The Parable of the Language Student

So I’m learning Spanish. I won’t go into the whole explanation as to why I’m learning Spanish, except to say that I feel that God wants me to speak Spanish. Until two years ago this wasn’t even on my agenda, and I didn’t speak a word of Spanish, but then came the moment when I felt God was saying – ‘Learn to speak Spanish’.

I’ve invested a lot of time into learning the language – I’ve borrowed books, videos and CD’d from the library. I’ve used websites. I’ve read Spanish news on line. I’ve listened to Spanish radio and I’ve even spent some time in Spain. The fact is, I’m still not so good at Spanish. I’m a little bit hampered by the fact that I speak a bit of French, Italian and German. Last year I was speaking at a conference in Romania so I tried (unsuccessfully) to learn a bit of Romanian.  My Spanish is coming on, but I’m still greatly hampered by a lack of vocabulary. People are every kind, and I do get opportunities to speak in Spanish. I could not have had these opportunities unless I had made serious attempts to learn the language, but I still have some way to go.

If I’m speaking in Spanish at a meeting, I sometimes start with an apology. My Spanish is littered with French, German and Italian words, not to mention the English words, pronounced hopefully (of course) in a Spanish accent, and the sprinkling of words which I’ve sort of made up myself.  I accept my limitations. I apologise for my imperfections. 

So, this whole process has started to feel like a bit of a parable. I suppose that the name of my parable is something like ‘the parable of the language student’. It goes like this.

My relationship with Christ is a bit like a man who spoke perfectly well in English. He had spoken English since birth. It was his first language, and he was fluent. But he needed to learn another language. He realised that if he was to speak another language he would need to invest time in the process. He would need not only to carry a dictionary with him, but to use it constantly. He would need to use his new language at every opportunity, in thought and word and deed. It would need to become part of his life. To truly learn the new language, he would need to work at it in every area if his life. At work. At Church. Even in his relationship with his family and friends. Only then would be really start to learn the new language. Only then would his new language truly become part of his identity.

The thing with parables is that superficially they make perfect sense. They are simple stories about things we understand and which sort of make sense. But generally, there’s a second, equally simple, layer of meaning. If you are not listening properly, you can miss the meaning. The true meaning.

Once or twice, Christ explains the meaning of His parables.

So I’m going to explain mine!

We are called to serve Christ in every corner of our lives. But we are also called to live in the world. As children, we learn the language of the world. We become fluent in it. But God calls us to live differently in the world. We need to learn a different language. His language. His language is different from the world’s. In order to learn His language, we need to have His word with us at all times, and refer to it constantly. We need to practice His language, in thought and word and deed. It needs to become part of every area of our lives. It needs to become part of who we are. It needs to be at the heart of our identity. I still need to understand and deal with the language of the world, but I need to be able to, and constantly ready to, speak in His language. 

People don’t always understand my desire to speak a new language.

¬°Sigue orando! (Keep praying!)



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