Saturday, January 18, 2014

Coming back to Japan (the difficulties)

"Do not run away from your inner feelings even when they seem fearful. By following them through you will understand them better and be more free to look for new ways when the old ways run into a blank wall...When you explore in depth your unruly and wild emotions you will be confronted with your sinful self. This confrontation should not lead to despair but should set you free to receive the compassion of God without whom no healing is possible." (Henri Nouwen, The Genesse Diary)

At the thoughtful suggestion of Kaitlin Trott I picked up another book by Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest, called The Genesee Diary. It's an early 1970's diary written during his seven month visit in a trappist monastery. I could not have picked up this book at a better time (thanks Kaitlin!). Going home to family in Oregon was a much needed return but predictably coming back has been a difficult transition, as it was last year, coming back from Hawaii after Christmas.

This week has been filled with work, a lot of solitude, some loneliness, lots of reading and sadly almost no basketball or football on TV, and none with dad. Through the difficulties, the solitude, the loneliness, and readjusting to this foreign culture, it's given me some time to reflect and meditate, something I have traditionally not made time for (as well as most of my generation I suppose).

The solitude has allowed me to evaluate where I place my identity. Although I call myself a Christian, I constantly put my identity in things other than Christ. The solitude has given me an opportunity to examine how sensitive and vulnerable I am because of where I place my identity. In Japan, I often chase affirmation from this foreign community. This chase for others affirmation only exhausts me and causes me to become hungry for more, continually leaving me tired, sensitive and vulnerable.

It's been a blessing to have solitude this past week. In Japan, I've learned loneliness itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's where I take my loneliness which determines its goodness (This was not the case when I came to Japan; loneliness to me meant a sense of failure and struggle to adjust). And sometimes the scariest thing to do with my loneliness is to take it to God. Reading Nouwen's experience at the monastery, with all the solitude he has, it's clear to me the solitude and the loneliness, is a good thing. It can allow us to see where we place our identity. It's also been made clear to me that I need to invest more time in the Psalms. I would like to think I am honest and upfront with God, but I'm not really, probably in large part because I haven't allowed the psalms to become vital. I would like to have the transparency with God which the psalmists have.


Coming back and seeing the kids at school has been great. On Wednesday a teacher asked me to help shovel, wheelbarrow and lay some sand. It's was during the kids recess time and many kids got involved (There are so many ways to mess with kids during this simple task). After we had laid the sand, the other two teachers set up a little pick up sumo tournament. As we were watching, various little kids would come up to me and want piggy back rides or me to swing them around. One little first grader, climbing on me said in Japanese, "I want to see your underwear!!" and started going for it. It took me a split second to filter what she said in Japanese and translate it into English. Confused as to why she would say this, I just said "What?" as I put her down. Kids are strange little people.

Below are some pictures from the glorious time spent with my family in Oregon. I loved being with them!!

Mount Hood with Michael and Josh (Josh took the skiing pictures)

voodoo Donuts at midnight. I showed my first graders this picture, they were quite jealous

Meeting Todd and Amanda's baby, Gage Lukkason! Boy, did he ever win the baby lottery.

Thanks for reading!