"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

When God says no (last of 3)

     One revelation at a time, as I could bear it, the Lord was weaning me away from Japan. The final painful break came a few months after our wedding. Two of my best friends, Americans like me who had lived in Japan, were coming to visit. One was Mary Stewart, the missionary who had led me to Christ. The other, Darlene Tetro Pritchard, a daughter of missionaries, had been my roommate at Bible college.
     I eagerly cleaned the house, brought out scrapbooks and memorabilia, put up pictures, set out Japanese snacks. These two girls were kindred spirits. They would understand my homesickness. If I blurted out a word in Japanese, I wouldn't have to grope with embarrassment for an English equivalent. If I covered my mouth and giggled like a Japanese schoolgirl, they wouldn't think me immature.
     The phone rang. My friends were delayed.
     I was disappointed, but I continued to adjust couch cushions and remember anecdotes to share. I could tell them about the time an American, speaking in Japanese, meant to address his audience as "you people--" and instead called them "you carrots"!   
     The phone rang again. They were both very sorry, but they'd been held up at Disneyland and it was too late to stop by. They weren't coming.
     I said it was fine, but when I hung up, I was devastated. Sobbing, I began to take pictures off the walls, put away dolls and fans.
     My husband tried to reason with me. "They'll come some other time."
     "That's not it," I cried. "It's Japan! God is taking Japan away from me!"
     I don't know how I knew. I just did. God realized it would hurt so He had prepared me a little at a time for four years.
     I had to give it up and I finally understood why. In all my volunteering, in all my noble and spiritual planning, I had made one "small" mistake. I hadn't asked God what He wanted for my life. 
     It didn't matter that foreign missionary service was a holy calling. It wasn't His calling. Not for me.
     What did matter was that I needed to let Him call the shots, as Multnomah Dean of Women Pamela Reeve had told us girls. He wasn't asking me to volunteer, I found out. He was asking me to obey.
     Once I had accepted that, He opened my eyes. Los Angeles was also a mission field and like it or not, I was already there. But now, I can affirm by my life that the only place to be really content and productive is in the center of God's will.

(Published in FreeWay, January 8,1989)

Afterword: It was 26 years (1990) before I saw Japan again. During our six-year marriage Jerry and I have provided short-term housing for numerous Japanese and American pastors and other members of JCFN, an outreach to Japanese college students in the States who will be returning to Japan.

Today I am thankful for God's will.

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