a wonderful experience. Our presence was expected. The people staffing the inn, welcomed us with open arms. They treated us like royalty. And the bill had already been paid – not by us.
My God in heaven is waiting for us to turn to Him. We have free choice. We can make the decision to trust Him with our lives, and when we do, He is there, present. Willing and able to comfort us, to surround us with His love. We are royalty in His presence.
And the price to have this amazing relationship with Him, the bill for this gift, well it has already been paid. When Jesus died that painful death on the cross, and then rose again, that was the ultimate in bill paying. Jesus was the sacrifice, purely for our benefit.
We get to enjoy abundant life, because of nothing we’ve done. We don’t have to strive. We don’t have work for this. We just have to accept it. Like we did for our once in a life time Ryokan experience. Only this gift of grace – its not just a once off thing. Its not for one day, one night redemption only. It is a forever thing. We may not all have generous benefactors who wish to bring their earthly family together and create some amazing memories – but we all do have an amazing God who is longing for us to accept this gift of grace.
That’s something worth thinking about, that’s one gift we can all receive.