This week’s devotional is provided by Shiori Sakamoto, a long-time member of West Covina Christian Church.
Please read John 3:16 and Hebrews 13:5
It was in the Fall of 1959, in my junior year in Ceramic Engineering (now Materials Science) at Cal. Hardly the brightest student in the world, it was a stressful time. Not knowing my father was very seriously ill, I made a statement in anger to him about his alcoholism. A son could not have been more cruel to his father. He died that fall.
I felt tremendous anger toward God for taking my father away. Baptized two years earlier by Reverend Dr. Lester Suzuki, I was a young Christian, so maybe my anger could be forgiven. But I also felt tremendous guilt because what I said was so cruel. I felt guilty for many years until it finally dawned on me that it was for my sins that God allowed His Only Son to suffer and die. His suffering, of course, was not just for me, but for the whole world. It was infinitely greater than I could imagine.
I can never deny how wrong I was in saying what I had, and comparing “my earnest suffering” to Jesus’ suffering is inane, of course. But catching a glimpse of how great His suffering had to be (and still is?) helped me, somehow, to appreciate how great my gift was to be freed from much of my feeling of guilt.
Many people have helped me to grow as a Christian. Among them were (along with many of you!) three women from the Berkeley Methodist United Church (BMUC) where I was baptized. Michiko Uchida, one of those women, learned of my leaving the church in sorrow the Sunday after my father died. She wrote me a letter. I had that letter in my Bible until my Bible was stolen in Vietnam where I was serving as an Infantry soldier in 1966.
I never forgot that kindness. About three months ago, I tried to get in touch with the three much older women of BMUC who had been so important to me in my early years. Two of the women had already died; Michiko at the age of 93, of Alzheimer’s. I wonder if the most terrifying time for anyone with Alzheimer’s might be at the very onset when we are aware “that we’re getting it” and know we’re about to lose everything we know that defines who we are and have been, everything about what others have meant to us. What God has meant to us. This loss is possible also for those with serious mental illness, like our son, Seiji. Audrey and I have grieved deeply about the possibility of illness destroying Seiji’s knowing that God loves him. Happily though, we find ourselves rejoicing at the fact that (to the irritation of relatives) he is still trying to “convert” them! The moral: That even if, no matter if we lose our memory of God, He will never forget us. His memory is forever.
I wonder if that is at least one aspect of the truth of our being given eternal life: That we are forever in God’s memory. He will never ever forget us, forsake us or cease to love us.
Maybe it’s just as well that my friend and I didn’t meet again in her last couple of years. But when I think of her, I can’t help but think of Jo Ann Takahara and Ken. And what a wonderful blessing Ken was for years as Jo Ann suffered from Alzheimer’s. What a blessing I could have been to my dear friend if only I had reached out much sooner.
God reaches out to us every single minute. Let us reach out to each other, in our church, our families, our world. Please don’t wait.