Language Learning is a Labor of Love

Last week I  listened to the 121 Community Church sermon podcast from that previous Sunday. There sermon was by the lead pastor, Ross Sawyers, who is one of the greatest pastors and preachers I have ever known.

As Ross made his way through 1 Corinthians 13:5, which say, “[Love] is not rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful,” he dug into rudeness, how it plays out in American culture and others as well, and how it relates to love. If you are interested in listening to the podcast you can find it on the 121 Community Church website. It’s so good I have listened to it twice in three hours.

There are so many good points in this sermon, but the one that made me stop and really think about my how this applies to this particular moment in my life was as Ross broke down the word “rude”, or in some translations “unbecoming,” as it applies to the environment in which we find ourselves.

He says, “Love would be to pre-study and understand whatever culture, whatever environment, whatever particular kind of occasion that you’re about to be a part of…that is actually loving someone well.”

He goes on to talk about motives. We can have very good etiquette and manners, but he says, “…is your motive to love people or is it a matter of preserving your own image so that you look good, you look right, in any particular setting. Or is there any other motive that drives it other than love because if you have good manners and good etiquette your simply a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. If it’s not motivated by love for people.”

Language learning has always, always been a struggle for me. I did horrible in Spanish in high school. I could barely count to ten in Spanish by the end of the year. Italian has not proved to be any easier. It is a language that I desperately want to master but at the same time I often feel kicked in the stomach by.

Until today, I had never considered that me learning this language well, so that I can speak without grammatical errors and with a diverse vocabulary, is loving. Diligently studying is loving. Making myself speak to people so that I can practice is loving. Sacrificing time and money in order to learn Italian better is loving.

But then I had to ask my motive. Too often my motive to learn Italian is because I am just tired of feeling left out of conversations, not being able to express myself, not wanting to look stupid. I want to be able to contribute. But why? It is because I want to be heard. This is a completely different issue that I am sure will come up with Counselor John in my next session.

If I’m am truly honest, yes, the above reasons are too often prevalent. I don’t think that they are all bad reasons. It’s a good thing to understand what is being said around you. It is a good thing to be able to accurately articulate what you want to say.It is a good thing to not feel stupid. But if these are my motives then I am nothing but a “noisy gong and a clanging cymbal”. I might as well pack my bags and go on back to where people speak my language.

But there is another prevailing reason for all these feelings that I feel. If I cannot understand and communicate clearly, then how can I ever build relationships that go beyond the superficial, speak truth into the lives of friends who are struggling,or share in their heartaches and joys. How will I ever effectively share Jesus with people if I cannot speak their language well? There has to be more motivation than just wanting to “fit in” or not “look stupid”.

However, I don’t know that it has ever been the driving force behind my desire to learn this beautiful language that surrounds me.

As I get ready to study this afternoon, I hope that I can be motivated by something different.

It is simply love.




2 thoughts on “Language Learning is a Labor of Love

  1. I also had a time learning Spanish in high school but I can still count to ten ,lol, but am sure you will learn what your need now. The Lord will help you and the good people there will understand and help also. Was with grandmother at WMU Monday and she looks great and is so much better. We are so thankful to have her able to come more now. I keep you and family in my prayers and know you are working for the Lord and he blesses you. So keep on studying it will come. love Billie

    • Thanks so much for the encouraging words, Mrs. Billie. It really is going ok. I am taking class and trying to be diligent in my studies, although it is hard,especially at night when I am tired. Mom has told me Granny is doing better. I only get to talk to granny when mom is with her because I don’t have a way to call her phone. Much love, MacKenzie

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