Resting in an ornamental plate laid upon the chalky black of my desk surface is the silver of my ring. Of all the things in my room it is one of the smallest and yet one of the most precious. We have been together for ten and half years. Ten and half years is a long story. Perhaps to long to give it a complete biography but, man the memories that go with this ring.
The plate it lay in is a gift from my student Chisa-san. Chisa is a retired teacher, a farmer, and perhaps an unhappily married woman. My ring was with me the whole time I knew Chisa. It went with me to her farm home, to the sake breweries we toured in her hometown. It hung, snug enough through many a teaching on basic English. Chisa gave me the plate this ring sits in. It is one of three of its proper places.
The other is an ornamental bowel given to me by a now old friend Yusuke Kubo. He came to my hometown twelve years ago. Both his and Chisa’s dish were farewell gifts upon my leaving Japan. I left last year, the ring with me and I with it.
If you look closely at the ring you will see that it is not perfectly round. This is because on one of our first dates I dropped it off the balcony of an art museum in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is where I met the ring. It was my gift into first-year participation at Copenhagen International Masters Commission. First year students were supposed to make a covenant not to date or pursue the opposite sex during the entire duration of their first year. Because of this commitment we were all given individually chosen covenant rings. This one is my covenant ring.
Upon graduating from the program I decided I needed to give an extended meaning to this ring I had grown so fond of. Growing up an Evangelical Christian I had enough dipping in promise keepers and purity cultures to know that getting a promise ring was kind of like a right of passage. And its kind of connected to the purpose of the original covenant, I thought, and so it became my promise and purity ring.
I have lost the ring several times but thankfully have found it. One time I was visiting a friend and spiritual brother in Nagasaki. I was staying with him during my short vacation. We had become friends before he came to profess faith in our Lord, while he was still seeking God. He has studied to become a doctor, he is an excellent volleyball player, he is gentle, kind, and a determined young man. He is a good friend. He even made me pancakes for breakfast as we ate on the rooftop balcony of his eighth floor apartment. Atsuro is his name. I left my ring at his apartment the morning I left to return the 1,500 kilometers for my home in Fukushima. He sent it within several days with a note encouraging me to not give up and to be courageous in my efforts to share the Gospel with Japanese young people in Fukushima.
I took his encouraging words to heart and put them into practice sometimes. I wish I would have put them into practice more. I wish I practiced purity and promise keepeing more too. God knows I’ve lost those sometimes.
/Sometimes/ when I put my ring on my finger I grimace because it reminds me of how often I have failed. The ritual includes praying Shema, the Hebrew prayer likely central to Jesus’ own prayer. Shema Israel, adonai elehenu, adoni echad I begin before I break into the rest in English, You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your might. And I aspire to, but I don’t. I have a love-hate relationship with the word purity. Its a shame triggering word at times. What is pure about the race of men made from the mud of this earth? What is pure about me? Maybe I have taken on a love-hate relationship with this ring. Maybe I’m writing this now because God wants me to address this.
I have been learning that God is more concerned with our trust in him then in our attempts to please him. The righteous fall but they get back up,
they get back up,
they get back up.
And everyday when I put this ring on my finger I will remember that it is not my purity, not my love isolated away from the One I trust that will hold me in God’s promise but that he who is faithful and true will finish what he has accomplished. That is His promise to me.
So when I put on the ring and when I place back into the bowl or dish I will remember the One who holds me in eternal love, a love that will demand from the grave all that is worth more than the mud and refuse of broken humanity. Whatever it is that God sees in us, some treasure, some glitter and glimmer. May this ring remind me I am precious in His sight, I am beloved.