For Everything a Season: on Goodbyes and Cherry Blossom

Tomorrow I will leave Singapore and fly to Japan.

I am of course very excited about this, but I have to be honest, I’ll also be sad to leave.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to miss the Singaporean climate. And whilst I will miss the food here (durian aside), I’m too excited about ramen and canned coffee to be sad about that.

No, it’s not stuff I’m going to miss. It’s people. I’ve been here doing a general orientation with a dozen other newbie missionaries. But only two of us are heading to Japan. The rest will be going elsewhere in Asia.

Now we’ve been here less than 4 weeks, but we’ve become good friends. Family even. We’ve laughed together, worshipped together, argued together (OK that was mainly me) and done lots of eating together. The kids refer to me as ‘uncle Levi’ – or ‘Levo’ because it turns out ‘I’s are difficult for some two year-olds to pronounce. The other day I came out of my room to be greeted by a happy squeal and knee-high hug from one of the kids.

Yup, I’ve come to love these guys. And now the goodbyes have begun, we’re going our separate ways, and God only knows when/if we’ll meet again. It kinda sucks. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of saying goodbye to children.

 

Another thing I’m going to miss is Japan’s cherry blossom. That is, I’ve already missed it.

Now you might know that cherry blossom viewing (hanami) is a popular pastime in Japan. But, like me, you might not have realised how short the window for it is. The first time I was in Sendai I almost missed it, because I didn’t appreciate how quickly it goes. And this time round I have definitely missed it. At the start of this week Sapporo looked like this:

Japanese cherry blossom in full bloom

Thanks to Peta for the photo

By now the trees are pretty much bare.

And therein lies the attraction of cherry blossom. Not just that the period for viewing it is brief. The beauty of cherry blossom is that they acknowledge that they have a season to blossom and they embrace that season without clinging to it. The spring wind blows and the cherry blossom recognise their time has come, and fall without regret or bitterness.

So to truly enjoy hanami I guess you need to have the same attitude as the cherry blossom – enjoy it whilst it lasts, but accept that it won’t last forever.

You can probably see where I’m going with this right?

 

So yeah, I do think it’s the same with the seasons in our lives. This last month in Singapore has been a really precious time to me (durian aside). But it’s over now, and I need to move on.

Because if I don’t then I’ll miss out on the new season that’s coming.

I was talking to the kids of my adopted Japanese family in Sapporo yesterday and I mentioned hanami. She replied, “Yeah, hanami is over. Now it’s the season for hanabi (fireworks).”

Sure, I could go and sit forlornly under cherry trees, among the rotting leaves. Or I could join people down by the river and watch some epic (and I mean epic – this is Japan after all!) fireworks. Embrace the new season – recognising of course that it too will pass.

 

OK I know this sounds a bit like I’m saying ‘carpe diem’ (or ‘YOLO’ if you don’t read latin). I sort of am. But I don’t want to stop there.

Now this post is already getting on, and I have to be up at 5am so I’ll be brief here, but one of the things I really appreciated about my time at Bible college was seeing how much down-to-earth wisdom there is in the Bible.

For example the book of Ecclesiastes, which at first glance reads like lyrics from an Emo-punk band, has stuff to say on how we deal with these changing seasons. But it’s not quite what I’d think of.

It begins with this cry of “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (or possibly “Misty mists! Nothing but mists!”) and works through a lot of angst and anger at the transient, seemingly meaningless nature of – well of everything (I told you it was Emo).

But it ends like this,

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of humankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

Now I know that still sounds fairly Emo (albeit in a religious fundamentalist kind of way) but I think the point is this:

We should not see the seasons of life as sources of our ultimate meaning, but we also shouldn’t see them merely as occasions for enjoyment. Rather we should use them as opportunities to love God and love our neighbours – those being the most important commandments.

Sure that’s less hashtag friendly than YOLO. But I already knew I had but one life. I want to know how to make the best use of it.

Anywho, on that note, I am going to finish packing and then sleep. I don’t want to add my flight to the list of things I miss.

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