Friday, August 16, 2013

Nate Gibson and The Never-ending Quest for Balance

One thing that always struck me about the Harry Potter series is how much the tone changes from the first book to the last.  The series gets darker, for sure, but the things Harry says, does and thinks; the adventures he finds himself in; the interactions he has with others; all of these change as the series goes on to fit Harry's age, and also his internal changes as a character.  I remember abruptly recognizing this shift when I read the irrepressibly moody, angst-y and dreary "Order of the Phoenix" for the first time--it was like I was reading a completely different series than the one I'd started with "Sorcerer's Stone".

I'd say my time in Japan has gone through similar tonal shifts.  Not from light to dark, necessarily, but the elements that make up my life, my interactions, what my time, energy and thought go toward--certainly these have all changed drastically since I first arrived as a wide-eyed 22 year-old in 2009.

My first two years were centered almost exclusively around CAJ and the Higashi Kurume area.  I worked 5 days a week at CAJ, I coached cross country or attended sports games on Saturdays and attended the church on campus on Sunday mornings (followed by supervising the JAM Middle School youth group on Sunday afternoons).  I spent easily 85% of my waking time either on CAJ's campus, or with colleagues/students from CAJ.  I ate, drank, breathed, slept and ultimately lived CAJ.  I love the school, and I love my job, but during these years, I had virtually no life outside the walls of Christian Academy.  I would occasionally hang out with colleagues who were around the same age, and do dinner or karaoke, but I found that I had little to talk about aside from my classes and students--there simply was not a whole lot more to my life at that point.

The earthquake (certainly a dark, dramatic chapter) woke me up to the need for some semblance of balance.  My reaction to the earthquake, which I now realize was unusual, was to resolve to stay in Japan (I had been planning on leaving).  Suddenly, with an indefinite stay in Japan ahead of me, I realized that I needed to adjust my lifestyle and seek out balance.  I realized I needed to stop going to church on campus and find a church that was completely (or at least mostly) separate from the school.  (By the way, I certainly am not suggesting that attending this church as a CAJ teacher is a lack of balance--my life just happened to be unbalanced, and finding a new church happened to be the first step in finding some balance--it would not be the right choice for everyone).  Not long after this, CAJ's headmaster issued a staff survey to gather data on church involvement; with me planning to "retire" from JAM and seek a new church, I realized I needed a place where I'd feel at home and could get involved.

I first attended Grace City Church in Ginza in August of 2011; the worship, the preaching and the atmosphere felt immediately familiar--similar in so many ways to my beloved home-church in the States.  Still, I worried that 50 minutes of traveling one-way was too far and so I attended only periodically, and tried to remain aloof (after all, friendships with folks downtown would inevitably take up even more time!).  Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of a very kind and caring family (who, incidentally, were my one link to CAJ at Grace City), I began to make connections and build relationships despite myself.  I realized that God quite clearly intended this to be my new home-church, and that I needed to get involved.  I joined the worship team, an affiliated gospel choir, and a weekly community group.  More significantly, I met my future wife at an after-church party last fall.

Now, a typical week sees me traveling downtown at least 3 times a week, and sometimes 4 times.  I am preparing to become a community group leader, and from September, will participate on the worship team two Sundays a month.  I've also participated in vision meetings for a church plant that will be starting services this fall.  And of course, there's the adventure of wedding planning that is now beginning, and the recognition that my fiancee and I do need to take additional time for each other that isn't about church-hunting, logistics, invitations, or anything else to do with the wedding.

My life has entered a new chapter and it feels like a completely different story from the one I was living almost 5 years ago.  Yet again, the pesky issue of balance remains.  I absolutely need to allow myself the time and mental energy to do my job the best that I can; after all, I view teaching at CAJ as my calling!  That said, unlike several years ago, I must balance this with the very real need for church involvement, friendship (one very special relationship in particular), and time with God.

This coming school-year will be something completely new, different from any I've had yet.  I ask for prayers for wisdom, for energy and for balance.  I'm excited; happier than I've ever been in my entire life, actually.  At the same time, I have an unprecedented amount of stuff going on simultaneously in several different sides of my life, and caring for all sides will be no small task.  Becoming a whole and healthy person is challenging, but I figure God's grace and strength are sufficient to build me into that person!

No comments:

Post a Comment