In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
John 1:1–3 (NIV)
My family and I are very new to Japan. As of today, we have been in Tokyo as long-term missionaries for less than three months. We spend our days learning language, cycling to grocery stores, making language blunders, learning language, experimenting with Japanese cuisine, and also learning language. Language is very important! For the first two years, our official ministry is to do no ministry other than learn the language and culture of this beautiful country and its people.
Without ever having experienced what “only” learning language would be like, I prepared myself to experience stagnation (if I can use such an unholy term). I expected this stagnation to be more than just spiritual—I anticipated an all-encompassing, giant pause while I learned to speak this new tongue. Quite unintentionally, and contrary to my own beliefs, I had separated the task of learning from the reality of the kingdom.
Recently, while I’ve been watching movies with my children, studying Japanese, fumbling through grocery store interactions, or commuting to language class, God has been taking me to school.
It started with my children’s current Disney favorite on replay. The main character’s core conflict revolves around who she is and who she was made to be, and how those things seem at odds. Because I have seen similar conflicts played out through conversations with Japanese young people, I initially assumed that was why my attention was drawn to this story.
Then, layer by layer, God began to reveal the gospel to me. I saw the expressed understanding that the world now is not as it should be. I saw an ache in people aware of that fact but lacking the power to change their situation. I saw an external force call someone out from the broken and average to be more whole than they were before. I saw glimpses of the gospel.
A week ago, I was working on an art project with atonement as the theme. The Japanese art of kintsugi (mending broken pottery by applying gold lacquer to the cracks) had come up several times over the previous week. In kintsugi, a broken piece of pottery is salvaged from the rubbish bin by someone who sees value in it. A master craftsman reassembles the vessel, filling the cracks with a golden lacquer. It becomes a whole piece again, with greater value than before because of the precious material used to fill and accentuate its weaknesses. While drawing parallels from kintsugi is not new, the threads between this art and the reconciliation and redemption that follow the atoning work of Christ became clearer to me. I caught a glimpse of the gospel in art.
Two days ago, a friend from the US posted the Japanese proverb “Fall seven times, stand up eight” on my Facebook wall. Simple enough. Then she posted its biblical counterpart: “For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity” (Proverbs 24:16 ESV). A glimpse of the Word—Jesus—in another culture’s wisdom.
These are just a few examples of how God has been weaving everyday life and kingdom life together for me. What these connections are, or even whether they exist, is not the point; the crux is that I was surprised by the revelation in these things. In my fervor to make it to this beautiful country and during my language stumbles, my neighborhood explorations, my study times, and my down times, I had forgotten that I am constantly surrounded by the fingerprints of God. The holy and the mundane both have the opportunity to expand the scope of God’s kingdom.
To be sure, most of those fingerprints—holy or otherwise—are marred. They may be confused and muddled by people and sin, but they are still the fingerprints of the Author, Redeemer, and Sustainer. The Initiator and Instrument of creation has left a spark of himself in all things as a reminder that all things begin and end with him.
So while I’m “just” learning the language, God also wants me to be continually learning that he isn’t bound by what I can contain of him in my limited view of the world. Amen and Amen.
Originally a graphic designer from upstate New York, Chris Pousseur serves as a TEAM missionary in Tokyo, alongside his wife and two daughters. His future ministry goals will focus on language and culture, discipleship, and the arts.