Language Learning: What I really learned

I remember my very first Chinese class so vividly. I remember the walk to the classroom… feeling SO excited… and then walking home feeling even more excited. I felt excited to study, excited to explore, excited to communicate, excited to be excited. Just…so much EXCITEMENT. A couple of weeks later, the inevitable happened and the excitement quickly turned more so into an ebb and flow of emotions rather than an “ohmygoshimsoexcitedeverysingleday!!!” The ebb and flow (like most ebbing and flowing of sorts) kind of went like this…. excitement, discouragement, feeling totally awesome, feeling totally stupid, victory, embarrassment, joy, frustration, loneliness, elatedness, emotionless, closeness to Jesus…I never thought that such a wide range of emotions could be felt not just numerous times per week, but per day, per hour, per conversation.
Through it all, these past two years have been an incredible learning curve…academically, spiritually and personally. I have been trying to take some time aside to reflect on this season, as to have some sort of “closure”. However, every time I sat down to have some “concentrated processing time” or whatever you want to call it, I usually just ended up staring at the wall thinking…”what just happened”. Or, I listened to worship music and just got teary eyed with no words to document my somewhat emotional experience. So, how did I begin the process of processing?  I guess I’ll begin by telling you what I did not do: I did not write a list of questions to process through, and I did not read through my journal. I did not listen to a podcast on “closure and transition” and I did not have a week of debriefing (though, I probably should do all of those things, haha…seriously though)
Instead, I just asked myself one simple question.
“What did I really learn?”….
So, without further adieu, in two years of language study, here is what I really learned….
It’s not just about language, it’s definitely just about Jesus. It’s about knowing people, it’s about sharing truth with people who need to know Jesus and it’s about encouraging the weary and discouraged. It’s about loving others. It’s about recognizing that God is bigger than language barriers and yet formed our brains in a way that we can be continual learners…somewhere packed in that thing, we can retain it…weird.
I am not fluent. My Chinese is definitely still broken. But, it’s about Jesus. Yes I have studied language and invested into language and I believe that God will always use that no matter where He takes me in life…but more than that, God has invested into his and my relationship, He has invested into Me. I cannot believe how incredibly committed and invested God is into my life. More than language, I feel like my relationship with Jesus has been strengthened. He has spoken so tenderly to me in this season, as I have navigated through the unknown and at times, butchered the known. Daily, His presence and grace covered me even when I forgot to ask for it or didn’t think that I needed it.
I learned that there will always be more to learn. I learned that in order to get anywhere in life, you’re going to have to risk looking stupid and resist the temptation to compare your calling, progress and ability with others. I learned that by saying one word in the wrong tone has potential to offend a lot of people and that by saying one word in the right tone at the wrong time, has potential to offend a lot of people. I learned that it’s possible to think in another language, dream in another language, and even communicate with God in another language.He has reminded me of what truly matters in this life when I get caught in the details of tones, RVE’s and SV’s. He has held me closely as I walk through personal struggles, surprised me with random blessings and provided financially for every single class. He has given me the strength to endure through routine breakdowns and setbacks. He has gently lifted my head when I got way to lost in my own thoughts and bad habits. When I leaned on my own understanding, He lifted my head, took hold of my heart and held me close to His. He has sent me friends along the way to encourage me, to get me out on the weekends, to make me be spontaneous (which oddly enough, never used to be a problem), to play games, and to do ministry together. He has been my light in the darkness, my anchor in the storm, my joy in the unknown, my vision…the Lord of my heart and every time I asked Him “Is this going to be forever”, He said, “Chinese class is not forever, but you and I are, Anna.

I have so much gratefulness in my heart as a chapter in my life closes…and as one chapter closes,  a new one awaits to be opened. I will admit, last week I did have somewhat of a “Wilson moment”. Do you know what I’m talking about?  The epic scene from the movie Castaway where Tom Hank’s character, Chuck Noland, after having built a raft in attempts to escape the desert island, is caught in a storm out on the ocean. The following day, he realizes that his beloved friend, his companion of 4 years, a Wilson Volleyball with a blood stained hand print and smiley face, affectionately named “Wilson”, did not survive the storm on the raft. Wilson was too far to retrieve and drifted off to an unreachable, un-swimable distance…and well, we all know the rest of the story. Cue: moving, emotional music and Chuck screaming “Wilson, I’m sorry, I’m sorry Wilson, Wilson, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Wilson! I can’t! Wilson, WIIILLSOOON…..” That scene still tugs at the sensitive little feeler heartstrings in me. To some degree, I feel that I too am holding on to the side of a makeshift raft maybe screaming to my companion, my beloved friend affectionately named “Chinese Class” something like “Chinese Class, Chinese Class CHINESE CLASS, CHIIINEEEESSEEEE CLLLAASSSSSSSS” (okay but maybe not the “I’m Sorry” part).
The encompassing emotion brings on the feeling of hanging on and yet letting go or perhaps the feeling of familiarity preparing for its dismount. So, here we go…whatever the dismount may be (probably awkward and a little shaky), I’m excited for what lies ahead. As I look back and reflect on what God has done in the past two years, I’m looking forward to seeing what He does in the future.
So, what’s next? Well, you will have to stay tuned to my next blog where I elaborate on that:) For those of you who hate surprises, (I say that and yet sometimes, I hate them…well I just hate them when someone announces that they have a surprise…the announcement of a surprise is not a surprise, just sayin’) So, the short version is that I will be joining Titus Project within the Biblical Studies Department. Soon, I will post a new blog and will elaborate a bit more on my plan, opportunities and vision for this new season. So, stay tuned.

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