Culture Stress and the Gospel

Everybody has highs and lows, no doubt, but living cross-culturally has made our ups and downs more extreme. The highs are really high and lows are really low. One moment I can’t contain my excitement over the new food I just discovered or the word I (finally) understood and the next I am at Riva’s throat for borrowing my phone without asking or sitting too close to me. Catch me on Monday and I may tell you something funny a classmate did, but catch me on Tuesday and I might tell you about his unbearable body odor or boundary issues.  To be honest, it feels pretty schizophrenic. Riva never knows which side of me she’s going to get.

Sure, it’s helpful to know that culture stress is normal so that we can understand why we feel the way we do, but up to this point, I’ve used “culture stress” as an excuse for my behavior. I’ve convinced myself that “under normal circumstances, I’m not really like that.”

Thankfully, God is far too gracious to let me pile up excuses while ignoring the real issues. In fact, it seems that he made it his mission last week to get me to the heart of the issue: Japan doesn’t turn me into a monster. Japan simply brings out the monster that’s been there all along – the one that’s easier to hide back home.

Last night I heard a sermon and the pastor’s point was nothing new, but it struck me afresh. Sometimes we think about God’s grace as a really nice gift that we have to pay him back for, so we spend our days trying to be good and show Him how thankful we are. But the pastor said that really, every day we live is a day where we go further in debt. There’s more sin to forgive. There’s more need to be met. There’s more mess to be cleaned up. And if that’s the case, then the Christian life cannot be about repaying a debt to God, because each day our debt just gets bigger. Instead, the Christian life is about celebrating the kindness of a God who continues to forgive and heal and transform even though we’re already overdrawn. His plan to save the world is not to showcase our holiness, but to magnify his grace, and in order to do that, He needs me to come face to face with the real Brooks.

So as you pray, please pray that I’ll stop being such a jerk. Please pray that we’ll adjust and assimilate and that our stress will subside. But even so, please keep praying that God will show us our sin so that we can spend our days here broadcasting his grace.

Taking a Saturday day trip with our friends to a nearby city.
Taking a Saturday day trip with our friends to a nearby city.

11 thoughts on “Culture Stress and the Gospel

  1. That was awesome – thanks for sharing your heart so honestly and humbly; convicted me! So thankful for God’s grace and patience and y’all’s obedience!

    Mary Jo Ellis
    (Jenna’s friend from Stony Point)

  2. Thanks, Brooks, for your honest, heartfelt confession. We all need to focus on what you’ve highlighted: ” the Christian life is about celebrating the kindness of a God who continues to forgive and heal and transform.” I’m grateful for these words!

  3. Praying for you as you adjust and just wanted to say, get ready, another big change is around the corner! This is just a warm up! We love you and are praying for you all. N

  4. I second Mary Jo’s comment. It is so very essential for us to be up front with our sins, so that we can experience Jesus’ mercy and grace sooner. LOVE what that pastor had to say. We can NEVER REPAY GOD, only humbly accept his mercy, grace and love. He’s so AWESOME and WORTHY to be PRAISED!!!

  5. I admit that I have never prayed for someone else to stop being a jerk. We’ll need Riva to let us know when that prayer is answered. 🙂
    I cannot even imagine the difficulty of learning the language. Praying for your strength, perseverance, and encouragement to one another.

  6. Thank you for your honesty and humility…. and for reminding us of Gospel grace that we so often forget or take for granted.

  7. I feel like I was reading exactly what is going on with Seth and I right now…I feel your pain! And so good to read your blog!

  8. Oh, Brooks. Your frankness is refreshing. We will pray for your heart…along with the rest of y’all’s endeavor in Japan. You are still pastoring me…now from across the world. You are reminding me that God does not waste suffering. Love you. Miss you.

    In Joy,
    Jonathan (and Leah)

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