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Five Things Spanish Lessons taught me about The Church: Part One

What have you learned this week?

 

Can you confidently say “this week I learned…” or “I am currently learning how to…” or “Something I never realized was…” or “This week, God taught me…”?

 

 I’ve been learning Spanish for the past 5 months, and it is going mas despacio (slower) than I would like.  But this process of learning has taught me a lot more than just a new language. In addition to now being able to find a bathroom in Guatemala, here’s what I’ve learned:

 

1. LEARNING REQUIRES INTENTION

 

Have you ever met anyone who accidentally became fluent in Spanish? Have you ever met anyone who stumbled into an Olympic gold medal? Have you ever met a flautist that mastered her instrument organically?



intention

 

(Have you ever met a flautist in general?)

 

Me neither.

 

There are just things in life that, if we do not intend to learn them, we won’t.

 

Granted, there are certainly things we are forced to learn. When my dad passed away last year, my family and I had to learn how to live without him. Others must learn how to survive in extreme poverty or navigate unemployment or live with a crippling illness. People call these experiences the “school of hard knocks.” It’s a school we never asked to enroll in. So yes, there is certainly unwarranted learning that we experience throughout life, and it can contribute to our growth and development if we let it.

 

But regarding the skills, wisdom, and knowledge that isn’t forced upon us, we certainly won’t learn any of it haphazardly. So if we aren’t currently learning something, it’s likely because we didn’t intend to in the first place.

 

2. TIME IS YOUR FRIEND

 

The best learning is slow learning.

 

Remember FINALS WEEK back in High School? Yeah, that looming barrier between you and sweet summer freedom? Remember how you would stay up all night cramming for your exams? (If you didn’t, you were a better student than me)

             

That’s a perfect word for what you were doing. You were literally cramming as much information as you possibly could into your brain in the hopes that it could retain that information long enough for you to recall it the next morning. And you also knew full well that 99% of that information would be forgotten two weeks into summer vacation.

 

Is that learning? Not really. If anything, you learned how to memorize something just enough to recall it 12 hours later. But you certainly didn’t learn the material that you memorized.

 

Inversely, any information that your brain has NOT forgotten, whatever knowledge you do still have today, it’s very likely you gained that knowledge over a long period of time. You gave it a chance to marinate, ruminate, and germinate.

 

If you want to master anything, take your time and savor the process.  

 

Now, why would God design us this way? Why couldn’t Jesus just use his Jesus-Powers to hit his disciples over the head and recalibrate their brain chemistry so that they knew in an instant everything he wanted to teach them? If he could instantly turn water into wine, couldn’t he instantly turn dummies into geniuses?

 

He certainly could.

 

But, first off, he respected their wills far too much to override them in that way.

 

And second, we should ask ourselves, “would we want our children learning in this way?” Would I want to magically smack my son upside his head in a way that would instantly transform him from ignorance to intellect?

 

Sometimes I’m tempted. But I don’t think so.

 

Part of my joy as a parent is to see the wheels in his coconut slowly turning. As hard as it was to see him fall 894 times, witnessing him finally take his first steps was worth every moment along the way.

 

This is the beauty of human development.

 

The slower we learn something, the more likely it is that this “new information” will stick with us for a long time. Maybe even for a lifetime.

 

3. YOU’LL LEARN MORE THAN JUST SPANISH

 

Learning a new language, I’ve discovered, teaches you more than just the language itself. It’s a masterclass in patience, discipline, endurance, and humility. It also reveals some unflattering things about myself that I didn’t necessarily want to learn. I’ve learned how impatient I am when I’m not learning as quickly as I’d like. I’ve learned how stubborn I can be when I decide that “es” instead of “esta” will be just fine. And, ultimately, I’m learning that I need more of the humility required to wake up every day and say, “I still have so much Spanish to learn.”

 

When we seek out to learn anything new, we are at the same time admitting that there’s something we don’t know. We are confessing that we have been ignorant in this area for far too long, and we want to take measures to remedy that. And, over time, we don’t just learn the new skill. We learn that it’s good to stick with something even when we’re no longer motivated to do so. We learn about the excuses we can invent when the process becomes too challenging. We learn our capacity for patience when we’ve failed for the 9th time. And then we learn that this capacity can be stretched.

 

Maybe this is why they say it’s always good to learn something new. Maybe this is the reason for all the New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe this supports the recent studies done on the connection between learning and Alzheimer’s prevention.

 

Maybe, on a subconscious level, we sense that learning anything new will be better for us than ceasing to learn altogether.

 

Because we aren’t just sharpening a skill. We are learning about ourselves in the process.

 

At this point, you might be asking, “Andrew, didn’t you mention the church in your title? How does any of this relate to the church?”

 

Well, that’s a tale for next week.

 

For now, I’d love to hear about your journey. What are you learning this season? A new skill? A new language? Something from the school of hard knocks? Something about yourself? About the world? About God?

 

Drop me an email and let’s swap stories.

 

Until next week, friends.

 

Be Well.

 

-Andrew

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