Notes on Japan

Albert Einstein once said “it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

But Einstein made those comments long before Mother Nature flipped the technologically-enriched county of Japan over on its nose and left it crying “Ojisan.”

Watching one of the world’s great powers sagging like a clothesline under a wet wool blanket is downright disturbing. It’s sobering to see a nation that possesses all the whizzes, whistles and widgets created by mankind brought to a screeching halt.

That old adage “Shaken to our very core” takes on a whole new meaning in light of what is happening in Japan. How rapidly all that we think we know, all that we rely on day in and day out, falls away. For all of its mighty triumphs, in the end, technology fails us.

Buildings collapse or float downstream. Electricity shorts out. Trains sputter to a stop. The fortunate few able to get gas for their vehicles soon find those very same cars and SUVs incapable of maneuvering the roads blocked by debris. Fresh water becomes more precious than all the gold in China. Droids and iPhones alike die out. Text messaging is no longer good enough. We want to see those we love, to reach out and grasp them with trembling hands.

Speaking about the nuclear disaster underway as a result of the earthquake, Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato says his people “have reached their limits of fear and anxiety.”

We need help now, he pleaded.

And suddenly, all that really matters is somebody, anybody, somewhere nearby, saying, “Are you okay? Here, let me help you.”

The country with the highest life expectancy in the world and the highest rate of suicide among the 30 and under crowd has lessons to teach the rest of us.

Technology is a pretender: A false-hearted friend. The lover that leaves you when the money runs out. The father who abandons. The mother who betrays.

While there are many marvelous things about the ways in which technology is capable of connecting us, the bottom line is that community is not a by-product of technology – community exists because of our humanity.

And when the disaster hits, as it has for Chile, Japan, New Zealand, and Haiti before that, the thing we want, the thing we crave, the thing that we all cry out for is each other.

We want somebody to sit with us in our darkness.

Somebody to hold our hand. Somebody to pray with us. Somebody to sing with us. Somebody to bind our wounds. Somebody to weep with us over our dead. Somebody to remind us that tomorrow will come and with that new day, a hope renewed.

Lest in times like these, amidst our despair and desperation, we forget what Einstein feared we’d already forgotten: People matter.

More than anything.

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    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      good one, JW.

  • Steve T

    I think my friend Yuko loves Jesus more than anyone I know. She is an evangelist. I know that such statement doesn’t mean much in a time of big hair, big smiles, big cars, and big bank accounts. Yet for Yuko, it is exactly those things that don’t matter much. Except for maybe the big smile. For her smile seems to brighten up the gloomiest day. Setting aside MFP fluoride, white strips, and all the mind-numbing, life-draining, and over-acted toothpaste commercials, her smile truly is dazzling, bubbling up and dancing across her face in the sheer exuberance of being alive.

    When Yuko enters your space it’s like the sun bursting into a room after a too long slumber. Sometimes it’s so bright that you want to squint. But not for long, for to be around Yuko is to truly know what it means to be cherished, not for something that you might have to offer her, or anyone else for that matter, but for no other reason than for being you. So you soon have to open the eyes of your heart WIDE because it’s the only way you will ever be able to see even a bit of the magnitude of wonder and joy that she so deeply exudes. And then you know. Full love. Unqualified love. Welcoming love. Love simply because. God’s love.

    It seems only a few weeks ago when I stood in the hall outside of my office with her. It was a busy day. Most of them are. I wanted to invite her in and to have a sit and a long yak. Yet it didn’t seem that the day … or I … would allow it. And so we stood just outside my door in that I’m-glad-you-are-here-but-I-really-can’t-commit-now space. It didn’t seem to matter to Yuko. She soon was traveling down the road to a really good story and was pulling me along behind her. Damn the busyness, we were quickly enmeshed in the business of God’s unfolding.

    It seems that God had placed a vision on her heart. Her 15-year-old niece, Tokie, had suddenly passed away a few months earlier on March 12th. The medical folks never figured out what had happened. To this day, they still don’t know. For Yuko, the anniversary of this tragedy would need to marked. So, she had determined that she would travel back to her family’s home in Japan where she could pray and hope and BE. Be there. Be present. Be the hands and heart of Jesus inside this place of such deep hurt. Yet, for Yuko, and perhaps for God, there would be more. She would then move across Japan for 40 days, “Yes, 40 days seemed a good number”, 40 days of preaching and proclaiming the life and love of Jesus for a peoples where 99% of the population knew little of that life and love. Yet, unlike for so many of those evangelists, the ones with the big hair and big bank accounts, her sharing would not be an act to garner some notch on her salvation portfolio. Her sharing was out of her deep love for her brothers and sisters whom she desperately wanted to experience this same joy in the life of Christ that so sustains and uplifts her. She wanted them to know … Love simply because.

    She journeyed to her family’s home in Nobeoka. She would be there to remember. And then, the earth moved.

    Forty days. It seemed daunting. Now it seems almost unimaginable. One of the churches that she was to visit was at Iwaki City in Fukushima, just south of what is now a probable nuclear meltdown. Much of the city was destroyed by tsunami. No one from the church has been heard from.

    Yuko sent us a message yesterday. She will do whatever she can do to bear the suffering of her brothers and sisters. She will tell them that even now, especially now, Jesus loves and cares for them. And she will remember Tokie’s death and she will grieve. Yet, in the midst of sorrow, there will be life, for as Yuko reminded me as we stood in the hall, God had given her a vision about her people, “If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God?” (John 3:12). God was telling her that she would go and she would be the voice to whom they would hear. She would go and they would see the things of God through the eyes of her heart.

    Yesterday she wrote to us, “Tokie’s unknown death is not in vain. Her name means “Time of shore.” It is the time to anchor their hearts, those whose hearts are still lost. It is time to anchor them into the Shore of Heaven …”

    Yuko went to remember life on the anniversary of Tokie’s death. Now in the midst of so much death, Yuko will carry the source of life. Yuko was created for such a time as this. Perhaps if Einstein had known her, he may have been more hopeful. True humanity. Truly divine. Love simply because.

    Videos from Iwaki:

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Thanks for sharing this wonderful story, Steve. Our prayers are with Yuko & Japan.

    • Wow, Steve. My heart bows low and my spirit rejoices. Praying for Yuko and all who hear her.

  • This is the best of anything I’ve read on the horrors the Japanese are experiencing. Thanks, again, Karen for hitting the issue square in the heart.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Thanks, Greg.

  • Debbie

    So very Holy…Steve, thank you for sharing Yuko with us.

  • Yep. On the nose, Karen, on the nose. Love your words, faith and passion!!!

  • Amen and a long distance hug!

  • Steve T

    Karen, thank you, Sister, for your wise witness and prophetic proclamation. It birthed Yuko’s story which seems to be bubbling up some long range possibilities for us UM folks here in eastern NC. Always amazed at God’s workings.

  • This post is incredible. Technology is a vehicle that provides connection, but it can’t replace community. You are right. People matter.
    You nailed it with this line, “We want someone to sit with us in our darkness.”
    Thanks, Karen, for this post. Beautiful!

  • Amen and amen, Karen. Well said.