I’ve been studying Spanish. There are wonderful free programs online and apps available for phones that allow you to study a variety of languages. I learn by translating from English to Spanish, from Spanish to English, and occasionally, I’m called to speak the language into my phone. I thought the hardest part would be remembering words or following quickly spoken sentences. I was wrong.
The hardest part of learning a language is the embarrassment of speaking it aloud, when I’m sure that it will be wrong and that even if I get the words right, I will sound foolish. Since then, I’ve been conscious of the bravery of folks who learn to speak English. Every heavily accented and broken sentence is an act of courage.
The process has made me think about the way we learn our faith. Studying the Bible, delving deeper into worship, developing your spiritual practice, and thinking about the interaction of faith and life can all feel odd at first. But learning anything feels a little like failure and a little like faking it. Recognize it for what it is, the human experience. We’re all learning. We’re all trying. We’ll all need to try again.
As proof, I’ll leave you with this anecdote from author, Neil Gaiman:
“Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.
On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, ‘I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.’
And I said, ‘Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.’
And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.”
“Can you swim?" said Victor. One of the cavern's rotting pillars crashed down behind them. From the pit itself came a terrible wailing.
"Not very well," said Ginger.
"Me neither," he said. The commotion behind them was getting worse.
"Still," he said, taking her hand. "We could look on this as a great opportunity to improve really quickly.”
― Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures
My children have swim lessons today, and I was put in mind of this wonderful Terry Pratchett scene. Clearly, the characters are in danger. Clearly, they are swimming for their lives without knowing exactly how. But the attitude they choose to take is to see the challenge as an opportunity. And, although Pratchett is decidedly not a Christian writer, seeing challenge as opportunity is a Biblical concept.
The Message Paraphrase of James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."
What challenges are happening in your life that you might embrace instead of escape? How will you use it to 'improve really quickly'?
Come and improve with us at Brightwood Christian Church! We gather for worship at 11 am on Sundays. We hope to see you soon.
Rev. Jana Quisenberry is the minister at Brightwood Christian Church. She's an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). A graduate of Transylvania University in Lexington, KY and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN, She now resides in Mt. Lebanon with her husband, two children, and dog, Sookie. Pastor Jana loves the church, science fiction, and coffee.
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