One of my favourite worship songs just now is called ‘The Stand’.
It’s by Jaye Thomas.
And it’s becoming a bit of a mantra for me at the moment. Check that. It’s become a bit of a mantra for me this last week.
Because it’s a great song with a great tune that declares some great truth about perseverance.
Having done all to stand, I’ll be standing…
But there’s this bridge in the song. With these lyrics in the bridge. That have just totally gripped my heart. In some kind of iron-clad, unfolding grip that won’t let go. Don’t you just love it when that happens?
I won’t give up, ‘cos Love, He never gave up on me…
(I know, I know, fellow grammar geeks, please look past the fact there is a ‘cos’ in there… Some grammar sacrifices are totally worth it…)
Ok, rewind. Let me put the reason that this phrase has become so important to me over the last few days in some context. Because I promised I would always be real, raw and upfront in the things I wrote in this blog.
And so I feel like I should tell you it happened. Like we all knew it would. I was almost expecting it. I actually felt kind of prepared for it in a strange way.
‘It?’ I hear you ask….
I had a moment of language-learning-despair. Actually, I’m kind of in the midst of it right now if I’m totally and completely honest.
That feeling of, ‘I’m actually not sure my brain is ever going to get this?’
It began on Friday afternoon. I had a two hour one-to-one lesson with my language tutor. Which was possibly two of the most painful hours of my language learning life. For her. For me. For anyone who would have happened to pass by and attempt to listen to me being completely incompetant at making even the most basic of sentence structures.
In fairness, it doesn’t help that there’s not a simple way to explain what I’m doing in Japan. I can say that I’m writing my Master’s dissertation. But then the next obvious question is, ‘Oh, and what is that on?’ And I am not so hot on the Japanese for, ‘I’m exploring the links between young people leaving the care system and the issues of prostitution, trafficking and exploitation. Oh, and I have a side interest in young people who are hikikomori…’ Actually, I know the words for those things, but as lots of people in Japan don’t know that those things are pretty big issues, it inevitably leads to more questions, and that is where I become majorly unstuck.
And this weekend has been great in so many ways. I had a church young adults meeting on Friday night, when to Otaru with some friends from language school yesterday and had a wonderful time at church this morning… But in the midst of all of that amazing stuff, in the back of my mind, that thought has remainded: ‘I’m not actually sure my brain is ever going to get this?’ You know, like my listening and understanding is just so… painful sometimes. Oftentimes. Especially in noisy, social environments. Honestly, sit me down in a silent room and slowly talk to me in basic Japanese and we might get somewhere. But talk to me in a group when there’s background noise and I will be staring at you like I’m an idiot because I have no idea what you’re saying. It’s just where I’m at right now…
And it’s not the most encouraging thought to dwell on to be honest.
Especially considering that I am normally one of the most ferocious optimists you will ever meet…
Now this next week, alongside language school, I begin some exciting meetings in the youth-work-world. Tomorrow I have a couple of introductory appointments with Hokkaido Univeristy of Education and a professor who is on the board for Hokkaido Association for Child Abuse Prevention. Later in the week I am beginning to visit the youth centres of the town which form a key part of Sapporo council’s response to youth issues. There are some really great examples of ‘open schools’ here, which offer support for young people who are struggling with non-attendance in formal education or who are hikikomori. To say I haven’t yet been here two weeks, God has been so incredibly good in opening doors!
But here’s the thing. When my inner-world-life is caught up with thoughts of my incapability, I am not focused on God’s infinite capability. Yes, I know that those seeds of self-doubt and fear and ‘what-am-I-doing-here’ thoughts are going to come at times, but to hold onto them, is to let go of the promises that Yahweh, God of all certainty, and faithfulness and hope has given. In that place I become more preoccupied with me and less thankful to Him. I become more worried about what people think about me and distracted from the fact that my sole purpose on this earth is to bring glory to the name of Jesus.
And so, I was walking home from church just now. I was listening to some worship and praying my heart through with God, and generally going, ‘Oh Lord, am I ever going to get this?’ I was actually being all serious, and having one of those earnest type of one-sided conversations with the Almighty.
And then this happened.
I’m mid-lament, seriously going for the long-rambling-on-a-role-prayer-talk, and Holy Spirit leans in so close to me that I am interrupted mid-flow. So I stop talking to listen to what He has to say. And He just says these words, ‘Peta. You’ve been in language school for 5 days. Cut yourself some slack’.
Profound, right? 😉
I was like, ‘Seriously? That’s Your answer God? Where is my flashing sign from heaven? My divine Japanese understanding ability? Some needs-interpretation-through-fasting type encouragement?’
But truthfully, He was right. Isn’t He always (sometimes annoying) right?
When I look back over the last years, and months and weeks and days, God’s faithfulness has always been outstanding. It always will be outstanding.
And there are those words again, circling around my brain as the truth that I need. Iron-clad around my heart with a grip that won’t let go.
I won’t give up, ‘cos Love, He never gave up on me.
He never gave up on me. Not ever. When He would have been fully within His rights to do so many times. Because let’s be honest, I’m a mess. And often, I’m a mess who would rather be a mess than be fixed up. If you’re looking for a perfect story, I’ve not got one for you. I’ve got a being-made-perfect testimony. I’m a work in progress. I’m naturally so proud and I’m so self-reliant, and I chase all the wrong things. I’m a sinner in need of a Saviour.
But yet, I am redeemed.
And that means that I am no longer mostly a sinner who struggles with love, I am mostly a lover who struggles with sin. Do you get the difference? Because Love, He never gave up on me. And that’s what makes all the difference in the cosmos.
Jesus never gave up on me. He fought for me. He is moved by my weak love. Not so I could just be saved and keep those mercies locked up inside my heart, but so I could overflow and become a beacon of light in a dark world and a prophet of beauty in the places of ugliness. The Gospel that beautifies.
But I need Him. Oh boy, do I need Him. I can’t be left by myself for one moment. Not just in language learning, but in the walking, living, breathing reality of day-to-day existence.
Some people say that Christianity is for the weak. And I agree. Wholeheartedly. Because any strength in me is His, and any good in me is His fruit being grown, and in this place, where I so often feel so incapable of constructing even the most basic of conversations, I need Him.
I am weak. But He is strong.
And so, this is where I land. My weakness. Right now, my Japanese speaking ability is terrible. And for my prideful flesh, that can be disheartening. But where I’m weak, He is strong. And right now, God is opening doors that in my flesh I feel incapable of walking through but yet know the prompting of Holy Spirit in. So where I am weak, I need to trust that He is strong. And I have an essay due this week, a shed load of meetings and a language school schedule that I’m juggling. But where I’m weak, He is strong.
And so I’m back at the same old life lesson.
I won’t give up, ‘cos Love, He never gave up on me.
He’s so, so good to us. To me.
So my prayer today is simply that I would rest in His strength and do all things from that place of intimacy. I pray that for me. For you. For us.
Oh, and here are some fun pictures of some of this week’s adventures.