I don’t want to go.
If tonight’s the same as the last two weeks, I will gulp some chocolate for courage, pack up my books, and head out the door, shoulders squared. Butterflies will give way to June bugs bouncing around my stomach. I’ll wish I could thwack them away with a satisfying “ping,” like I did off of the screen door last night.
Is it lions I’m facing? A legal interrogation? Long division by paper and pencil? No. Something sweeter and more terrifying—friendship in Spanish. I joined a bible study on Wednesday nights with some of the tias that work at the children’s home.
In English, this would be easy. Vulnerability and the things of the spirit are familiar waters in the ship of my mother tongue. But the language barrier isn’t just a wall that you peer over to the people on other side. It’s also a burqa that you wear, a box that traps your personality. You can only express the part of yourself that you have vocabulary for.
For several years now, I’ve heard of praying for a word for each calendar year, a heart-focus from the Lord to press into. At the beginning of 2015, I flicked the question out to my Abba Father like a shrug: “Got anything for me this year?” The answer was immediate. Reach.
Reach? 21 months into our new life serving in Costa Rica, wrapping up the homeschool year, and poised to begin the freefall of the busy summer team season, I would have chosen a different word. How about “breathe” or “rest?” “Be still and know” sounds good, too, although technically, it’s four words. No. It’s reach. Shoot.
I know why He’s calling me out. There’s been a bit of a turtle act going on lately. It’s easier to smile and nod when the RPM of the conversation zooms past my brain’s capacity to distinguish individual words. My language skills build Lincoln Log bridges that can’t quite support the weight of the heart over the communication gap. I can navigate the grocery store, find my way around town, and hold the newly arrived baby twins at Hogar de Vida. I’ve mastered the meet & greet banter with Sunday-morning-fellowship-hall flair. Those things have grown comfortable, even ordinary.
But friendship? That’s going to take some reaching.
And yet, isn’t that exactly where my day-to-day living is malnourished? Isn’t that precisely what the Lord called me to this country to do, to be? More than baked goods, team dinners, and cheerful pleasantries, God wants me to share my heart with the people here. He is encouraging me to grow to be able to support their dreams, understand their struggles, and experience their joys. To be able, not only to broadcast my love, but to receive theirs.
So I will stretch my courage to say new things beyond my grammar’s beaten path. I will press on in the listening to grasp the meaning of the flying words. I will exchange embraces and seek out expressions to add to their value.
I will face the June bugs. I will reach.
“I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” Ruth 2: 11b-12 NLT
You are reaching in ways that fear holds me from, and I am as always, in awe. When I studied German in high school it was safe, answers on tests, cute videos and funny acting by the instructors who tried to get us to say a few phrases and understand the response. When in college though, the fear of speaking in it, of saying it incorrectly, of having an accent that marked me clearly as American……these things kept me from opening my mouth unless forced. I left those years of study no more close to speaking German, which is a language in my ancestral heritage, than I began. I may understand a few words, remember how to pronounce them, and even read in my German Bible the passages I know well. But I can not LIVE it. I pray for you as you step out and put to practice what I am too afraid to even consider. You are reaching far, and I am proud of you, and see God working through it all.
I give you credit for all the ways you are Reaching, Chris, that are unique to the calling the Lord has you living out. Blessings on your focus of Teaching this year, and thank you for the inspiration to pray for the focus. Hugs.
As you reach, I think there will be a tipping point and the “ears and tongue of your heart” will pop open (mixing metaphors and other grammatical things badly-in my mother tongue no less!!!!)
Give Kris words, Lord! Spanish ones!
Yes and Amen, Carol! Thank you!
I didn’t realize until I read this one how much I have missed seeing these come in lately. Even if you don’t feel you’re reaching to share your heart there, you’re sharing it here with me and I think that’s pretty great. Love you and miss you. Take care of yourselves. Susan
Miss you, too, Susan. Hope you all are doing well as you keep the restaurants hopping, serving people in your own beautiful way.
As always I am inspired by and appreciate your frankness, humor, insight and fervor. Your creative writing style is frosting on the cake . . . or cinnamon and sugar on the churros! Sí?
Totalmente, Miguel! Muchismas gracias!
I love your message Kris and again I say, “you have a gift for writing from the heart and in the most personal way that connects with others”. The following came to mind as I listened to your heart and the Father’s heart.
To be ‘vested’ is not the same as ‘investing’. To be ‘engaged’ is not the same as being truly ‘engaged’.
One says that I am ‘Partially In’ while the other says I am ‘All In’.
The Father is saying that to make the most impact … to fully mature where you are planted … to fully show to those around you … to fully build relationships with others … you must show you care by investing in the time and the people around you where they live, what they experience, how they talk, their daily pains and joys … they will see your efforts and your vulnerabilities and your struggles and your joys … the formula that I use is “Relationships over Time thru Seasons builds Trust. It hurts to stretch; rehabilitation takes effort and tears. When I was going thru my Achilles Tendon rehab years ago, I actually got to the point of embracing the pain … I looked forward to the stretching and the tears and the pushing towards the goal, because “I KNEW THAT I MUST EMBRACE THE PAIN TO GET TO THE GOAL” and that there can truly be joy in the journey … oh, we hurt but we must stretch … day after day after day … Just as the manna was only good for 1 day, we must embrace our human condition and go back to the well for refreshment EVERY DAY as the manna for yesterday lasted for just that 1 day … it’s a new day … we must go back to the cross for more good stuff. Be refreshed as the Lord rewards those who seek after Him, who seek after His heart and who won’t stop until our last breath.
You are so right, Kerry. And eloquent. Perhaps your own blog is in order. 🙂 Thank you for the great insight. Fresh manna every day. It’s like the Hot Now sign is on every morning.
So beautiful-both the telling and the beckoning
From a lady so gifted at beautiful telling, I am honored. Blessings, Marcia.
As I read your post, I am so encouraged by what you and your family have done. Left your homelands to help others. I so would love to do this but like you say the language is what keeps me from pursuing my passion. The lord be with you and comfort you. Friendships will grow even with the barriers in life. Just being there to comfort one another in times of laughter, sorrow or just daily life ms ale friendships grow.
You are so right, Michelle. God uses everything, even our imperfections, to make beautiful things. Thank you. Hope you and Darold are doing well.
This speaks so deeply to my soul! What a gift you have shared! Documenting your journey will add to the richness of it!
What you do so beautifully with color and texture, I try for with words, Dominique. Thank you for all of the ways you add richness to the lives at Hogar de Vida.