Our Language Insécurité

(from Eric)

We have settled in a bit.  We have unpacked and know our way to various markets around.  The kids are registered for school.  Jetlag seems to be behind us.  So, now this is the breath before the dive.  Our first task is a half-day of placement tests on Tuesday.  We're all fairly beginners, but we'll find out for sure, and then the classes start.

How do you think we would approach this?  I'm guessing a lot of people would think "Six doctors, near a century of post-secondary education between you, what's French to you?  I mean, kids learn this, right?"  Well, that's not exactly the sentiments I've been hearing from our team.

Carlan and Rachel are concerned that they have to simultaneously study for their oral medical boards this coming fall.  How can they keep up?  Rachel has the added fear that her general language aptitude isn't as great as the rest of the team's.  John think the same, but he grew up in Togo, so he has a headstart, right?  Maybe, but John is hoping it will start to come back quickly, because he's quite out of practice, and maybe it won't and he'll disappoint everyone and himself.  Jason thinks he'll be slipping behind.  But Jason, your Swahili was probably the best in our whole team!  Well, sure, but I grew up in Kenya and had years of it as a kid.  This is different.

And on it goes.  Is this just our uber-achiever natures?  Probably to some extent, but not "just".  There is a big unknown here.  We really need a high level of French functioning for our work in Burundi.  And learning a language is a different type of learning from learning how to do a C-section, or memorizing various antimicrobial spectra, or learning the Kreb's Cycle for the fifth time (though I don't remember that either).

What about me?  I'm not allowed to just air everyone else's insecurities, right?  I don't have oral boards to study for, and I think my language abilities are fine, though they are largely untried.  But I fear my great pride and it's effect on my language learning.  It seems that learning a language means being viewed as a little kid again in society, and being OK with it.  Going up to strangers and butchering a simple statement and all that.  That's where your learning takes place at its best.  And it scares me and I'm afraid I'll resist it to my detriment.  I don't know if that sounds like a big deal, but I think that it should, because it's not just my insecurity, but it's the sin of my heart, and quite deep at that.

So pray for us.  And encourage us as you unfailingly do.  But I don't think what we really need is the "oh, you'll be fine" encouragement.  For one, it doesn't seem to help that much, as you probably know from your own experiences.  But more importantly, I believe that Christ wants to bring his good news, his Gospel, to bear on our insecurities.  If it's really true that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness, then these insecurities are turned-up soil for the Kingdom of our gracious King to grow.

It means Rachel and Carlan knowing the strength and provision of God when there is stretched and disparate demands on their attention.  It means the death of our worth lying in the fulfillment of other's expectations for us or our own expectations for ourselves.  It means learning to trust in God's goodness and faithfulness when staring into the unknown.  And that is glory to God now, and the application of that lesson later in Burundi will surely be the same.  

And for me, it is sanctification.  It could even be the life-generating power that comes as mortal wounds chip slowly away at my pride and the Spirit of Christ is glorified through my weakness.

May it be.


-J said...

One of the best m blog posts I've ever read. I won't say, "It will be fine," but I will say, "God's purposes in your lives during French school are so much *more* than learning a language, and success will not be measured primarily by acquiring French, but by hearts that trust Him more fully." May it be so!

The Styles Family said...

My suggested recipe for easing the process of learning French:

- go where people are speaking French
- use whatever French you have, whenever you can
- read whatever written stuff you can, French newspapers especially
- be patient

You'll be fine.


Kimberly said...

I prayed for you all this morning - for humility, courage, and faithfulness! And of course that it would be easy as pie(pi?)!

tscarlet said...

To all the team: THIS is the work to which He has called you. That is the bottom line. If He has called you to it, and you step out in faith to obey (as you all have already done, and are doing, every day), HE will make it a success!

From Spurgeon's thoughts on Jeremiah 32:17:

"There was a majesty in the early saints, who dared to do at God's command things that human reason would condemn. Whether it be a Noah who is to build a ship on dry land, an Abraham who is to offer up his only son, a Moses who is to despise the treasures of Egypt, or a Joshua who is to besiege Jericho for seven days, using no weapons but the blasts of trumpets, they all act upon God's command, contrary to the dictates of human reason; and the Lord gives them a rich reward as the result of their obedient faith. Would to God we had in contemporary Christianity a more potent infusion of this heroic faith in God. If we would venture more upon the naked promise of God, we would enter a world of wonders to which as yet we are strangers. May Jeremiah's place of confidence become ours--nothing is too hard for the God that created the heavens and the earth!"

Judy Crockett said...

Thank you for this sincere and honest post. I identify with you, Eric, that our pride can interfere with learning French because we have to be willing to humble ourselves and be treated as a child again. I love the French language but when I lived in France I totally resisted this humbling part and stopped interacting with others in the market, at the post. John 15:1-5 talks about need to abide in Him and apart from Him we can do nothing. Phil 4:13 says we can do all things through the One who strengthens us. You and your team are in a good position to claim these words and to rest in God for this task He has called you to. You all will be fine because of Him. Praying for you all, Judy Crockett

~sarah said...

My encouragement to you is something I'm learning now too. Nehemiah 8:10 says "The joy of the Lord is your strength." But read in context, you'll see that it isn't talking about God giving YOU joy and that's where your strength comes from. It's talking about the Lord's own joy OVER YOU that give you strength. The Jews are facing the consequences of their sin and pride and are weeping over it. Nehemiah tells them to stop weeping and worrying and go do what the Lord has called them to do because "the joy of the Lord is your strength." His joy will give them the strength to move forward.

The Lord delights in all of you and the way you love him, listen to him, obey him, and glorify him with your lives. Feel his joy and let that be your strength as you face your fears. : )

Anonymous said...

We will be praying. Remember you are a team. Each of you has different strengths. As with the human body, each of you has a vital part in this team. There are no small parts. May your focus be on HIM as a TEAM leader. Your time in language school is just a thread in the tapestry HE is weaving in Burundi. May God's Kingdom in Burundi flourish as you look to HIM as your TEAM leader. We love you. Linda S.