Robert & Roberta Adair



Stories from Robert & Roberta Adair

water and sky

I started this when Mom was still here, which was more than a year ago. Wowzas. But re-reading my jotted notes made me chuckle.

Japanese is vague. There’s so much reading between the lines that sometimes I second-guess my second-guessing (“sometimes” meaning several times a week). Yesterday, I was trying to get a few clear answers from someone (Did he still need me to drive to a picnic? Is it helpful/good for me to go even if they don’t need my car? Should I bring my own food or did they pack a lunch for me? Should I stay with J during the kids’ service or should I stay upstairs?). With every question, I understood the words but didn’t have a flying clue what was being communicated. So…I just kind of hoped for the best and had a lot of apologies ready.

I left that relatively short but confusing conversation thinking once again about how foggy Japan is. Communication is foggy, the weather is often foggy/hazy, and, honestly, trying to see God working seems foggy (meaning not clear).


Loads of books and articles talk about the vagueness of Japanese. For instance, saying the words, “I love you,” makes love sound cheap. True love is communicated in deeper, unspoken ways (I believe this goes for apologies, frustration, joy, being proud of someone, etc.). Robert often says to or about me that I’m “subtle like a brick to the face.” Even my best efforts at being elegant or subtle usually fail. I’m realizing I’m a very typical American as a low context communicator. (“I like you.” “The event was a real bummer.”) I appreciate forthrightness – which, according to a work review several years ago, means that I sometimes lack tact.

Japan is the land of tact on steroids. This is one reason I wrote in my journal, “Ok, Lord. I’ll go wherever you want me to go. Just not South America or Japan.” I’m getting better about perfecting my vague Japanese “hmm.” Partly because of language difficulty and partly because of trying to adapt, I am getting better at biting my tongue with a “hmm.”

To bring it back to what I started writing about a year ago, Mom and I went to the prayer meeting before beach ministry. We were sharing what we were thankful for, and I shared that I was thankful for beauty as that particular day had bright, beautiful colors in contrast with the overcast, hazy gray that seems to mark a lot of the year. Mom prayed, “Thank you for the beauty of bright colors and thank you for the beauty of grey.”

The next night, we had dinner with a Japanese friend. He commented that he prefers doing sightseeing on cloudy days. The view doesn’t scream at you – there is nuance. Most Japanese art seems to includes clouds.  Obviously I still need to keep learning and growing in this area. Although sometimes I want a straight answer, days with awesome visibility, and God’s work to be super clear to me, I also want to appreciate subtlety, clouds and fog, and whispers.


Originally posted on Adair Update...

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