TITLE: Everything Pales In Comparison (Part 1) updated 12/22/15
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Women usually dream of a Cinderella romance, marriage, and happy family. In Japan, a woman will add to this dream the desire for her children to attend prestigious schools.
I became friends with a Japanese woman, Mariko, whose mother, Yuki, dreamed all these dreams. Yuki was from a wealthy family, married young, and had two children, first her daughter, Mariko, then her son, Koji.
Unfortunately, Yuki never fully realized her dreams. Koji had anger problems and refused to attend school. Yuki’s husband, Kei, had a girlfriend and didn’t come home. In fact, Yuki and Kei were in the midst of a bitter divorce.
Mariko was disheartened by her family conflict. Having divorced parents would cast a shadow on her background. In Japan, having a broken family alone can eliminate you as a preferred marriage candidate.
Despite her fractured family, Mariko was successful at school and with her career. She graduated from one of the most prestigious college prep schools and law colleges, and was the only female hired into the highly esteemed financial career as soon as she graduated. She was considered one of the elite among the elite. Upon hearing of Mariko’s achievements, Japanese would vocalize an elongated “Heh…(ā held for a few seconds)” and nod their heads in admiration. This meant, “Wow, I’m impressed!”
Mariko’s and my friendship grew around talks about life, hopes, and dreams. Just as her mother had dreamed, Mariko desired a happy marriage and harmonious family.
One day, Mariko told me, “I just met an interesting guy who comes from a good family. They attend church together.”
I replied, “If he’s a sincere Christian, he would pursue a Christian woman because of God’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 6:14, not to be joined with unbelievers: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
I could tell by Mariko’s contemplative nod that she was mulling over the thought of him desiring a Christian woman, so I asked her if she would be interested in coming with me to church. Mariko’s initial interest in church might have been to become a more attractive marriage prospect, but she eventually learned that the “interesting guy” was of questionable character so the relationship ended. Let this be a reminder to us to check that potential partners not only "talk Christ's talk," but also "walk Christ's walk" (Matthew 7:16-23).
Instead of grieving over a failed romance, however, Mariko found herself caught up in a whirlwind love relationship with Christ, who unconditionally loved her. She happily accepted Christ’s love and was baptized.
At Mariko’s baptism party, I noticed a certain young man, Kenji Tanaka, showing particular interest in her. Kenji was a third generation Christian. In Japan, Christian families like the Tanakas were extremely rare. Only about 1% of the Japanese population was Christian.
Mariko appeared unaware of Kenji’s interest. She brushed off my observation with, “Oh, there’s nothing going on. We just met at a church hike. That’s all.” In spite of her nonchalant response, it came as no surprise to me that within a year they were engaged.
Mariko asked me, “Would you be my maid of honor and walk me down the aisle?” I was honored by her request, but saddened that it reflected the depth of her family rift.
“I’m happy to be your maid of honor, but will walk you down the aisle only if your father refuses to do so,” I replied.
At that point in time, the probability of her father walking her down the isle was slim because he had refused to attend her wedding. His desire to avoid his ex-wife, whom he had just divorced, was stronger than his desire to see his only daughter get married.
I walked Mariko down the aisle at the wedding rehearsal, all the while hoping and praying that her father would relish this honor.
Mariko and I kept praying that her father would attend her wedding. In fact, Kenji’s family and the whole wedding party, all Christians, prayed for God to bring peace to her family.
A few days before Mariko’s wedding, she told me that her aunt had convinced her father to attend the wedding. This was a great headway, especially since she didn’t communicate much with her father. He was always with his girlfriend and did not include Mariko in his life.
At 11 p.m. on the night before her wedding, Mariko called me and said, “My father just asked if he could walk me down the aisle. Is this okay?”
“Of course! Praise God for answering our prayers.”
As I arrived at the chapel on Mariko’s wedding day, Kenji’s father, Mr. Tanaka, bounded toward me like a puppy. Mr. Tanaka is a 5’4” stout, gregarious man with a grin that literally stretches ear to ear. “Mariko’s father is here!” he said with joyful eyes.
As Mr. Tanaka started playing the Wedding March and I watched Mariko walking down the aisle with her arm around her dad’s, tears welled in my eyes. Bride and groom beamed. Mr. Tanaka’s grin appeared extra wide. His dream was to play the Wedding March at his eldest son Kenji’s wedding, and he told everyone this dream. The organ music, so grand, so beautiful, filled the chapel. When the echo from the organ faded, Kenji and Mariko exchanged vows. It was a perfect ceremony.
On what was supposed to be one of the happiest days in Mariko’s life, however, I saw her father, mother, and brother sitting next to each other in church with unhappy faces. The chapel was only four hundred square feet, which limited the attendees to immediate family and close friends. Consequently, Mariko’s parents and brother were forced to sit next to each other in the “related to the bride” seats. Although they were related to the bride, they had no relationship with each other.
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