We have lived in Japan for almost 8 years now, come August. Keith and I both know that we know that we know that it was GOD who called us to Japan, and made a way for us to get there, and it can only be GOD to keep us there. We have come to love this nation so much that we call it home. Coming to America is like a vacation for us. Japan is home for us. But any Christian who lives there will tell you: Japan is a spiritual desert. There is only one church for every 14,000 people, and the average church size is only 40 people. Most churches operate on strict, authoritarian models. And it is not easy to find a healthy church to serve in as a foreigner in Japan. It is called a “missionary graveyard” with good reason; many missionaries come to Japan with high hopes and great expectations, never to see a single conversion to Christ in even several years of service, and so they get discouraged and they leave. It is a HARD place to spend your life on the Gospel. So many Americans, even those who are missions-minded, don’t even consider Japan, perhaps because it is industrialized and socio-economically sound, for the most part. But Japan is the rich young ruler. And he needed Jesus too. But he knew it, and Japan doesn’t know it, mostly because they haven’t even heard what He has done for them. Japan is the single largest unreached people group on the planet. Yet Keith and I never even thought about going to Japan. It wasn’t even on our radar. We were envisioning somewhere in rural Asia, living in dirt huts. Because that’s what most of us Americans think of when we think of what it means to be a missionary, right? Well, we’ve been there for 8 years now, and I can’t speak for my husband, but the desert has sucked me dry. I’ve known it for a while now actually, that I was spiritually burned out, running on empty, whatever you want to call it. It is entirely my fault really because I have become so wrapped up in the “Do! Do! Do!” mentality that not only seems to run in my genes and personality, but also is a huge pillar of Japanese culture. For 8 years, I’ve been a yes-girl. “Sure, I can do that! Sure, I can run that ministry! Sure, I can speak/sing at that event!” But somewhere along the way, I forgot about the most important thing. I became Martha, Martha, Martha, and I have neglected to sit at my Savior’s feet for far too long, and it has suddenly and painfully caught up with me.
Many of you know that we are in a very difficult situation right now. Keith and I are thousands of miles away from each other, and can hardly communicate because of the time difference. I am still reeling from the earthquakes that we experienced last month, and even more so reeling from the onslaught of attackers that have publicly taken issue(s) with our decisions/methods of evacuating Japan and from all the misinformation floating around, which I can really do nothing about. I am going through some things I have never experienced before: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. etc… I have the kids enrolled in school because I need to at least learn how to deal with all my issues before we return to Japan, and I have doctor appointment and/or therapy of some kind almost every day that my kids are all in school.
So here I am, feeling like I’m about to be buried in that missionary graveyard any day now, and YET God has still been unreasonably good to me. He still has lavished his love upon me in a million different ways. He still has shown me grace upon grace upon grace, and has favored me. He has led me to exactly the right kind of therapy, exactly the right doctors, has given me an amazing support system in my mother and brother and sister-in-law and friends here, and has just shown me again and again that this is just a season. This is not forever. Again, I shall be glad in Him, and shall soon be able to say authentically, “Let the nations be glad!” Over the last few weeks, the cry of my heart has been, “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation, Lord please!”
The song on repeat on my playlist right now is from a CD from The Village Church. The song is called “To the Cross I Cling” and the chorus reminds me, “All things in me call for my rejection; All things in You pleads my acceptance.” Please listen to it down there at the bottom! It’s an amazing, affirming song.
One of the key things that is helping me immensely right now is called “Intensive Prayer Therapy.” And it IS intense!! The counselors (a married couple, former long-term missionaries in Thailand, and experienced in working with people with severe PTSD, i.e. women who have seen their pastor-husbands martyred before their eyes), rather than letting me blather on a nd on about my pain and then offering suggestions, they lead me through an intense two-hour process each week, in which I am learning to reconnect with my Heavenly Father and allow Him to be my true Counselor. They are guiding me in praying to the Father, to ask Him the hard questions about all that is happening and why I am feeling the way I am feeling, and asking Him to show me again who I am in Him. And truly He has been near to me in my broken-heartedness and contrition. He has spoken His Word to me, He has given me word-pictures and brought up things I haven’t thought of in years, all bringing healing to my soul, slowly but surely.
At the end of “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” Aslan tells Lucy that this was her last time in Narnia, that she is no longer a child, but that He is in her world too, to look for Him by His other Name. I had a revelation that I too had been to Narnia (metaphorically, of course). God allowed me to ride His back through magical forests, clinging tight to his luscious mane. I had some seriously amazing, other-worldly adventures when I was a child in Him. In reading and in watching C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece of children’s literature, I have been so moved to realize that He chose me to enter into that magical world for a season in my life. For years, I’ve felt guilty that I couldn’t figure out how to get back there. But the truth is that now I’m a grown up, and I have been instructed to put away childish things. I have been called to relearn how to connect with him in a powerful, intimate way now that I’m all grown up.
In my prayer time today, He gave me a very specific instruction: The next step toward recovery for me is to tell my stories from Narnia. When I tell those stories, I light up, inside and out, and the joy of my salvation returns to me. Right now I am in the pit, and the only way to regain my joy and faith in this is to remember what He has done in my life. I don’t know what will come of this! I have no agenda of which stories to tell and when. But the Bible tells us over and over again to remember the things He has done. Exodus 16:32 says, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’”
So all that to announce that for the next several blogs, which I aim to write daily, as part of my worship to Him, I am going to tell my stories from Narnia. Will you go on this little journey with me? Will you rejoice with me in what He has done, and pray for me that He will indeed restore unto me the joy of my salvation? When I get back to Japan, I’ve GOT to be girded with the joy of the Lord as my strength, or I’m gonna get eaten alive. I need your prayers! I love you, dear family and friends.