Teacher of Japanese Studies Finds Something New in Jesus

Marty Holman (left), a professor of Japanese studies at the University of Missouri with Ebisu, a Japanese Bunraku puppet, and Nathan Salmon (right), his former student who helped influenced him to place his faith in Christ. Photo courtesy Marty Holman.

Since my late teens, I had been an active member of a religious tradition that emphasized salvation by works and eternal progression.

I was always striving to follow every rule. I kept recommitting myself to doing everything right and doing EVERYTHING!

I would dismiss misgiving and doubts and think no, no, I just have to grit my teeth and work harder.

Yet a few years ago, after returning from Japan after a University of Missouri summer program, I started a journey toward despair.

I had gained a lot of weight over the year, and I thought, I have to get myself healthier physically, mentally and spiritually. My interest with health and fitness had to do with my concerns about mortality especially because of my wife having been diagnosed with cancer. So I committed myself to exercising and eating better in addition to doing all the right things I was supposed to do.

Part of my exercise regime involved playing racquetball with one of my Japanese language students Nathan Salmon. We would play 5 or 6 days a week and usually we would have lunch.

I considered myself a Christian and I knew Nathan was a Christian. But he spoke with Jesus in ways and with understanding I didn't.

I looked back and I realized that I progressed no further than I had been when I started out on this journey of attempted accomplishment. I started thinking I should ditch this whole religion thing because certainly I could be no worse off.

I was thinking, mulling, and stewing. I really didn't consider the possibility that there was another way to do things, or that I could actually look elsewhere to see if salvation came through any other means.

Nathan was at Cru’s Christmas Conference in Denver, and I looked at Facebook and what he had posted. Nathan had been in a session about using social media to raise serious questions and start serious (spiritual) conversations.

I decided I would look at Scripture. I was reading in John chapter 6 where the masses turned away from Jesus and he asked his disciples, “Are you going to turn away too?” And Peter says, “Where would we go, you have the words of eternal life?”

Even though I might somehow ditch church – the church that I'd been trying to be committed to – I could not ditch Jesus Christ. That's when it finally hit me. In all of this numberless rules and regulations and formulas, I couldn't give up Jesus.

Although I had prayed many times before, I never prayed the way Christians talked about praying. I knelt down and said, "I give up. I surrender my diluted notions that I can save myself and that I can work my way into your grace."

I got up off my knees after praying and said the world changed. But the world had not changed. I had changed.

I had a reason to live. I changed spiritually, mentally and physically. Before, if I was able I would sleep in until noon. After I trusted in Christ, I now get up because there’s the whole day and I want to live it.

 


Marty now connects with other University of Missouri professors involved with Cru’s Faculty Commons every Thursday over lunch.

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