Following Jesus is costly. Following Jesus to Japan just over one year ago was arguably the most costly thing I have ever done. I was 40, and thought I had figured out much of life. I left behind a meaningful allied health profession that utilised my strengths and brought visible joy and healing. I left behind a church where I grew and was genuinely loved, together with a network of comfortable and authentic friendships. I left behind a team of health professionals who helped me manage my complex health issues, and the sense of autonomy and pace of life I needed to adequately self-manage my health. I left behind a stable and significant household income, sunny weather, salty waves, and a choir that sang classical masterpieces in the gleaming sails of the Sydney Opera House.
And what did I come to? Feeling shame on a daily basis—as someone who cannot communicate, cannot even read anything. A long and disheartening flare-up of symptoms, forcing me to rely on others to help me navigate a complex new health system. A sense of lost autonomy in most aspects of life. A church where I am an outsider, one who cannot understand most of what is happening. Starting again with friendships. An income suddenly relying on prayer and other people’s generosity in a very real way. The kind of cold weather that seeps into me and makes my bones rattle, for most of the year. And a choir? Well no, because we also had the added complexities of entering Japan right at the start of a pandemic (but let’s not get into that).
So was it worth it?
In my darkest moments I have admitted: “Lord, honestly, right now I just don’t feel like it is…” But then the light will dawn. And with it a deeper truth: I would much rather follow Jesus as actual Leader and Lord than try and drag him along with my own ideas of what life should be.
Because, as a follower I get to see him work right in front of me, sometimes in the most surprising ways. I get to experience his provision and care, and his people’s generous hearts in ways I could simply not have experienced while cushioned by my old safety nets.
I get to learn how to process, mature, and toughen up through ongoing humiliation, powerlessness, and vulnerability on a level that previous heavy trials of life have actually not quite called for. Which has led me into a slow, sustained, whole-person healing of a new kind. I get to laugh and cry and bond with my husband in hilariously unique ways. Not to mention the one thousand gifts of previously unimagined sunsets, tastes, and colours on trees. And the fearfully and wonderfully made Japanese individuals I slowly get to know and love on their own turf, in their own beautiful and broken world.
In short, following Jesus means experiencing life in abundance. The whole painful, joyful, adventurous, mysterious mess of it. Yes, it is super challenging. Yes, many days I just have to grit my teeth and persevere. But let’s face it: The wisest Man who ever walked this earth would not have invited us to follow him if it was not worth it.
By Elani, an OMF missionary