My name in Chinese sounds like “I love you” in some dialects. Imagine me standing in an apartment helping negotiate a rental contract and introducing myself. Picture the surprised expression on the landlords face as he replies, startled, “you love me?” Why didn’t I change my name at that point? I have no idea. I’d already picked it? I knew how to write it in characters? I’m stubborn.
Learning a new language means becoming a child again. It means people laughing at you for the cute ways you say things, for the mistakes you make. People don’t understand even when you’re sure you say it right. I become a two-year old with a temper tantrum as I try to ask for food to feed myself and no one understands me. I use my hands and face to express what I cannot with my words. It’s humbling.
It’s also funny. Fast forward 11 years and you have me now. I hate sharing that I’ve lived here 11 years when people ask me. The admiration for my language abilities fades into the truth that after 11 years I should be more fluent! Sometimes I muddy the truth…ok, I mislead people…ok, I repent from my lying…and share only how long I’ve lived in this city to avoid the faded admiration.
But, recently I made a pretty funny foible and it brought a smile to a sad face. I didn’t orchestrate it, I was asked if I understood something and I shared what I thought I’d heard, “something about old chickens” I said. No, it was something totally not about old chickens but the damage, or the benefit, had already been done. A sad face smiled and my foolish misunderstanding brought some heavy things into a little perspective.
The “Old Chickens Incident” reminded me afresh to embrace the childlike nature of being a continual learner. To laugh at myself, to share what I don’t understand instead of giving the fluent impression, to be weak and let God be strong.
Fluency would be awesome but He sure does show me a lot in the areas I lack fluency.
How does God used your lack of “fluency” to show you more about Himself?