There is a Japanese proverb that simply states “Seven times down, eight times up.” The source, as far as I can tell, is in the ancient book of samurai wisdom, the Hagakure:
If one has not been a ronin at least seven times, he will not be a true retainer. Seven times down, eight times up.’ Men like Narutomi Hyogo have been ronin seven times. One should understand that it is something like being a self- righting doll. The master is also apt to give such orders as a test.
Samurai were servant-mercenaries. Their entire livelihood depended on a master to provide food, housing, and their wages. Totally dependent upon a lord, as we Christians ought to be upon our Lord.
At times, the samurai were ordered to be ronin, or masterless. Or their master would die, or they would be dishonorably discharged. The name ronin meant “wave man,” and in such a state a samurai – no longer “one who serves” would drift about as a wave in the ocean.
We all have times like this, when we feel like we are drifting helplessly in life. Unemployment, a spiritual dry spell, a stubborn temptation, or a personal tragedy are all ways we can feel like we are cast down by God.
In these times, the advice for us is just as it was for the samurai – get back up. Be like a self-righting doll. Cast down seven times, raised up eight times.
There are other interpretations of the phrase. There is even a Christian band called 7th Time Down that cites II Kings 5:14 as the source of their name – the 7 times that Naaman went down into the Jordan to be healed. Other people cite it as being knocked down seven times, and getting back up.
So whether you feel that God has somehow withheld sustenance from you, or you get knocked down by sin, the devil or a practice sword, get back on your feet – seven times down, eight times up.
Special thanks for Craig Shimahara, currently working on the Christian samurai film Masterless, for inspiring this post today by a post on his Facebook page.
Photo courtesy of David Howard via Flickr.
Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.