I went to a celebration dinner last night for the missionaries who are finishing up their terms this coming April. Since I'm a recent Alumni, I still know most people. But there was one missionary who was new, and it was the first chance I had to meet him. So, he's a friendly guy. Real friendly. And nice. And he walks up to me after I've had a chance to relax with one of my friends for a bit (since as a rule, I'm not good in groups, I usually have all my walls up and don't make small talk well if I don't know the group.) This meant that my walls had partially come down. I was in a good mood, and saying whatever came to mind at the time. Poor guy. So he walks up to me and tries to initiate a conversation. It went something like this:
"I've heard so many wonderful things about you! All kinds of bells and whistles and joy and dancing etc." (I don't remember the exact wording, but those are what stuck out to me.)
My friend and I were instantly laughing in his face. Because none of those are words that I would associate with myself. (He also made the mistake of trying to flatter me, which I don't take well.) Poor guy.
But it's interesting. I'm not a joyful person. I'm not an optimist. I wouldn't go as far to say that I'm a pessimist (I prefer to say pessimistically leaning realist.) But it's true that I generate a lot of negativity. I'm good at hard cold truth. Law is my friend. Joy is something I see in other people.
Yet, I miss it.
In my bible study last week, we had a question that I couldn't answer. It was "What truth has been revealed to you this year that you are not putting into practice?" I was stumped. I couldn't really think of anything. Usually with questions like that, my guilty conscious jumps right in and gives me a nice long list of things I did wrong, things I'm not doing right or enough and things I'm just plain not doing. But this time there was nothing. What did God want me to be doing? What was I doing wrong? What habitual sin do I need to overcome? It was a blank slate. So I went to class with the question unanswered.
A different question in the same study had also stuck out at me. It was about the verse where Jesus declares "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me." The question asked us to explain the difference between the three words, way, truth and life. At first I thought it would be easy. But when I thought about it, it was harder than I thought.
Finally I found somewhat of an answer. In Japanese you can use the word 道 ("michi" or "dou") for the word way, or path. It's how you get there, what you do, what you follow. Budou is the way of the warrior. How to be a warrior. In traditional Japanese culture you have lots of examples. Way of the tea, Way of flowers, Way of the sword... I can understand the meaning, but I realize that I often fall from this path from lack of sight on my part.
Truth was a much easier word for me. I'm good at truth. Truth is what is real. Truth doesn't change. Truth is absolute. That's a comforting support for me. Truth is the foundation. In this world where it's difficult to understand the things around you, a world covered with lies and deceit, Truth is very comforting for me. I find that this is often the only thing I have to cling to. I doubt many things, but when I find Truth, I never want to let go.
Life was the hardest. Life, means to live right? But what does that mean? Life. We all have that right? But not really. This is where things began to "click" for me. Going way back to the beginning of the post, were I was laughing because I am not a person with joy, what I was really laughing about was that I was not a person with Life. I live, but I am not often alive. I harden my heart to protect it. I put up walls, and I counter compliments with sarcasm. So often I feel dead inside. I think a lot of that is habits gained from years of clinical depression. It's how I protected myself.
But Jesus is The Life. What does that mean? Recently I have been searching for The Way to improve my relationship with Jesus. Learn how to love. To understand what it means to be one with Christ. The feelings and emotions that can't be found in Truth alone. That is Life. The Bible tells us over and over again that God wishes to give us the Fullness of Life. He doesn't want us to live as empty shells, huddling in a war zone of emotional scars. He wants to give us Life. Now.
I realized that this has been building up for a while in my life. This theme keeps coming back. Several months ago, when I was thinking about Fukushima, my friend sent me a blessing. Apparently I kept invading her thoughts when she was trying to pray and have her "God time." She is a wonderful friend who I have often envied for the Life that she shows and the love that she gives. So she send me the blessing so that she could have her uninterrupted time with God back. (hehe, see I'm annoying even when in a different country!!)
The blessing was about choosing Life. Since I was in the middle of trying to choose to stay or to go to Fukushima, I thought the blessing must relate to that decision somehow. But it didn't really fit, and I couldn't figure out what it was trying to tell me. Eventually, I put it out of my mind.
But then, after the Life revelations from above, the blessing came back to me. I read it again, and that was it! That was the answer to the question. (the first question of what truth was I not practicing) I was not choosing Life. I am living in the darkness of my enclosed heart, yearning for the outside, but unable or unwilling to make the effort to get there. And I suddenly realized that I desired Life. I desired to be life giving. I would like to be a good wife someday. I want to be the kind of wife that gives life to her husband. I would like to be a Christian woman who gives life to the people around her. Now I spend most of my time protecting my own space and my own heart. I'm too busy thinking about me to give to others. I judge them when they don't reach my standards and I often resent the people who do have life.
But I want Life. I want fulfilment. I want to be the person I was created to be. I want to embrace Joy in my Life. I want to become the person that the missionary told me about. Bells, whistles, joy and dancing. I want that.
this story is getting long huh. Haha. I can't make anything short. :-D
So that night I decided that I wanted Life. My goal was to become a life giver. The kind of person who could give water to a desert heart and help a flower grow. That's the woman I want to become. So I began a 3 day fast for that purpose. To begin the process of submission and learning that would allow me to become a woman of Life. (how wonderful to be a woman, the bringer and bearer of Life!)
Those 3 days were filled with many confrontations of my ugly nature. My judgementalness, my bitterness, my greed, my lust, my desire for worldly posessions, and the desire to run back to the darkness. I don't often feel hungry when I fast (I have plenty of reserves!) but I do want to eat. I think about food all the time. But it's not so hard to keep doing it. But I was tired this time. I got easily irritated with my students. I ended up with a terrible headache that I thought was going to cause me to throw up (I had one that made me throw up the week before, so I was kinda afraid of it, but since I hadn't had any food that day, it would have been difficult to throw anything up. But I never knew you could be so nauseated without eating anything!) But I stayed with it until the end. All during an insanely busy week when I am trying to prepare for Mako's birthday with everything else going on. I was tired, and wondering how I was going to make it through the end of the equally long and busy weekend. After midnight I ate some of the food that my mom had sent me that week. Velveeta shells and cheese is probably not a good way to end a fast, but I don't worry so much if it's only been three days. ;-) I went to bed happy to have ended the fast and hoping to have enough energy for the next day.
Saturday I had a BSF fellowship event, I needed to go get the cake for Mako's birthday (I had been asked to choose the cake! Baskin Robbins ice cream cake was the final decision!), and then it was a Live event where we would also celebrate Mako's birthday. Sunday I knew I would teach Bible study for the first time in a long time and then go to the celebration dinner in the evening. And then work on Monday. No time to really relax and let down.
But I woke up Saturday with anticipation and energy. Completely different from Friday. I prayed for Mako and the day before me. I prayed for life and joy. And the day was amazing! I had a good fellowship meeting, the cake didn't melt. The Birthday presents were finished and gathered. There was a girl with her two children there, a 1 year old and a 1 month old. I got to tickle and bounce around the 1 year old, and I was able to hold and cuddle the 1 month old. New life. And we all gathered to celebrate the life of Mako. It was beyond what anyone had expected. You could feel the joy in the room. It was full of life. I felt like it was my birthday I was so happy!
I woke up the next day still smiling. And the joy has continued. I went to the celebration dinner, which in previous years I would have dreaded and been stressed by, and I laughed with my good friends until I cried. And then I did it again. (there was the small matter of me being amazingly rude to the poor man who tried to get to know me, I'll have to apologize for that.) God had already began the transformation.
How quickly He pours out His blessings! These past two Days of Life have been wonderful for me. I can only pray that I can learn from them, and keep the lessons close to my heart. This is the woman I want to become. I want to laugh freely, so that the tears running down my face water the desert hearts around me, so that they too can also smile. I know there will be many ups and downs before me. But I hope I don't loose the way too often.
And in the end, isn't it amazing how the two questions answered each other?
What TRUTH has been revealed to you that you are not PUTTING INTO PRACTICE (WAY)?
and the answer is LIFE.
The Way, The Truth and The Life.
All who come through Me will reach the Father.
Time to move forward and truly Live my Life.