On Facing My Fears


“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

Today, I visited Sayama Park at the eastern shore of Lake Tama, about 11km from my house. I sat in the park feeling an incredible sense of peace and satisfaction. It wasn’t so much because I was at Sayama Park; it was more about how I got there. I drove myself there, navigating the often narrow and confusing streets of suburban Tokyo. It took me over 30 minutes (and yes, that breaks down to about 20km per hour, or for you Americans, 13mph), but I did it.

But that’s not where the story begins. The story begins earlier in the day when I sat on the side of my bed praying for nearly 10 minutes for the courage to get in the car and drive somewhere. You see, I have a fear of driving in Tokyo. Between the narrow streets often wide enough for 1.5 cars, confusing road signage, bikes and pedestrians that seem to dart out of nowhere, driving in Tokyo seems to stress me out. The nearest grocery store is about 2km away and I literally have to make 4 turns to get there including the one out of our driveway, but I still procrastinate driving there. I’d rather ride my bike actually.

While I’m in confession mode, I’m afraid of a lot of things here, actually. I’m afraid of trying to converse with a store clerk or waiter or policeman and not having enough vocabulary to communicate what I want to say. I’m afraid of saying something totally wrong and looking like an idiot, like when I tried to tell a shop clerk “No bag.” and ended up saying “No hat.” I’m afraid to try anything other than the ramen I’ve already ordered at my favorite ramen shop because I don’t know how to read the menu properly and might get something I totally didn’t want to eat.

I know it sounds ridiculous but there are honestly times I’d rather shut myself up inside the house and not have to say a word to anyone in any language except English and not have to think about driving on the left side of the road, and not have to wonder if I should apologize to someone for something that’s not even my fault, because that’s the way Japanese people do things.

I’m not saying these things because I don’t like Japan. I love Japan. I love living here and making new friends and renewing old friendships. I love being able to get in the car and navigate to a new and wonderful place. I love ordering food I’ve never had before and finding out its delicious.

I’m saying these things because I have to admit that I have fears and more often than not, they are irrational and childish. But at the time, they are real to me, hovering over me like monsters, chiding me to stay at home and lock the doors and shut the curtains. Which is why I found myself today sitting on the side of my bed praying for the courage to do something as simple as get in the car and drive somewhere. It was in that prayer that God reminded me when I get in the car, He’s already there with me. Wherever I’m going, He’s already there waiting. Like a father waits with outstretched arms for his baby to take his first steps, He is already there.

Which is why I felt such satisfaction sitting in Sayama Park on this beautiful late summer day. As He promised, God was with me. I might even say the drive was enjoyable, almost relaxing. On the way home, I even went by the grocery store and picked up my suits from the dry cleaners.

If it crosses your mind, pray for me, actually, pray for our whole family, to be courageous and face our fears as we live out our lives in Japan. Our fears of speaking in Japanese. Our fears of making new acquaintances. Our fears of learning to do something in a whole new way.

2 thoughts on “On Facing My Fears

  1. josie says:

    haha, oh Todd. This reminds me of when I spent half an hour in my room practicing how to ask a question at the auto shop, only to have pronounced it so perfectly that they answered back as if I was a native Japanese speaker. (I totally forgot about practicing how to recognize and respond to the possible responses!) That conversation ended pretty quickly. 😉 Or the time I mistook salt for sugar and made the most horrendous apple pie for my friends. It was mortifying at the time…but only because of the added pressure of adjusting to a new culture, language, and competing worldview! It’s funny now, years later, as are many other stories. I’m sure your stories will seem funny a lot sooner than that. 😉 You’re right, though. As hard as it is sometimes, Japan is a lovely and lovable place for those whom God has sent there! That’s definitely you! Praying peace, joy, and delight for you and your family in all your unique adjustments and hurdles! And, you probably can’t beat the funniest story I ever heard about a gaijin trying to make her way through new seasonal tasks in Japan life! Let’s just say it had to do with getting the word for “closet” and another similar-sounding word mixed up. 🙂

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