It is interesting to notice the way that my perception of how long I'm going to be in Japan changes the way I minister. When I told God back more than a year ago how I was willing to stay in Japan however long He called me to, I remember noticing that it changed everything...my heart through all of itself into the mission here because of that belief that I was here for a long time. Now that (pending any major surprises) I am heading back to the U.S. in April, I find the result has been a throwing aside of caution. I am teaching boldly...at least for me. No more patience...the days are numbered. And this is what my teaching looks like when I am being bold...
My Beginner Bible class has stopped being beginner in any sense of the word. Part of this is because Winter Term has characteristic low numbers, and rather than being a true class, it's almost a cell group with me, two church members, and Takaaki. The poor guy hears more sermons a week than anyone else I know. ;-)
I've borrowed a curriculum called The Beautiful Mess from a Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. I love telling my Japanese students the title for the course, because they can't fathom what "beautiful" and "mess" are doing so close to each other. Our first week was all about ways that we try to hide our messes from God. It was amazing. We had a list on the board of what the mess was and how we tried to hide it from God. Etsuko came up with something brilliant. One mess we wrote down was "sin, guilt, and shame" and when I asked how we tried to hide it, Etsuko immediately said, "charity." Once she had explained about doing good out of guilt rather than out of love, the other church member was sitting with a very intense, concentrating look on her face. I don't know if I've ever before gotten this woman to turn her eyes to herself and not just look to others...she's one of the people who serves *all* the time. And I found myself wondering and hoping for the possibility that this woman could serve not out of feeling shameful or inferior, but out of the knowledge of how awesome God thinks she is. I imagine her shining instead of trembling.
The Beautiful Mess curriculum always ends with time praying for each other, and I decided we would do so every week. And that has been powerful.