It wasn't the finest of missionary moments. The near-fainting spells often come after getting out of a dentist's chair--perhaps because my head has been lower enough than my body that it gets adequate blood flow to panic before then. Since Nathan's birth, my trust of doctors (especially Japanese ones) and ability to show any kind of bravery in medical situations feels like it's at an all time low. And trust me, it's always been low.
When I was slightly more determined to be brave, I could often make a run for it. Many times after painful dentist visits I would somehow murmur my way through paying a bill, making a followup appointment, whatever was necessary, and then walk decidedly to the car or outside step, to finally squat down and get my head between my knees before my vision clouded over too far. Today I tried to do the same at my first visit to a Japanese dentist, but found my thoughts were so fuzzy as my vision was clouding and my head was spinning that the Japanese to schedule a new appointment wouldn't form. I finally gave in, admitted I was dizzy, and had to curl up on a waiting room bench for a few minutes. God is gracious and lunch hour had started and it was a private little moment between the dental hygienist and me (the only thing worse than almost passing out at procedures is when it becomes a scene), but I still left just feeling yucky. I'm going to be thirty next year. I have a son. Isn't this about the time that bravery is supposed to kick in?
I've spent much of the day with my mind spinning. What freaks me out so much? What is a Christian to do when fear is kicking them down so often? When God and angels and prophets and Jesus and disciples all say without ceasing in the Bible: "Do not fear"? My thoughts wandered through all the books of the Bible and wondered if I could think of any that gave a more step by step answer to the "how" of "do not fear"...I couldn't think of one off the top of my head. Of course, it says that perfect love casts out all fear. But it seems like perfect love is often hard to get to during those times. The fact of the matter is that there are still life events that shake my ability to trust God's goodness--which makes it hard to rest in it. So what do I do, being a person who truly believes that He is good *all* the time?
Nathan went down early tonight, and Joel is eating ramen with co-workers. When my internet flashed out, I realized this was starting to look an awful lot like a God set-up. What do you know--even busy moms with little ones clinging to their ankles get dates with God! Amid pouring out of frustrations and time to worship, a book of blessings on my bookshelf crossed my mind for the second or third time. I decided to get it and flip it open and see where it took me.
"Beloved one, listen with your spirit to God's Word for you in Galatians 5:1. 'It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.' Be released into your full freedom in Christ to be entirely whole . . . You are not meant just to survive. You are meant to thrive and be whole, and free, and complete. . . Receive the tender correction of your Shepherd. Sometimes he uses his rod and staff to guide you, lest you stray from his care in paths of righteousness, but your soul resists. Welcome your Shepherd's discipline for your good. He guides you to persevere into full freedom in himself that is your right in him. Persist and stand firm in him. Be blessed with all the liberty of the Lord. It's yours, because Jesus set you free. Be blessed in his purpose for you to live free in full confidence. Be blessed in the name of your Deliverer." (Sylvia Gunter, You Are Blessed In the Names of God).
As I was praying over these words, I realized something. So much of my shame in this fear is that I came to Fukushima to share hope with the fearful. As I watched so many people terrified of earthquakes, scared of radiation, that was what I wanted to give them. But we can't give other people what we don't have ourselves. The thing is, I am fearless when it comes to earthquakes and radiation. I just...am. So, I suppose I felt that meant I could teach people about hope. But, as God has called me to walk through a traumatic birth, processing the possibility and terror of a second child born in the same place (I'm not pregnant--just processing the possibility since we feel for now that God is calling us to stay in Fukushima) and seems to be continuing to push me into painful medical situations where I must trust medical professionals while dealing with a language and cultural barrier, it is obvious that I have so much to learn about hope and trust.
I wonder if this is where a lot of relief work goes horribly wrong. When we step in to try to help a group of suffering people, but we have not yet lived through our own horrors, we have nothing real to say. I don't know if there's anything as fearful to me as being poked and prodded in painful ways without knowing if the authority in question understands what I'm saying, or if I've understood what they're about to do...But I'm hopeful as I look at these experiences and think...when I find God here, I'm *really* going to have found something amazing. I realize more and more that what I really want is not freedom from pain, but freedom from fear. Christ has set us free. I can't wait to know it more deeply.