When I first came to Japan as a missionary, I was convinced that what I needed to do was to fit in with the Japanese culture. This is what we were taught that we had to do. So I really tried my hardest to work “in a Japanese way.” I lived in a Japanese style house. I sat on the floor. I tried to speak indirectly, and to hold back in meetings from telling everyone about my brilliant ideas. (Well, usually I tried.) I would take Japanese o-bentos to meetings in case anyone was looking, when what I really wanted was bread.
It was crazy. I remember looking at a row of aftershaves in a supermarket and, without word of a lie, thinking “what kind of aftershave would a Japanese man buy?” (Stupid really: any of them, that’s why the shop sells them.) I wanted to smell like a Japanese person. I really wanted to fit in, and this despite the fact that I was six foot one and white. I worried about doing the wrong thing. I worried about saying the wrong thing. I worried about how what I said would be interpreted. I worried about offending people unintentionally—I worried All. The. Time.
It was very, very stressful. Read more about Culture is hard
I wrote recently about the danger of doing, and specifically of the danger of chasing the kind of activity and achievement that feeds the ego, and about making the choice to go the quiet, invisible way. This has become a running theme not just in my work but in my personal life as well over the past few years. I have been facing the need—the urgent need—to let my dreams die. Read more about You in your small corner and I in mine
Many of my friends are also missionaries, and missionaries tend to communicate with each other and with their friends “back home” by sending out newsletters. You know like those “family news” letters that people put in with their Christmas cards, the ones you never read or regret it when you do? Those. I feel like I ought to care about what these people are doing, especially if they’re my friends, and yet I end up binning most of these newsletters either totally or partially unread.
Now there could be several reasons for this. It could be because I’m a cold, uncaring person with a miniscule attention span. I am willing to give that possibility a lot of thought. But I think there are other potential reasons that aren’t due to my own narcissism: Read more about Why I didn't read your newsletter
MacDonald talks a lot about the need to budget your time and, in that budget, to ensure that you are giving priority to the things that you really mean to. If you don’t, then your time will be filled up by things which are not your strengths, which are imposed upon you by domineering persons, or which look urgent but aren’t.
That got me thinking: is my time being filled by the things I really consider important? Read more about Meetings
So, to add to my list of things you can do without needing to authenticate yourself: register a birth.
Seriously. Don’t like the name your friends have chosen for their baby? No problem. So long as your know their names, occupations, dates of birth and the hospital and date of the birth, you can head down to the register office and choose a better one. Read more about Authentication failure
- Walked around shattered out of my brains, like the world’s happiest zombie.
- Just sat there holding and staring at the baby for hours on end.
- Joyfully crossed the nappy-changing Rubicon. (Although I will probably never eat Marmite again.)
- Not only been prepared to seriously defend the thesis that my baby is the most beautiful baby of all, but also that her cries are more pleasant and bearable than other babies’ cries.
- Got twitchy after a few hours away from the baby, and resorted to looking at the photos I took of the baby instead.
In which I try, once again, to justify my existence to myself
We’ve been back in the UK for nearly two years now - two years away from the mission field, two years not doing what everyone thinks a missionary should be doing. Now nobody knows what we’re doing. My father-in-law asked me the other day what we were actually doing here. It’s hard to be a missionary to Japan when you’re not actually in Japan. Read more about And note that we say "to Japan", not "in Japan"
I am not a particularly patient person. I’m an activist, I like to make things happen. I am not very good at waiting around for other people to make things happen. So it’s kind of ironic that my two current pastimes - homebrewing and Christian publishing - both require a lot of patience.
I won’t say much about the first, because, well, Japan missionary and all that, and because that’s just impatience with things - waiting for things to mature - which is not really that much of a problem. The impatience that I have when publishing is impatience with people, and that’s deadly. Read more about Patience and impatience
I don’t know about you, but I live in a world where what we do is what gives us significance. A great person is someone who does great things. It’s a good start to say that we shouldn’t be like this, that we already have significance because God made us and loves us and so on, but we’re still living in a world where it’s what we do that matters. I grew up in that world, and I’ve lived all my life in it, and that can’t help but have an effect on who I am. In fact, I may as well just confess it: My name is Simon and I’m addicted to achievement. Read more about Who am I when I'm not achieving?