If I were a running coach and knew one of my runners would trip, fall and need to sit on the sidelines to recover, I would never put that runner in the race. God knew all my days before I lived any of them (Psalm 139:16), so He knew when He called me to be His daughter that I was sometimes going to get tripped up by lies and fail. And yet, He still put me in the race.
I grew up in an unbelieving household characterized by different forms of abuse and trauma. But in God’s kindness, I became a believer as a child after our family moved to Washington state. In my new fifth-grade classroom, I sat next to a girl who later became one of my best friends. Her mom took me to church every week from middle school until I could drive myself. My church was the place I felt safe, seen and loved—providing me with a stable family.
In high school, I began wanting to help others have the same sense of security Jesus and my church family provided. After graduation, I attended a small Christian college where I majored in theology and attended a church where I learned how to study and apply God’s Word. During my freshman year of college, I read a book about a missionary I found so compelling that I sensed God confirming a call to ministry. I told God I would go wherever He wanted.
After a summer mission trip to Australia, I returned with zeal for international ministry. During my sophomore year, I began focusing on the spiritual needs of Japan and looked for opportunities to connect with Japanese people around me.
To everyone looking at my life, I was an outstanding Christian with an obvious call to missions in my life. I was doing all the “right things”: daily Bible time, sharing my faith and serving on the leadership team at church. However, I still had wounds and insecurities from my childhood that had not healed. I believed lies about myself and as a result, fell into a season of sin that left me rejected, broken and ashamed. I had been to the mountaintop, but then I found myself at the very bottom of the pit.
This devastating fall poked a hole in my armor, and I wanted to run and hide. God’s Word spoke powerfully to me during that time. I was especially heartened by 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters … will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” I was reminded that no one goes to heaven unless that person is washed clean by Jesus. I was clean before God because of Jesus.
In time, after I was married and had a daughter, God gave our family the opportunity to go to Japan as missionaries. But, once there, I found myself overcome by anxiety and depression. Along with the isolated and lonely feeling of living in another culture, I was also pregnant and feared giving birth overseas. My struggle for emotional wellbeing led to our difficult decision to return home to Washington.
On top of my earlier feelings of brokenness, shame and rejection, failure was added to the weight I carried. God had called me, and I had let Him down again. Who was I if not a missionary? This was not how I had pictured my story.
A few years later God brought us to Texas, and by this time we had multiplied to a family of six. After all my kids were in school, I began to volunteer at my church in English conversation classes for immigrants. And guess who God brought me for conversation? A woman from Japan named Misa. Then another named Aya. I began to wonder what God was doing and prayed about how I might serve them. I began an English coffee time for Japanese women called Eigo Café.
And then I panicked. I remembered how I had sinned in college and failed in ministry in Japan. All I could hear were the same words on repeat: brokenness, shame and failure. Surely this time would be no different. I met with a mentor from my church, who reminded me we fight lies with the truth of God’s Word. Light makes darkness flee. I dwelled on the truth of 1 Corinthians 1:26-29: “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong … so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
Today 26 Japanese ladies come to English conversation classes at my church. Certainly not because of me. God is showing that He can use me to reach Japanese ladies in Texas. God remains good and faithful, and I remain in the battle to trust Him daily and replace lies with the truth of His love and power.
God is the running coach that tells me to keep running. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us lay aside every weight and sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” He says, “I love you. I’ve forgiven you. I see you. I choose you, Shiona. I’m not taking you out of the race.” God reminds me and you to keep our eyes on Jesus and keep running the race of faith.