Lisa* and her husband live in Israel, where they bridge the gap between Arabs and Israelis to share the hope of Jesus Christ.
My husband jokes that I would do most of my communication without words if I could. I must confess that growing up with four sisters, I learned to supplement my verbal communication with a strong dose of understated facial expressions and quiet intuition. That being said, I have found myself in situations in which even I was longing for an audible flow of just the right words.
My first years in the Middle East, I threw myself into learning Arabic. I studied 4 hours a days, 5 days a week, and that was just the classroom time. Even with all of this investment and energy, it seems to take forever to have the skills to do the most basic things in Arabic.
One day, early on in our time in our new city, I was standing at an intersection waiting for the lights to change so as to safely cross the street. Entering the road before the light changed was a no-no as the street was nicknamed in Arabic, “street of death.” I looked to my side and saw that a blind woman was also waiting for the light change.
My heart sank as I realized that if she needed my help in any way, I would have no words to use to communicate with her. At that moment, I felt truly helpless.
Moments of feeling inadequate are pretty common while living overseas in a different culture, surrounded by new languages. Situations arise for which I don’t have the background, skills or knowledge required.
What I do with those moments of inadequacy is crucial. I can keep a catalog of those moments, letting each new instance increase my feeling of not measuring up. Or I can take the moments, acknowledge them as the painful, learning events they are, and allow them to drive me to a grace-based dependence on my Father rather than towards despair or defeat. From that new place of rest, a realism-based security, I launch out once again to engage my world.
The next day I went back to Arabic class, fueled by that encounter, desiring the words I needed to accompany and communicate the compassion I felt for the people amongst whom I live.