Tag Archives: calling

Do I Love Japan? Lust subverts our calling. Love fulfills our calling.

In my last post I opened the question of whether I love Japan or just lust after it. And I was surprised by the response. Not that my post went viral (or anything remotely close), but I had a fair few people message me to say that it struck a chord with them. So I’ve decided that I will unpack those points on the love/lust difference, trying to think about them in a wider sense.

So here we go,

Love for Japan

Courtesy of ku.sagi on Flickr. Original.

Lust subverts our calling. Love fulfills our calling.

Why? Because our calling is love.

We are designed to be in community. We were made to cultivate and care: for each other, for this planet, for culture. We are wired so that we get most fulfillment when we give, not when we get. And the world is wired so that it flourishes most when we live from love, not lust.

Now, look there are lots of things that I really enjoy in Japan. If you’ve been around here for any length of time you’ll be able to join me in reciting the list: onsens, soup curry, snowboarding, canned coffee . . . it goes on.

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying those things. In fact I think I’m meant to. But love insists that such things are to be enjoyed in a way that befits a love for God and for people. Love recognizes that good things are to be enjoyed in such a way that others enjoy them too.

Lust differs from that because lust is about me. Lust doesn’t share. Lust is selfish, greedy, and uncaring. That’s why sexual lust is so devastating. It turns people into objects–literally–and then simply uses them. Lust takes something good and twists it to meet our self-centered desires.

Love serves others, but lust serves ourselves. And the results are really ugly.

But our lusts can be insidious. We can lust in a way that looks quite respectable, even admirable, to those on the outside. Lust truly does subvert, to the point that we might not even notice it ourselves.

A lust for fame or success can be just as subversive to our calling of love.

To quote from that apparently-soon-to-be-revisited classic Zoolander,

“Do you understand that the world does not revolve around you and your do whatever it takes, ruin as many people’s lives, so long as you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied along the way, just so long so you can make a name for yourself as an investigatory journalist, no matter how many friends you lose or people you leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way?”

OK, once you’ve stopped quoting the rest of Zoolander let’s continue. (I should also point out using that quote doesn’t mean I agree with the definition of love from that film.)

But in all seriousness, that kind of “I’ll make it whatever it takes” attitude can very easily lead to a lustful attitude where people who get in the way of our ‘success’ become obstacles to be avoided, pushed aside, or manipulated to meet our end. In other words, they become objects to used rather than people to be loved.

And the thing is that our original intention may have been noble. We might have drawn up our agenda with people in mind. But as D.A. Carson puts it,

“People don’t set the agenda. People are the agenda!”

Lust, in whatever form it takes, distracts us from both our specific callings, whatever they might be, as well as our general calling to love God and love our neighbour. You can’t build both the kingdom of God and the kingdom of self. Trust me, I’ve tried. Like, really, really tried. It doesn’t work.

Thoughts, questions, stories?

“Run, Son, Run!” – Why I’m returning to Japan after the death of my father

Yesterday was my father’s funeral, and a few folk have been asking me whether that has changed my long-term plans. Am I going back to Japan?

It’s a valid question. One that I have thought about myself. I spoke to my mum about it the other day and we decided that I will indeed go back to Japan, and soon. There’s a number of reasons why, but the one that feels most pertinent right now is this:

My dad would want me to.

Now we’ve had a lot of decisions to make these last couple of weeks, and many of them have involved trying to guess what my dad would have wanted. With many things it’s not easy to know. But in this instance I am without doubt (as is my mum): he would want me to go back.

You see throughout my life my dad was always my biggest cheerleader. He was unashamed in his support for me. Mostly in wonderfully embarrassing ways.

I shared at my the funeral about how he ran alongside me at races, screaming – and I mean screaming – at me to keep running. Even if it meant him running through – and I mean through – crowds, he’d be there cheering,

“Run, Son, run!”

That’s how he was: always encouraging me, in his unique and loud way.

And he was no different about my move to Japan.

On the day that I flew out he presented me with this T-shirt:

T-shirt with Japanese text

That’s Luke 3:22,

“You are my beloved Son. With you I am well pleased.”

It’s an amazing sentiment (I may have choked-up a bit when he gave it to me). But it’s a slightly embarrassing T-shirt to wear, for 2 reasons:

1. The quote is God talking about Jesus, so it’s a bit awkward to have it referring to me.

2. My dad got the Japanese by using google-translate . . .

Yeah, it’s a little bit off. Not crazy amounts, but enough to be kinda wrong.

But again, that’s the way my dad was. He didn’t mind risking mistakes if it would encourage me to keep running. He didn’t concern himself with what others would think, he would always be there cheering,

“Run, son, run!”

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep running.

Because not only did my dad give me encouragement to keep running forward, he also gave me an example to follow after. The example of persevering in following Jesus wherever He calls us. As I mentioned before, my dad wasn’t perfect: he stumbled and he fell, but he kept running after his Saviour.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

My dad’s race has come to an end, but mine has not. So I look forward to a life in Japan, as I listen to my dad cheering,

“Run, Son, run!”

Yes, Dad, yes I will.

I have a new answer to the question “why are you going to Japan?”

Because I’ve been sent.

A statue pointing into the distance

“Why Japan?” (or variations thereon) is easily the most common question I get when people hear of my plans to move out there. Fair enough really. If you were going to move overseas my first question would probably be “why?”

So I’ve worked at coming up with succinct ways to answer that question. I’ve tended approach the question in two ways:

  • My “calling” to Japan
  • My passion for Japan

Neither of these happened overnight, and they intertwine a bit, so I still don’t have particularly brief answers here.

But now I do have an answer that did happen overnight.

I’ve been sent. It happened on Sunday evening.

You see that was my “commissioning” service from my church in Leeds. They are the ones who have sent me to Japan. Well, them and the folk at OMF (Overseas Missionary Fellowship, as they get called when they’re in trouble). Together they have sent me to Japan.

The service was, in a word, affirming. I don’t mean affirming for me personally (although it was), but affirming of the fact that I should go to Japan. That I have been sent.

The sermon was really cool, if not slightly surreal because it was largely aimed at me. As in, the pastor addressed me directly a lot of the time. I imagine it was kinda like the sermon when you get married, except I’m yet to hear a marriage sermon that references divine bowel movements.

Actually the whole commissioning service was a bit like wedding. I even got to choose one of the songs. But the main reason I make the comparison is because there were vows.

I affirmed my commitment to follow Jesus, to emulate His life as best I could, ad to seek in humility to learn from and serve the church in Japan.

A member of OMF affirmed that they were content that I was suitable to go to Japan.

And then the church, affirmed that they were happy to send me to Japan.

Lots of “I do” and “We will”s, all affirming the fact that I was being commissioned to go to Japan. I was being sent.

So, why am I going to Japan?

There’s a few ways I could answer that question, but the shortest is this:

I’ve been sent.

People Always Ask Me “Why Japan?” Here’s a 4 Minute Video With My Answer

Why Japan?

This is the most common question I get asked when I tell people I’m going to Japan. It’s a fair question and one I’m happy to answer.

Normally I’d write an answer, but the kind folk at OMF (the group I’m going to Japan with) put together this film of me giving my response to that question, and then spliced it together with cool shots of kung-fu films and stuff.

If you’re interested, OMF have a fair few other videos on Vimeo: check them out here.

Do I Feel ‘Called’ to Japan? I Don’t Know But I Do Feel Comfortable

A pair of slippers at the entrance to a Japanese house

Nothing quite says, “welcome home” like a pair of well worn slippers.

So I’m back in Japan. The team and I arrived Tuesday evening so we’ve been here about 48 hours now. Jet-lag has (I hope) more or less done it’s worse and we’re orientated and ready to go.

(Quick recap: I’m leading a group of 4 folk from the UK to help run gospel music summer camps for a couple of churches here in Tokyo.)

It feels weird being back in Japan. Mainly because it doesn’t feel weird.

Before you start thinking this is a sign that jet-lag really hasn’t worn off yet, let me explain.

I feel at home here. It just feels… normal, like it makes sense for me to be here. More than I thought it would. Much more.

You see I’ve become quite comfortable living in England. And over the last 3 years I’ve come to quite enjoy London. It’s a great city. And I have great friends there. In short, I love loving in the UK. I had thought that this would make leaving to come out to Japan really hard. That Japan would feel a bit weird. But it doesn’t feel weird. Not at all.

Sure my Japanese language skills are still lacking, so there’s some signs and stuff that I don’t fully understand. But even when Japanese doesn’t make sense to me, being in Japan does. All the normal Japanese stuff – vending machines, traffic cops, checkout niceties, eating with chopsticks, bathroom slippers – it just seems, well, normal.

A box of Japanese bran flakes

Not all Japanese food is totally crazy, some of it really is quite normal.

Now I’m sure that when I come out here long-term (at the end of this year if all goes to plan) it’ll be tough. Saying goodbye to folk for 3 weeks isn’t quite the same as leaving for 4 years.

But all the same, I’m sure that when I come out here to live it won’t feel like I’m leaving home. It’ll feel like I’m coming home. (I know that’s cheesy. I’ve got over it: I’m sure you will too.)

Anywho, I’m telling you this because it helps answer a question that I sometimes get asked,

“Do you feel called to Japan?”

I never knew how to answer this question. Mainly because I didn’t know what it felt like to be ‘called’ somewhere. To be honest, I think often the person asking the question doesn’t know either. In fact other people ask,

“How do you know you’re called to Japan?”

Maybe I’ll attempt a fuller answer at some point (I’m learning never to promise to blog about a topic unless you pretty much have the post already written!) but for now I can say this,

I feel more at home in Japan than I can give reason for.

So now I feel fairly confident that yes, I have been ‘called’ to Japan. The thing is that I wouldn’t have got to this point unless I’d come out here when I wasn’t very sure.

But maybe that’s how it works. Maybe you don’t need an overwhelming fascination with anime and an unstoppable urge for sushi to be ‘called’ to Japan.

Maybe you don’t need to wait until you feel ‘called’ to a certain place until you go there. Maybe you won’t know if you should go until you actually do.

What about you? Is there somewhere you definitely feel ‘called’ to? Or is there somewhere that you should maybe just go and check out, and see if it feels comfortable?