One of the books that we had to read to complete our training with International Teams was The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero. He’s a Pastor of an incredibly diverse church in Queens, New York. The book was primarily written for those in ministry, but the concepts apply to anyone, really-- especially those of us who are part of a church. And we are all ‘the church,’ right? Therefore, we should all desire to be living life with one another in a healthy manner.
I digress. One of the principles Scazzero addresses is ‘Living in brokenness and vulnerability.’ I took some time thinking this through. The fact is, I’m willing to be vulnerable. I can share about struggles I’ve been through, sins I’ve committed, my past shortcomings… but these are all things that are behind me. As I dug deeper, I realized I’m fine with sharing issues of my past (even as recent as last week or yesterday) because now I’ve overcome it. God is victorious! I’m spotless and perfect again! Yesterday? Sure, there were problems… but today!? Well, today the Jim who’s got everything together is back!
My point is that I’ve realized I have a hard time sharing my brokenness of today. I can be vulnerable about my shortcomings of yesterday because they’re already over. But what I’m struggling with today… Well, I’m not sure if I’m willing to be vulnerable enough for you to see my current brokenness. And yet, that’s what we’re called to. We’re called to carry one another’s burdens. But how can we do that if we don’t take off our armor, lower our defenses, and be willing to share our soft, vulnerable side?
So, this is me being vulnerable. Things have been really good here in Costa Rica. Our apartment is more than adequate, there are great people at the school that we truly call friends, Kaia is letting us get a good nights’ sleep, and Suzy still cooks wonderful food in spite of the scarcity of certain items and new foods we’re trying.
And then there’s Spanish.
Learning to speak a language comfortably and ‘learning Spanish’ are two entirely different things. I could list off all of the grammatical rules, vocabulary, conjugations, and phonetics I’ve learned since being here; but that doesn’t equate to me comfortably speaking Spanish with any passerby on the street. Sitting in a classroom and learning every nitty gritty detail about how to fly an airplane doesn’t mean you can walk into a plane for the first time 8 months later and confidently fly a plane full of passengers.
This is what I’m currently struggling with. I’m ‘learning’ Spanish, but that doesn’t mean I can speak Spanish incredibly well yet. It’s not that I can’t speak any Spanish, but if you were to give me a written test and an oral test, you’d see where I'm not as strong. A couple weeks back I heard a word mentioned at least 10 times in a day: miedo. I got out my dictionary to look up what it meant. The meaning of miedo is fear.
That pretty much sums it up: fear. Fear of sounding silly. Fear of saying the wrong word. Fear of not representing myself well. Fear of not representing Christ well. I've realized the wall that I'm staring down is simply fear. Have I made strides forward? Yes, I have. I am taking more chances... but getting back to the whole 'vulnerable' thing, the truth is that it's challenging. And I have a hard time just opening my mouth and making those mistakes that I need to make. And I don't always want to. I'm struggling with it.
So I have to respond. I could simply settle for the status quo. But I'm deciding to respond by forcing myself into an uncomfortable, stretching situation. Next trimester I'll be doing a program through the school called 'FARO.' FARO requires students to interview a minimum of 8 people throughout the community each week. The intention is to meet with the same 8 - 10 people every week and have intentional conversations where you apply the grammar you're learning.
We were not called to a life of fear. Isaiah 41 says, " I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God." In Him, we are more than conquerors. So, with all of my might, I will not give in to fear. At the same time, I must humble myself to admit to you that I have weaknesses. I have flaws. And I do give in to fear. There are days where I would rather sit inside with a cup of coffee, read some books, watch a movie...
And I will afford myself grace. I know it's okay and good to step back and recover, be still, and be filled. I also know it's not by my own strength or will that I can succeed and be so bold. It's only through Christ that I can confidently choose the path of more resistance.
So pray for me. Pray for us. Pray that God would give us boldness. Pray that we would make choices that aren't necessarily our preference: but are good. Pray that spanish would click. That we would have 'aha' moments and realize how much we've learned and that we're doing well. And pray that we would have the humility to admit to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when we're struggling. And that we would come before our Lord and Savior and lay those burdens down at His feet.
Pray that we would come to know what it means to live in brokenness and vulnerability.