Wednesday, February 20, 2013

To Keep Me Humble

As far back as I can remember, I have always loved words.  One of my favorite subjects from all of my years of school was a Middle School textbook series known as "Wordly Wise", in which vocabulary words were presented, complete with information on the word's etymology and roots.  Many of my peers hated "Wordly Wise", but I devoured each lesson.  I looked forward to each new set of words--more arrows for the quiver!  I was quick to try out my newly-gained vocabulary, both in writing and in conversation, and relished the compliments that I would receive.

This love for words and for writing grew throughout high school and college.  I learned that I could skillfully inform, persuade, or entertain, all depending on just how I phrased an idea.  I must admit that as time went on, it became ever the more difficult to be grateful to God for my gift.  I began to think of my word-smithery as something intrinsic to me, and me alone.  Why share the credit?

Perhaps this is part of the reason why God has called me to a setting where, outside of my job, my skill in the English language is meaningless.  When I say meaningless, I don't mean to belittle the gift; simply, I mean that I can go to City Hall and speak in my most eloquent English, and not only will it fail to impress the city employees, it will have little to no meaning to them.  My rhetorical abilities in English, which I'd taken for granted as a natural advantage for me for so long, suddenly seem less impressive... less worth becoming arrogant over.  Instead, I am brought back to the basics of learning elementary grammar and vocabulary in a language that poses a genuine challenge to me.  I must be content with making mistakes, with saying things the wrong way, with mixing up my vocab words, with sounding slow and inarticulate.

It is not through some internal, innate awesomeness that I make gradual progress in learning the Japanese language, but through God's grace.  Really, learning my native tongue was no different, though I was too young at the time to remember: I made many mistakes in the process of learning English, too, and it was by God's grace that I grew and gained fluency.  All of my skill with words belongs to God and not to me, and I must give it all back to Him.  Likewise, I can do no better than to lay my current language training at His feet.  Learning humility is not easy, but I suspect that it is necessary in order to grow and thrive.  May God's grace overwhelm my tongue and my mind as I struggle to learn Japanese and to accept my own lack of grace and elegance.

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