Friday, September 13, 2013


The longer I live and work in a Spanish speaking country, the more convinced I am that I will never truly feel fluent.  Yes, compared to when I first arrived, I can communicate much, much better. 

But, there are still those days, still those conversations, when I walk away not sure I understood – or was understood.

Along with that, my Human Resources work requires communicating at a far more professional level than was necessary while I was in El Callejon.  Reading employment law is a different type of Spanish than reading a Children’s Bible to the little girls in the Social Work site!
And so, I’ve gone back to class.  Our Bethel Semester Students are taking a 5-week intensive Spanish class, and I decided to join. 

To determine which class to put us in, we were given a test, with multiple-choice vocabulary, an essay, and an oral exam.  The test was humbling, to say the least! 
When you use Spanish on a daily basis, you tend to use the verbs you know, in the tenses that you’re comfortable with.  Being confronted with new vocabulary in the more complex tenses showed me just how little I know (or at least, remember).
The truth is, I’ve become lazy.  Carlos is completely bilingual, and so it’s easy to just ask him how to say or write something.  I don’t need to speak well, I have someone to do that for me!
It makes me think about our Spiritual “fluency”.  Some of us are pretty content with where we are.  We can “get by” with a passing knowledge of the main points of the Bible.  Like my attitude with Carlos, we can look to pastors and other spiritual ‘experts’ and let them handle the deeper, harder work for us.

That’s okay when things are status quo.  But, when things get tough, when we struggle or are confronted with new challenges, we find our thin, babyish faith is insufficient.  We need to grow up, changing our warm milk for solid food. 
After our first three-hour class, I was exhausted.  When I was in language school in Guatemala, my job was learning Spanish.  Now, I’ve got lots of other responsibilities I cannot just put on hold for 5 weeks. 
I am going to have to rearrange some things to put adequate time and energy into my class.  That may mean my house is a little less tidy than I’d like or I have to cook less complicated meals.  It may even mean stretching my bedtime past 9pm! 
That’s how it is in our spiritual lives, too.  As awesome as it is to find time to go away for a weekend retreat, in our daily lives, we have to carve out time among the other demands for our attention. 
It’s in the ordinary times that we need to make choices about how we spend our time.  We may have to give up some things we enjoy to free up time to study God’s word.  But, as Jesus told Martha, while she was worried about many things, one thing was the better way.  Getting our priorities straight doesn't mean ignoring our other responsibilities, but it does mean ordering things properly. 
Like Spanish, we may never feel fully fluent in the "language" of God.  In fact, it is likely that, "until the day of Christ Jesus", we will always have areas of weakness.  But, we are promised that God will continue to work in us. 
Of course, like language acquisition, the way God typically chooses to work involves us working, too.  The good news is, like having excellent teachers to help me manage the pluscuamperfecto tense, we have the Holy Spirit who lives in us, guiding and strengthening us as we grow in Him.
Fluent?  Nope, not yet. But, vale la pena, the journey is worth it - both the Spanish and the spiritual!

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