I thought being in Japan I was safe. I was wrong. About a week ago I was nominated for the Ice Bucket Challenge.
This of course put me in a moral dilemma: do I accept the challenge, and enter the messy world of debates about the ethics of fund-raising, water wasting, charity spending, and self publicising? Or do I reject the challenge, and post a link to explain my thoughts on the aforementioned subjects?
It was a pretty tough choice – either way someone somewhere is going to think I’m a total punk.
But as it turns out I have another difficult decision to make at the moment. I need to decide what I’m going to do once I graduate from language school (in February). I just spent ten days travelling around parts of Japan (well mainly Tokyo), meeting up with different folk and talking about the kinds of opportunities there are for wannabe missionaries like me in Japan.
So now I’m in the process of writing up my thoughts on what I think I should be doing where . . . another tough choice to make.
And I realised that these two decisions kinda overlap . . . In so far as I’ve approached them the same way.
So back to the Ice Challenge, and firstly here’s what I haven’t done.
I haven’t given to charity as part of this.
I haven’t nominated anyone else to do it.
Why? Because I’m personally not comfortable with doing that. If you’ve done either/both of those things then I’m not about to hate on you.
But here’s what I have done
So why did I do that? Really for the same reason that I’ve come to Japan:
To make sacrifices for the sake of other people’s joy.
You see the decision about where to go and what to do long-term in Japan is tough for a couple of reasons. First because it’s hard for me to know where I could best be of use. Second because it’s hard for me to think selflessly–that is, sacrificially.
Because I’m wired to want to make the choice that will lead to the path of least resistance. I want to go wherever I will be most comfortable, or most ‘successful,’ most likely to find a good wife, or great food (hopefully those could come together).
In short I don’t naturally want to make any sacrifices.
The problem is that the call to follow Jesus is a call to make sacrifices.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.”
But the call to follow Jesus is also a call towards exceptional joy.
In fact it was joy that motivated Jesus to make His ultimate sacrifice.
‘And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne.’
That’s my reason for having a bunch of cold water poured on my head. And my reason for moving to Japan.
You see, it seemed to me my choice with the ice bucket challenge came down to choosing between joy and cynicism. Make a small sacrifice in order to bring happiness to others (i.e. I get cold and wet, you laugh), or judge people for making that choice themselves.
Disclaimer: I’m not saying that everyone who refused the challenge was being judgemental (although, I think some folk were). I’m just saying that for me it would have been cynicism, not conscience, that prevented me for taking part.
I have to be honest, I am naturally much better at the later than the former. In fact I kinda get a twisted sort of joy from judging people. It feels good to look down on people doesn’t it? Except it also hardens your heart. Whereas true joy makes our hearts tender. And I want to be tender-hearted. Actually scratch that, I need to be tender-hearted. Otherwise I cannot make decisions as I should: based not on feeding my own selfish desires, but on finding the sacrifices that will be of most benefit to others. Which is much easier said than done.
And so first I have to make the daily decision to keep my eyes on Jesus. Because I know that I can not truly accept the challenge to pour out my life with joy, unless I’ve embraced the one who joyfully poured out Himself to give me true life.
So with that introduction out-of-the-way, here’s the video of me getting a bucket of ice water poured over my head. Hope you enjoy it. I kinda did!