So, I’m learning Spanish. It’s 2015, I live in Texas, and we have a Spanish-speaking Mennonite church within our community. There’s a thousand good reasons to learn it, and only one bad reason not to: It’s hard.
I taught English as a Second Language for five years out in Arlington, and loved every minute of it. I was inspired and amazed by my students, who would work all day and then come to class for two hours, twice a week, as we went over past imperfect participles and all the wonderful, terrifying parts of the English language that were obviously devised by angry Saxon plagiarists a millennia ago. But it was not until I broke through in my own studies into pronouns and past perfect verbs and the mildly confusing “ll” sound that I realized: learning another language is hard.
I use Duolingo, which is a free crowdsourced online version of Rosetta Stone (or so I’ve heard, having never done the latter). It harasses you if you don’t get your points in for the day, it lets you know what you need to practice, and it does not explain the rules before you’re thrown into translating from English to Spanish and from Spanish to English. But thanks to Chris, who is also learning Spanish on Duolingo and who’s as competitive as I am about petty stuff, we’re holding each other accountable and trying to win the weekly scoreboard. But still: learning another language is hard.
I thought about this in the pool today—I’ve gone down to swimming only half a mile instead of three-quarters. I stopped swimming all together a couple months ago. But I like it, even though I have yet to become immediately and undeniably ripped. Keep swimming, I think, at lap number twenty when I want to quit. Keep going, I think, when I’m positive the digitized voice speaking to me in Spanish is just making up words. Keep praying, I think, as we wait and discern, discuss and serve, and do things in the life of the church, our faith and the Realm of God. But, as I may have said before: it’s hard.
Not impossible. Not a waste of time. Not nonsensical. Not cut and dry. Not deadening or intimidating. Being in community, being present, being willing to learn, grow, serve, do and love takes time and energy and it’s a long process. It can be hard, but it’s easier when we do it together. And way more fun, too.
This weekend, I’ll be at Disciples’ Crossing in Athens, Texas for the Tri-Area High School Youth Retreat. I will not see you in worship, but Zane and Kathy will, and Walter Norris is preaching, and aren’t you lucky? But, I will see you this week or next, as we keep doing this hard, meaningful and awesome work together. I look forward to seeing you then.