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An Extinguished Phoenix

Updated: Apr 3, 2022

As I sit on the shore of Matsushima, Japan in awe of my surroundings. The waves slightly crash in and I hear kids run all around me filling the peaceful day with screams and giggles of delight. A ball flys into the water just a couple meters in front of me so it gives me an excuse to get in the water to cool off on this hot July day. Just as I take off my shoes and step into the water I feel the ground rumble and shake as I hear screams of terror to contrast the screams from just seconds before. The shaking becomes violent as it knocks me face first into the water making me soaked. I get up and turn around and I see families darting for the high ground and right before I ask myself why, I hear sirens go off meaning a tsunami is approaching. Then I turn to look and the water has began to retract very quickly. “I don’t see it right now a wave is coming and judging my the mass amount of water that has already retracted there is no telling how big this bloody wave is!” I say to myself. I begin to dart to the high ground of Matsushima, and luckily that is easy to find. Matsushima is a more mountainous region with multiple mountains and hills. The only downside is getting to the high ground is a step incline which slows me down significantly. Unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi I am not master of the high ground.

I turn back and the wave is approaching fast it is too late for me to totally miss the impact but I have climbed enough to where I think I will live. At least I really hope I do. I hang on to a tree as tight as I can as I hear the wave approaching moving cars and buildings cracking under the pressure, I squeeze this tree with all my might, and then I feel water overtake me and my grip is pried from the tree…

I wake up in a pool of water, dirt and I think some of my own blood. I have a gash in my side which hurts like hell. My wallets soaked through but luckily credit cards are used globally therefore, I didn’t have much cash on me. I then pulled out my phone to make sure it still works and it does. The water resistant IPhone 13 came in handy. I was knocked out for about an hour. It was Monday, July 13 and this was the craziest thing I think I have ever experienced I thought I was high enough because I ran past town up into the woods high on the mountain side but I was mistaken. Luckily, I am in some what good shape to run this far because if I was in the town below I might have not gotten to lucky. Even though I should be thankful I am alive I am really pissed. I’m on the other side of the world from my family and not even 2 days into my college exchange program a tsunami almost kills me. I throw a piece of debris, from the tsunami, down the mountain in frustration. I sit down now feeling the affects from being pounded by a tsunami wave which I do not know how I survived. I check out the gash on my side which is still oozing blood and begin to realize the other cuts and bruises all over my body, thinking where can I go to get help? The town below is in total chaos with medical personal arriving on the scene, debris and bodies cover the ancient streets. While I am scanning the scene and having a pity party for myself yelling at the top of my lungs because no one can understand me anyways if they were close. I hear a group of people coming up behind me. As I turn around I see an older man, about 5’5, a deep tan that almost could be considered brown, not many wrinkles, a slim long nose and a well kept goatee emerges from the trees followed by a beautiful Japanese girl. I on the other hand am pale as can be with red hair, and green eyes. Therefore, I stick out like a sore thumb.

Probably seeing my battered state they approach me checking if I need help. I show them my wounds and they tell me they can help and ask if I can walk. Without responding I get up trying to hide the severe pain but I wince at every movement, without saying anything I can tell they see right through my facade. We get to the a hut about a mile up the mountain which looked untouched by the relatively small tsunami. They bring me inside and lay me on I think a futon and get me ice and bandage me up. I look around the hut and quiet honestly it looks exactly how I would have imagined. It was a small perfect square with a triangle roof but not a perfect triangle. Rather than being a perfect triangle the roof near the bottom curved slightly giving it an artisan tough. The siding of the house looked like pine wood, and the roof was made of thatched bamboo, There were a few windows and the doors were latticework wooden frame and they were sliding doors with translucent white paper to fill the frame. The inside was very bare and simple with wooden floors with 2 large blue mats on the floor with 2 large grey pillows which they laid me on.

After I got comfortable I ask if they speak English and the older man responds with, “my name is Tatsuo. I have always enjoyed studying English and have become mostly fluent. What is your name?” I respond, “Phoenix, I am from the United States, the state of Florida. Did the tsunami make it all the way up here? I asked.” Tatsuo’s hut was almost at the peak of the mountain. Tatsuo responds, “No, I was about to ask who hurt you. We were up on the mountain top in the thick of the trees journeying down when we saw you.” I respond, so you guys were on a hike?” “Not exactly Tatsuo responded.” I lock eyes with the young girl who seemed about my age. She was so soft a tan it is almost white, her eyes are almond shaped, and are dark brown, her hair is straight styled down and black. Then says in the most clear and pretty English I have ever heard, “I was going to commit suicide, but Tatsuo stopped me in the act.” She stopped looking like she was trying to find the next words as she was getting emotional with a tear streaming down her cheek. She then she begins to talk in the most angelic Japanese I have ever heard and then Tatsuo translates what she said. “I was about to jump off the cliff at the top of the mountain and just as I started running towards the cliff Tatsuo tackled me from out of no where. Once he calmed me down he showed me that life is truly worth living, that it’s not all about meeting expectations and living a life of comfort but it’s all bigger than just… Well me. Tatsuo told me that there is a reason bigger than all of us on the planet that I have to live for.” I respond, “What is your name?” “Ichika” she responded. “Well Ichika, if you didn’t make the journey up this mountain there is no telling if you would be alive. The town below where I am assuming you live is in shambles and it looks like many are dead or severely injured.” Ichika doesn’t understand so Tatsuo translates and then Ichika responds, “I know.” I asked Ichika, “do you have family in town?” She responds, no. They died two years ago, I have been sad ever since.” Not knowing what to say, I just say, “I am sorry, I couldn’t imagine.” We sit in silence taking in the moment for what feels like a minute or two.

Then Tatsuo breaks the heavy silence with, “I have a sense there is a divine reason you have ended up here too, Phoenix.” “What do you mean?” “Well, the reason we even knew you were there is because you were yelling words that I did not know, but by your tone I do not think they were words of happiness.” “Dude I got hit by a tsunami while I am half way across the world. What do you expect?” “Nothing, expect you should have died but you did not. Normally people are more great full for life in these situations.” All the sudden all the emotion I have bottled up exploded out and I wept bitterly. Rightfully startled through my tears I see Ichika jump and Tatsuo smile. Ichika puts her arm around me, which makes me feel better already, because I am single as a Pringle, and I do not normally get comforting hugs from females. Normally just disgusted looks, and friend zone shoulder pats. As I wipe my tears collecting myself, embarrassed that I just broke down in front of these two strangers. Tatsuo, says, “what is wrong my friend? You seem very upset for a man who survived a tsunami.” I sit in silence for a second, pondering what is wrong with me? Why can’t I see that I should be dead?

After spending a minute pondering Tatsuo’s question I answer, “I guess, life isn’t what I expected it to be. I think I assumed once I moved away from home life would get better, but moving to college didn’t really help the stress just intensified and then moving across the country to finish out my education I thought would give me the fresh start I needed but it just feels trouble and disappointment are just awaiting me at every turn. Every time I get to a season in life that people say should be the greatest time of your life it gets worse. Nothing is fulfilling, life just gets more dark and gloomy and I just keep thinking there has to be more. This can’t be it. I’ve come searching across the world and I just got hit by a Tsunami. Like what else could go wrong?”

I begin to cry again and when I collect myself again Tatsuo looks me in the eyes and says. “If you had all the power in the world what would you do? Just think about it. If you could do anything in the world what would you do?” Tatsuo allows the question to sit for a few minutes and then continues. “If most of the things that you just listed were about improving your life, and your circumstances this is where you have it backwards. What you must realize is life is not about you because when things go bad in life your entire life is bad, but if your life is about something bigger than you no matter what you experience in life your life can be steady and consistent and not like a small boat in the middle of a violent ocean. You feel annoyed and are so effected by this because the tsunami disrupted your comfort. Well think about those whose entire livelihood has been destroyed? There is always someone else going through something that is harder than you. Therefore, this is why it is vital for us to live our lives for something bigger than ourselves. If we only live for ourselves we will live our entire lives how unfulfilled and bitter at those who are fulfilled. The question is now what is this thing that we should live for that is bigger than ourselves? What could we possibly live for that would be so big that it would fulfill our lives to wake up every day for this purpose?” Tatsuo looks at me like I will have an answer and I just shrug my shoulders waiting for him to continue. Which he does shortly after letting the tension build as he said, but he really just had to use the bathroom.

Tatsuo continued, “There was once this king named Saul, he was the perfect candidate to be a king. He was tall, muscular, handsome, skilled in battle, and a great leader. But Saul had insecurities that ended up driving him to live life trying to create for him a kingdom rather than serving the people who lived in his kingdom. Saul lived his life trying to cover his insecurities and it ended up costing him everything. The last moments of King Saul’s life he watched his sons die in battle and the Saul’s last act was cowardly committing suicide to make sure he had a quick death rather than letting the enemy capture him and kill him slowly. Saul had everything he needed to be a great king but because he lived only for himself and did not confront his insecurities he pushed away those closest to him and got his own sons killed. He tried to kill his predecessor that was chosen by God who Saul claimed to follow and Saul knew this. But Saul saw himself as a god and tried to change God’s mind but, as the prophet Samuel says to king Saul when God had left him, God is not a man that he should lie and He will not change his mind. Because God is all knowing, it is not that God is arrogant or stubborn but He is the being who gave us all knowledge and continually gives us new knowledge. God is the one whom we should live our lives for. Saul had the choice to but rejected it and his insecurities because the thing in which drove Saul’s life. But God can help us overcome our weaknesses and give us strength. God empowered Saul with his own personal presence and Saul failed to tap into it. You have direct access to the personal presence of God and He is ready to empower you to live a life that is greater than your wildest dreams…

I stop him right there and say “I’ve heard of this God and I’ve met people who follow this God and they do not live lives that I want to live”… Tatsuo said, “have you tried to know this God for yourself, or are you judging God on how others have represented him to you? People are broken and hurting and there are people who live great lives who follow God, plenty of them, but there are those who do not grasp that God desires to be involved in your everyday life. In order to live life God’s way He should be the very thing that gets you out of bed in the mornings and motivates you to live your best life. God is not some religious Santa Claus but He is the giver of life itself and wants to be in relationship with you. God sent His one and only Son whom is also God. His name is Jesus. Jesus lived life on earth as a human for 33 years in order that God would have gone through our pain and suffering. Jesus came teaching about this new reality that He was opening up for all humanity and welcoming everyone into this new reality today. We do not have to wait to die to enter God’s reality but eternal life starts today. But Jesus told His followers that for them to fully have this eternal reality He would have to die. In which He did. Jesus was falsely accused by the Jewish leaders of the day and crucified by the Roman Empire. But Jesus did not stay dead. Jesus came out of the grave as victor offering us a new reality in which is greater than what this world could ever offer. This reality starts today and last for all eternity. God is offering you a new reality that you would have never made for yourself, but it will be the greatest life you could ever imagine. It all starts with a step. It won’t be this out of body experience where you are automatically brand new but, you will be given brand new life and you will have the choice to live that new life out or continue in your old life. It all starts with a choice. God is awaiting your choice and ready to open up a whole new world to you today.”

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