This past week in my RN212 Christianity class, we talked about the novel “Silence” by Shusaku Endo. I do not think I have stopped thinking about this novel. In short, it is about a Portugese Catholic Priest who goes to Japan in the midst of Christian persecution in Japan. The book addresses issues of Martyrdom, sacrifice, what that can look like, judgement, forgiveness, and freewill. I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who becomes inspired to read it (you should) so I will try my best to not give too much away.
The book has prompted a lot of questions. Particularly self reflection questions. Would I denounce my faith if it meant saving the life of others? That seems like a miserable unfair question. From a young age I found inspiration in martyrs. People willing to give their own lives up for their faith. I think, as I have already given my life to Christ, I would have no problem dying for God.
That is not however, the issue this book addresses. Would you denounce your faith to save not your own life, but the lives of other Christians? What kind of a sacrifice would that be? For the devout it is an impossible question. The book literally discusses what would Jesus do in that situation, and according to Endo, Jesus would apostatize (denounce, or trample on an image of the divine) for the sake of others.
I began to question what sacrifice really means. I have a line tattooed to my back from a poem by Andrea Gibson. It says “The Sun said it hurts to become, I carry that hurt on the tip of my tongue.” Often I find great solace in that. Sometimes sacrifices must be made, losing friends, ending toxic relationships, moving, etc. Following God can make no sense in this world. Often I change the words to “The Son said it hurts to become…” at least in my own mind. This book really challenged a lot of my perceptions on what those challenges could be. For myself, and many Christians our faith is life and death. My life is not my own, and in that I find great comfort. Even when I seek to follow God in all things, there are times when that means making decisions that in the moment, may hurt just a bit. The decision to leave home to come to Boston. The decision to leave certain relationships in my past. In the moments of those decisions I found pain. But as Psalm 30:5 says weeping may last for a night, but joy comes with the morning. I have found great joy has come to replace any temporary pain. I wonder sometimes, if this life is hard, is the joy in the morning what comes after? If God can teach us these lessons here on earth, imagine the great joy when we are reunited with him.
I may never know the sufferings of others. I do know that no one ever said being a follower of Christ was going to make life easy. I also know that in the end, joy always comes in the morning. I wish perhaps Endo had introduced that resolution in his story. God’s trials do not always make sense. In my own experience, I have yelled at God asking why must I endure this? I have found however, that not in my own time, but in God’s, it all makes sense. Amen.