For awhile tucked into an upstairs empty bedroom in the house across from Yaohan grocery store in Tsurutamachi neighborhood, furniture sat waiting for us to come back. Sofas my husband had lifted through our second story window, electric blankets to survive freezing winters without central heating, tangible evidence of how deeply enmeshed our life was with Japan. There were our heart strings, the people we love, the culture we ached for, the life calling we still believe in whole-heartedly, but also there was the palpable proof of what we loved and left.
Almost a decade of our lives, starting from before we were even promised to each other, pointed to a life following Jesus to the second largest unreached people group in the world. Praying, anticipating, support raising, new language acquiring, actually living on the soil there, and fighting tooth and nail to “fix” my soul so we could return. We did return, two years later, with two babies and the hope of Him re-opening a door for us to go back. That summer of returning was likely the equivalent of us jamming our feet in a door that was already closing, yet we hoped against all hopes to pry it back open. I remember the afternoon during rainy season when I just knew: He is saying no.
July 8, 2015
Sad, sad day yesterday, clouds in my heart today. I was honest, put all my cards on the table to say, “I don’t think You’re leading us to a career assignment in Japan.” So many sweet external voices here saying it’s ok, but it feels anything but ok. I so hoped You would radically change something, even my heart. I am so sad, Lord. Since we got engaged, Jason and I have dreamed of a life in Japan. This summer, saying yes to these seven weeks (though minimal in sacrifice) has been my hope that You would utterly change fears and concerns and red flags, but instead its been a sinking feeling that You are closing a door we’ve been walking through for ten years. So many things I could say to You, Lord, but I long to hear Your voice, as I stand before you so sad and fighting feelings of shame—exposed for who I am before You. Would You please say something to help my heart, Lord?
“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, not to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” Hebrews 9:24
I don’t stand in front of You, Lord, alone in my sin and weakness. Were that the case, I would be hopeless and damned. But this change in life-direction for where we live and what we do, this is not sin. Perhaps weakness, but not sin. Still I don’t stand in front of you speaking for myself. Jesus, You stand in front of me, having taken the shame that would have been mine and You intercede for me in the heavenly places. My life of pious sacrifice is not what would make me lovely and acceptable to You, Father. It is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus alone.
Lord, the burden of being the decision-bearer has been so heavy for so long. If only You would make it clear by any other means, a denied visa, obvious health decline, or even Jason’s leading first, but please please Lord, don’t let it be my struggle that closes the door on our life hope. I can’t shoulder that shame. Please would You let me trust You? You are far more superior than my weakness, that behind my inability is Your ability for me. We prayed that I would long to climb into Your hands and rest in surrender, to trust You instead of mistrusting myself. Help me, help me, please Lord.
There seem to be a myriad of reasons and circumstances of God saying no, but on that particular day, an overarching theme in my heart was the shame that was attached to the answer I didn’t want to hear. “No to us? Why yes to them? What’s so busted up about me that its no to me? Where did I go wrong? I must have brought this on myself. Now I’ve rightfully earned my seat in this pit of grief.”
Most of those questions aren’t promised an answer by God.
And sometimes the autopsy of a lost hope is just as bad as the death itself.
Yet friend, hopelessness doesn’t win. Shame doesn’t win. Pain doesn’t win.
If you are the receiver of His mercy in Christ Jesus, shame is no longer on your name tag. It was put to death on the cross and there is an empty tomb to prove He wins.
“Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed,”