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