Kick my Crutches out from under Me

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I’ve heard many times that when a person loses one of their senses the other senses become more sensitive and acute in order to compensate for the loss.

I have been speaking Spanish for 6 years now.  I have “Good Spanish Days” where things flow smoothly and “Bad Spanish Days” where my words are clunky and awkward.  I have days when I can’t understand anything anyone is saying to me.  I have days when I want to hide in my house and not speak Spanish to anyone.  I have days when I dread, I mean dread, going to a meeting or get-together because it’s all going to be in Spanish.  I used to loathe going to church and sitting through a 5 hour Spanish service with my 20 minute attention span.  (Those were the days I would end with a migraine from concentrating so hard.)  When I get nervous or angry, I sound like an babbling idiot.

When we first started learning Spanish I wanted to tell everyone I spoke with, “I know I sound like a 2 year old, but I’m really quiet intelligent in English.”  I was usually a sentence or two behind in any given conversation, and even when I wanted to participate by the time I formulated a reply, the moment of opportunity had long passed.  Having my language abilities drastically limited was like receiving a devastating wound, like losing a limb or losing one of my senses.  I felt handicapped, marginalized, ignored, depressed and frustrated.  It changed me in ways I will never be able to fully explain.

Before we left for the mission field I was a pretty shy person, very private and not inclined to talk much with people I didn’t know.  After 3 years of being immersed in Spanish every day we returned to Minnesota for our first furlough.  I noticed the change in my personality right away.  I couldn’t stop talking to people- total strangers- everywhere I went!  It was like I had 3 years worth of English words bottled up inside of me and someone shook the bottle and popped the top!  I just gleefully exploded on the people in the grocery store line behind me, the kid working the McDonald’s drive thru window, anyone in a coffee shop… And the weird thing was that I knew I was  acting like a lunatic, but I couldn’t stop!  It was like having an out of body experience where I saw myself freaking out all these quiet, Minnesota Scandinavians and inside my head I was telling myself, “Shut up!  These people don’t care that you’ve just moved back from Mexico.”  But it was just so EASY to speak now because it was in English.  I had changed.

Another thing that I noticed about myself was more spiritual.  Because my natural crutch of English had been kicked out from under me I found myself relying more on my spiritual sensitivity, especially in churches and in God-related settings.  When I didn’t understand the words of the song, couldn’t understand what the pastor is saying, didn’t have the Bible verses memorized in this new language I actually could FEEL the Holy Spirit much more quickly and more intensely than in the past.  It was like being blinded, yet suddenly seeing with my heart.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but because I had lost something so vital to me, something that helps me relate to those around me, my spirit was cleared of lots of clutter.  I couldn’t excuse my non-participation by saying “Oh, I don’t like that song” or “This guy is boring to listen to”.  My language crutch was gone and I had to stand alone- and that’s when I noticed God standing beside me and supporting me.  It was a painful and sweet experience.

I still have bad Spanish days.  I’m getting better, but I’m probably the least fluent missionary on my field.  But I would rather feel God close to me than to not.  I’d rather stand with the support of God than to stand on my own and ignore my crutches.  Please God, Kick my crutches out from under me and help me to stand with you.

About amamiot

My family and I are missionaries in Costa Rica. Before that we lived in Mexico and before that we came from Minnesota. I am a teacher, an artist, a "journaler", a quilter, a cooker, a baker, a hostess, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I like reading and watching movies (ehem, and quoting movie lines). I would love to be in a Jane Austin movie but I don't know how to ballroom dance or play Whist.

11 responses »

  1. I don’t know how I found you, but I am glad I did. Love reading your blog. I f I lived near you, I think we would be friends. lol Have a great day and keep up the good work.

  2. Mrs A – I am not much of blog reader, but i did read this one all the way through. (Fantastic job by the way) I had to laugh, and almost cry, with you. I so “feel your pain.” We haven’t gone home for our 1st itineration yet, but I am quite sure it will be the same way.

    I remember missionary guest speakers at language school talking about how trying to communicate in a 2nd language was the hardest thing they had ever gone through. How hard it was, how humiliating, etc, etc. I sat there thinking, “Oh come on! Don’t be such a wuss.” Now, I know what they are talking about. Ha!

    Thanks for being so transparent and honest. It is veeeeery refreshing. We lived it all the time as Youth Pastors for nearly 20 years. Somehow as missionaries, with the whole world watching – pastors, churches, supporters, national leaders, your neighbors, etc, – you get the idea – it has become much harder for me & I loath it. I wish I could be more transparent. Thank you for being so.

    May God bless you guys greatly!
    May He not only grow that “lost sense” back in a 2nd language, but still help keep your other senses sharpened –

    Paz Familia Amiot – Paz : )

    • THanks so much for reading my blog! I really enjoy it when others find pleasure or comfort in something I’ve written. I know what you mean about living in the public eye- we’ve been in ministry for 17 years now and I’m a pastor’s kid myself. It’s really all I know, but I still am aware of the pressure to be perfect.

      Being transparent is risky, I understand. But I find the rewards outweigh the dangers.

      When we were in Language school I remember trying to tell my teacher about a wonderful experience I had with a new friend over the weekend and I just dissolved into tears because I couldn’t express how special the experience was for me. My teacher comforted me by saying, “but we SEE your heart even though your words aren’t good enough.” ANd ever since then that has been my prayer, that people would SEE my heart and SEE Jesus in me even if my words are awkward and broken. I have made some of the best friends of my life on the mission field and I can’t wait for the day when we are all in heaven and can understand each other. But in the mean time my heart aches to be able to tell my friends just what they mean to me. I think they see it in me though.

      Honesty is refreshing, you can be honest here.
      Blessings,
      April

  3. Love this post April…been struggling with the language issues here in Thailand for the past 17 months. And yes, I do feel the spiritual side of my life is much stronger now that I can’t really count on the communication side to be very effective.

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