I was standing in the kitchen holding 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese on the brink of tears, because as I opened one of those boxes and poured out the macaroni it didn’t even fill my hand. It had been a day. My family had just moved to Japan, I had taken my 3 year old daughter to kindergarten for the first time, which was 5 ½ days a week. I went to the post office and came home not sure if my letter would make it to my friend or not and stood in line at a department store for more than 30 minutes only to never be waited on. I was tired and thought an “American” meal of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese would help. But one box of macaroni didn’t have enough macaroni in it for one of the three kids, let alone a family of five. It was an inauspicious beginning.
I did eventually acclimate to Japan. I learned to love the food, I figured out how to mail a letter at the post office and I even charmed the people at the department store eventually. But it took some time, and I have to admit I did some grumbling along the way.
Those first weeks it was easy to fall into the woe is me attitude. There was no fast food chain we were familiar with and the grocery stores did not look like what I was used to. I had to lay the “futons” or beds on the roof every few days and beat them with a stick for reasons I do not understand to this day. The roads were so narrow that I had to pull the side mirrors in at certain points. The kids all went to school at the same time, but came home at different times on different days, making afternoons impossible to accomplish anything. Everything felt more difficult in Japan.
“The entire Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger.” Exodus 16:2-3
God had taken our family to Japan for reasons I didn’t understand at the beginning. Rather than bask in this amazing opportunity I had been blessed with, I found everything wrong with my circumstances. Often my complaints were more to be mad than for any real reason. . . . do you know how easy it is to pull in a side mirror on those narrow roads? You push a button, yep it’s that simple. And I had a dear friend that lived in the kids school district so I got to spend part of nearly afternoon visiting with her while waiting for the kids.
So often when I read about Israelites complaining about their circumstances I get frustrated because they were going to receive the blessing promised to Abraham. “I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and the peoples on the earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3
And yet, here I was in a foreign country, given so many opportunities and grumbling about nonsensical things that were easily overcome, if I just chose to change my attitude . At least the Israelites were worried about dying from hunger when they complained, at least until they were given the manna.
Why do we do that? God told the Israelites He would take them out of slavery to the land promised to them. They questioned Him the entire journey. Their lack of trust added years to that journey. Why did I choose the negative rather than the positive as we started our life in Japan? My lack of trust stole some of the joy in the beginning of this new adventure.
For me, and possible for the Israelites, I think it was fear. I was in a new place, completely out of my comfort zone. So were they. They knew slavery, knew where their food would come from and knew what to expect from each day when they were in Egypt.
Once I had a bit of an attitude readjustment wonderful things happened. I made new Japanese friends. I taught a bible study to some young women. I saw beautiful sights I will never see in the US. I went to festivals that were completely different than anything I had ever been to before. And I saw two young Japanese women come to Jesus.
God’s plans are so much better than my plans. If I could just lean into Him from the beginning of every adventure, knowing that He will take me right where I am supposed to be, I could accomplish so much more in His name.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6