Friday, January 17, 2014

From Whining to Strength (and a concert poster)

Today’s coffee… was many hours ago. It’s 9:00 p.m.

… and I’m in Obihiro. Tomorrow and the day after will be concerts. We’re playing sonatas by Chopin and Mendelssohn as well as some other stuff. It looks like it will be sunny, and if I can put off catching a cold for a couple more days, it will be the first time in a long time that we’ve had a sunny day concert with both of us healthy. Yay! Anyway, here is a poster in case you happen to be in the Obihiro area and you want to come. Or, you can just look at it. I think this one is particularly nice!

Last weekend was also a busy weekend; we had a movie event for the youth group at our house on Saturday, and then on Sunday I was on duty for the children’s message. As I was also busy preparing for this weekend’s concerts, I have to admit I was less than excited about writing a children’s message, especially when the passage I was assigned (Gideon’s story) was not one of my favourites. I whined and whined and Keith kindly listened to me. “I’m not good at public speaking.” “I don’t know how to talk to children in English let alone Japanese.” “Why do I always seem to get scheduled to do these when I’m already really busy?” “Gideon is such a wimp. I don’t like him.” And on and on and on.

Saturday afternoon, the youth group came over to watch one of my favourite movies: 耳をすませば (Mimi o sumaseba; English title is Whisper of the Heart). I watched this particular movie for the first time when I was in college at a time when I was pretty discouraged about my progress as a musician. I found it very encouraging and moving, although I couldn’t really put my finger on why that was. I thought it was because the main characters were artists like me.

This time, I noticed a theme that I really hadn’t noticed before: fear of failure. The first time I watched the movie, I had been struggling with finding the motivation to practice my cello; I questioned whether I would ever be able to play as well as a professional should be able to, and my fear paralyzed me from getting anything done in the practice room, or even making it into the practice room at all. If I thought something was impossible for me, my reaction was to conserve energy and time by giving up before I even started. In that respect, school was good for me; periodic performances and various deadlines that had to be met provided motivation.

In the movie, one of the main characters dreams of becoming a violin maker; he decided to go to Italy to see if he has the talent to succeed. “If I don’t test myself, I won’t know whether or not I can do it,” he said. Such a character, well aware of his own limitations but boldly progressing towards his goal, is one I find to be very inspiring.

Returning to the children’s message, I decided to write the story in my own words. Well, not really my own words; the lines I gave to Gideon and other characters were “men’s Japanese” which I had been told never ever to use. I used anime for boys as a reference and had it checked by a guy friend at church. As I wrote, I realized how much the author goes out of their way to show just how much of a wimp Gideon was. But somehow Gideon, who thinks he is in control of his own life and capable of saving his own skin, becomes strong through God’s power, not his own.

Talking to Keith afterwards about the movie and the children’s talk, he pointed out that fear of failure is a common theme in both Gideon’s story and Mimi o sumaseba (Whisper of the Heart); it’s also a recurring theme in my life. I think I may have been too quick to write myself off from public speaking, especially children’s messages (although please don’t make me do too many). If this is what God wants me to do, he can give me the strength to do it, even if I whine every step of the way. But it’s a lot better without the whining.

My experience of God’s work in Japan has been full of Gideon moments: “This can’t possibly work,” I think to myself. But if God’s hand is in it, anything can be a stepping stone to someone’s salvation, even my less-than-superb public speaking.


Michelle Paige said...

A beautiful, encouraging post, Celia! Love that you are doing a Children's Message and I so enjoyed reading how God is working through you. Blessings to you on your Children's Message and your concerts! Love the poster!

Julia Prins Vanderveen said...

Our first son's birth was such a moment... definitely not coincidental that his name bears testimony to that. : )
Loved your reflections here.