Old Sayings, East and West

When we Japanese face a formidable task, we may say, "Naseba naru, nasaneba naranu, nanigotomo." Literally translated, it means "If you do it, it will be done; if you do not to it, it will not be done." In other words, anything is possible if you make it possible, and nothing is possible if you don't make it possible.

It used to be one of my favorite sayings. It sounds very appealing, phonetically. And it was a very powerful sentiment, I felt.

When I was growing up, teachers told me that in Western countries, people say, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Most Japanese people have heard these ideas, and some of them might know that they are from the Bible. But I don't know how many non-Christian Japanese know they are Jesus' words.

I didn't know it, either, until recently.

I once read the Bible to learn English. So I must have read that they were Jesus' words. But I must have forgotten them the moment I finished that Bible chapter. I wasn't reading the Bible to study the Bible or Christianity, only to learn English. It was a small orange book. English and Japanese were printed side by side. It was just the New Testament. It probably was given to me by a Roman Catholic priest when my friend took me with her to church once.

Until recently, I must have read Jesus' words every time I read Bible stories. For many years I read and reread them.

But during those years when I didn't realize, or forgot, that they were Jesus' words, I told my American friends that I liked the old Japanese saying better. My friends' reactions were hard to understand. They were silent. They remained completely silent. Even the friend who was always prompt to quip or retort remained silent. I always thought it was so strange!

Now I think I know why my friends kept silent. They thought that I, a non-Christian Japanese, wouldn't understand.

They were right! I didn't understand.

Jesus was a most humble person. Now I know that. A humble person would never, could never say, "Naseba, naru...."

I began to like Jesus' words! Am I becoming a more humble person? I do hope so.

I know only one non-Christian Japanese who often read the Bible and liked it. He was my seventh-grade teacher in Japan. He told us that he loved to read the Bible because he felt better - more peaceful - when he read it at times when he had no problems.

And he said he found answers and inspiration when he did have problems and read the Bible.

He was the most humble, gentle, and excellent teacher I had ever had. The whole school, including all the teachers, found him so!

I must apologize to my Christian friends whom my ignorance and haughtiness had silenced.

I'm trying to learn to be humble.

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