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.