Monday, April 18, 2011

Ugly hearts

I meant to write about my first week of work at the new school. I meant to celebrate finding 50 followers on my blog. I meant to write about the first month after a major disaster. I meant to write about receiving paper flowers on the first day of class from little girls, and cute old men boldly declaring "I have a wife. I love her very much" in English class (in a country where men don't say such things.)

But today, I'm writing about something different.

I've heard it said that it takes 10 times the amount of positive words to offset one negative word, and children often hear 7 times the amount of negative words than positive ones.

But why do we have so many negative words?

I believe negative words are born from ugly hearts.

Yesterday was a dear friend's birthday. I was happily getting ready to go to her birthday party. I was checking the internet as I often do, when I found a new blog post from one of the band members. I was happy to see that they had had their meeting on Saturday night. This means they might be closer to coming back and performing regularly again. But then he suddenly switched topics. Apparently someone had written something not very nice on the band's bulletin board. I don't often check there because it's not very active. The band member seemed rather angry about it. Immediately I checked the bulletin board.

Instead of the post that made the band member angry, I found a different post by an anonymous person. This post said something along the lines of (I'm sorry, my translation here is very bad.) "I've been to lives many times, but because the vocalist and the staff are occupied with a person (people?) from a foreign country, I've lost the desire to go to lives. Good-bye." This post had been replied to by one of the staff members, who apologized for "carelessly deleting" a previous post (which I haven't read.) (There has been a reply to that by the same anonymous person who angrily objected to her used of the word "careless" because deleting a post must be very deliberate.)

I have no idea was was written before, but it was bad enough to make one member angry, and to prompt it being deleted. I'm sure the first post had nothing to do with me.

But the one that was left deleted does. I am after all a person from a foreign country. I am present at virtually every event concerning the band. My roommate often accompanies me. And I have now been told that because we are foreigners, and we talk with the vocalist and the staff, someone doesn't want to go to the band's lives?

Being a white American woman, I don't often experience discrimination. So it's easy to brush it off when others complain about being discriminated against or about prejudice. Maybe if this had been in any other setting, it would also have not bothered me. But this is where my heart is. This is the band.

Careless, ugly words hurt.

My first reaction was anger. How dare they? And to top it off, it's a complete lie! When I go to lives, I very rarely get to talk to the members or the staff. They are busy with other things. They have to talk to people who don't come as often or new customers. They are thinking about a ton of other things than talking and entertaining me. So I know they will greet me by name, and then maybe they'll ask how it was and I give my opinion before they quickly move on to others who need to talk to them more. It's very easy for me to feel left out and out of place. So I am constantly reminding myself that it's ok. They know that I will be there again the next time. I am one of the people that is just assumed to be present. They know I love them, so it's safe for them to put energy into other people.

I complained about it to my roommate, who was not quite so upset as me. I re-checked the Japanese, wondering if I misread it. I cursed my lack of ability to understand all the nuances of Japanese and understand what was really being said. And I felt more and more offended. For myself, and for the band.

Why should they be penalized if they have a foreigner who is their fan? What does it matter than I am a foreigner? Would it really make a difference if I was just another Japanese person "monopolizing" their time?

The illogicality of it all frustrates me.

But then you start to put together some other pieces. There was another post on Sing's blog about him only talking to the same people. Well quite possibly this has nothing to do with foreigners at all. A person feels hurt because they don't get the attention they think they deserve.

Ah, these are the screams of a hurt heart.

There is nothing wrong with a hurt heart, well other than the fact that it is hurt. Hurting hearts are everywhere in this world of sin. Sometimes they are hurt by circumstances, usually they are hurt by people. Other people with hurt hearts.

But it's what we do with the hurt that changes the nature of our hearts. My first reaction to being hurt was anger. I was mad at the unknown person for saying such hateful things. I wanted to write back, with equally ugly words, because I wanted to hurt them the way they hurt me. Fortunately I have a calm roommate, who balanced me out. (and a lack of confidence in my Japanese writing skills.)

But giving into the anger, lashing out in retaliation changes my heart. It's not longer "hurt." It has now become "ugly."

Wait. That's exactly the kind of heart that said hurtful words in the first place. Ugly words breed pain and anger. Pain and anger wound hearts. Wounded hearts which retaliate become ugly hearts. Ugly hearts give birth to ugly words.

It's like a mutant virus that infects everyone in the area.

And it dawns on me, this is another symptom of sin. This is the ugly world we live in. Sin, everywhere, trying to separate us from God and from each other. This person is carrying the virus of Sin, but has no God with which to fight it. And so the hurting, wounded heart has become ugly.

And I see how quickly my heart also became ugly.

I'm so thankful for forgiveness and love that will wash my heart clean. I hate my ugly heart. I hate the words of anger that I wanted to say. I hate knowing that ugly feelings are still being felt in people I love.

Suddenly it's not about what words that were said. It's no longer important that the word "foreigner" was said. My heart is no longer angry.

It's sad.

So sad.

Sad because there are hearts that don't know how to do anything besides lash out at others. Sad because people I care about were lashed out at. Sad because of the way this society deals with confrontation. Sad because I don't know what to do to help.

We all have ugly hearts. We all hurt others. We are all hurting. This is what it means to live apart from God. This is the consequences of sin.

But God came among us, so that we might have clean hearts.

This week was my first week of English school. At my new school we have chapel times. I've never led chapel before, and I wasn't able to see how they led chapel there in the past. So I just kinda made up my own style of chapel.

I brought my guitar, and picked a song that I can play reasonably well. And I added in one song that I wrote as a prayer for myself. These would be this month's Chapel songs.

The song I wrote is called Teach Me. It's very simple and repetitive. The words are:

Teach me Your Love
Teach me to sing
Teach me to love
Teach me.

The last word in the second line can be changed, to pray, the second time you sing it. I've also experimented with changing that word according to my moods. But the point of the song is in the first and third lines.

First I want God to teach me about His love. I need to know Love. I need to understand and experience love. So I pray that God will teach me more and more about His love. Then I need to learn how to love. I'm terrible at loving others. So after having received God's Love, I need to learn how to share it with others.

This is my prayer.

The second song we are singing is "Create in Me." I chose it for it's playability and because Confession of Sins is the first thing we do in Lutheran worship. I wanted Students to understand that any sins can be forgiven, and God will give us clean hearts. We are also reading Psalm 51 that David wrote after he committed adultery and murder.

I think the chapel times are mostly for my benefit. Because these are the messages I needed to hear this weekend.

All hearts are ugly. Only God can cleanse our hearts. I need God's love. I need to learn how to love other people with ugly hearts, the way God loves me with my ugly heart.

Father, Teach me.


Anna said...

Thank you for sharing your story here and in chapel. My husband and I worked as missionaries at a Christian training school for Native American's entering into the ministry.
When we arrived, we were automatically considered white dominent Americans and not accepted by the native population. We felt very discriminated against because of our skin color, rather than our hearts for Christ and His ministry to the world. The school had Chapel 3 times a week. It took a long time before we were asked to 'lead' worship. It was that experience along with many years of humble prayer and service that proved our loyalty to Christ and His teachings.
Acceptance is not our 'right' in this world, only in God's kingdom. I pray you will find strength in Christ, and a humbleness of heart. God will use you to His glory.
I'm sorry for the hurtful words and ugly hearts that have touched you so deeply. Christ certainly felt that sense of betrayal at the Garden of Gethsemane when he asked his disciples to stay awake with him and pray, in the early hours before he faced the cross. He pleaded with the Father to take the burden away, if it be His will. It was not.
We can only imagine the humbleness Christ felt in His heart when He faced death. I have to believe He knew the glory that would come from the pain.
Blessings to you this Holy Week. Rise up with Christ, on Easter and proclaim victory over evil. Christ rules in the hearts of his people.
Anna - a fellow sister in Christ

Mike and Tammy Riggs said...

I agree that it hurts very much, but your thoughtful analysis of the virus spreads when we react is very good. We are missionaries in Peru and live in an area where we are loved and appreciated by the believers but where there is also an indigenist movement that views all white people as a oppressors who steal from the poor, so the culture at large is against us. (Fortunately there are many Christians.)
I plan to share your blog with my 15 yo son, who is really struggling with these issues.
Your sister in Christ,

Blue Kohaku said...

Thank you both for your encouraging words!

David Abbott said...

I've been away from my favorite blogs for a couple of weeks. So, I just found this. The story is very touching, but I don't have a missionary background to provide words of comfort. I only have this observation, which took me almost 50 years to articulate: When my reaction to an event is anger, I am (almost always) in the wrong. Therefore, the anger itself becomes an alarm-bell to stop and evaluate. Hoping someone can use this, and wishing all a wonderful Easter.