17 March, 2012

Finding my sweet spot

Okay, so an editing friend pointed out that I made an error in yesterday's post. I mistakenly pointed you to another entry that I said talked about my struggles with language. It turns out that it didn't, it talked about my writing journey. But really my struggles with language led directly to my writing journey. I've told this story to many people (on deputation and at other times), but never written it here, so I guess it is time to reveal another bit of my vulnerable self.
 Below I've pasted the second half of a talk I did for our Japanese church last October, that describes my journey fairly well. I don't include the first half, because I've basically told you those bits of my story over the last couple of weeks in this series.

One of my greatest disappointments is not being able to speak Japanese well. I always imagined being a good missionary meant good language ability. So I struggled and laboured to learn Japanese. When we came here six years ago, I found myself at home alone much of the day with young children. With all my energy put into keeping them fed, clothed and happy, I got to the end of most days without the energy and motivation to study Japanese. My struggle came to be, ‘What sort of missionary am I if I cannot be fluent in the language?’

Eventually I rediscovered that I’d been uniquely made. I remembered that God had called me to Japan already knowing my strengths and weaknesses. So my question became: What possible purpose could he have for me with the abilities and gifts he had given me?

Within a few months I received several encouragements to pursue writing. I stumbled upon a small group of Christian writers on the internet who offered to help me improve. Since then I’ve had a number of articles published in different magazines and received a lot of encouragement. I also picked up other small things I was able to do well, not only without the need of excellent Japanese, but also without needing to leave home. This was such an encouragement to me.

Now that my children are all at school, God has sent other opportunities my way too. Japan Harvest is a magazine that is by and for foreign Christian missionaries in Japan. The managing editor of that magazine, Gary Bauman, invited me onto his team as the associate editor and I began that role last year when we returned from home assignment. In March this year because the managing editor of the magazine was very involved with CRASH, he asked me to be the chief editor of a special disaster edition of the magazine. It was a huge challenge, but one that I enjoyed. And the final result was very satisfying.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered this book: Max Lucado’s book, “Cure for the Common Life”. It talks about finding your “sweet spot”. It is a term used in sports, when a baseball player hits the ball in just the right place on the bat, that place is called the ‘sweet spot’. Lucado uses it to describe the place in life when you are doing what God designed you to do. A special spot that only you, in your God-given unique-ness can do. “God has given each of us a special way of serving others.” (1 Corinthians 12:7, CEV)

When we are in Australia people often say to us, “I could never do what you do.” They are quite correct. But there is no point in thinking that that makes us anything extra special, no more special than they are. God has designed each of us. None of us are the same. None of have exactly the same things that we love to do. David and I are both quite content right now, because we’ve both found our “sweet spots”. And not only are we doing things that God designed us to do; we are doing them for God’s glory. We’re supporting the missionary community in Japan, reaching Japan for Jesus. That is very satisfying.

We are each one a part of God’s body. Each arranged just as He wanted. Just like you, I am uniquely made; serving God with my gifts in the place He’s called me to.

So, before I sit down I want to encourage you to find your “sweet spot”. Don’t sit in church and look at everyone else and envying others, how God has gifted them. Ask God to help you find what He’s gifted you for. It could be anything, but it will not be exactly the same as anyone else. God made you, and me, unique. By His grace we can use that uniqueness to glorify Him in what we do.


Tim and Susan said...

Great post about "sweet spot"s...Just the topic we will be discussing at our OMF ladies retreat.
Happy Sweet Spot-ing!

OliveTree said...

This is a great post. I understand about the language. Turkish is also a very difficult language to learn, and so many workers just cannot speak very well, but I saw a long time ago that God has so many different callings for people, and that He even uses people who can hardly speak the language.

My husband struggles greatly with Turkish, yet God has given him a "sweet spot."

Blessings on your ministry!

KarenKTeachCamb said...

I love that book! God took me on a 20+ year journey to find my "sweet spot", and along the way I learned many skills and lessons that are helpful to me now. So good to hear other people who are "content in the place God has put them".

I know what you mean about language too! After more than 5 years in Cambodia, I still have limited Khmer. I never had 2 years (or even six months) of language study before I started teaching here, and as a beginning teacher, I just couldn't find the time to really study consistently. I'm grateful for the little language I do have, that enables me to get around, and communicate a little with the people I live among. Thankfully, those I work with mostly have adequate or good English.