After almost thirty years of scrimping and saving to introduce my Italian husband to his homeland, we determined this would be the year for our pilgrimage. In preparation, my daughter attempted to teach me simple Italian phrases so I would not embarrass the family with the conglomeration of words and phrases I picked up in high school Cultural Studies.
A week before our launch into all things Italian, she handed me a cup of coffee followed by, “What do you say?”
“Danke! Bien! De nada! Merci!”
She gave me that authoritative look that said: “You know better than that”, which of course forced me to actually engage my brain to come up with the correct response, “Grazie!”
Generally I function on autopilot; flying by pre-programmed information my brain has picked up here and there. I know enough Spanish and French to be dangerous if questioned by any border patrols. I call my Bible “Biblioteca” which actually means library. I like German words like schnitzel and strudel and “Nein!”, which from me means, “Hands off my pastry!”
For the last three decades I’ve heard my in-laws’ thick Italian accents, with vowels added to ends of words, yet I know nothing of the true language of Italy. Legitimate words and their meanings hold no fluent place in my head. So I’m forced to resort to doggedly determined practice.
I’m not sure where I got the idea that anything worth knowing or doing will come to me naturally, but it takes hard work to think differently. Truth be told, I think I value the easy over the good I can obtain by working hard at something. And if I must work at it, I want to do it my way, on my terms. Like picking up random slang and nonsensical words without committing to learn the actual language of the culture. The hardest thing for me to do is immerse myself completely and intentionally in the discipline of learning.
It’s that way with God, too. I think pursuing Him should be the easiest part of my day when it is often the hardest. Not unpleasant, but hard, like the musician who must rehearse over and over to get it right. Naturally I want Him to come and bestow all goodness upon me without any effort on my part. Or, I get so tired from the things I’m doing FOR Him, I’m too lazy to actually learn FROM Him.
Romans. 12:1-2 says that offering myself to God is a sacrifice. It isn’t passive or lazy, and it certainly won’t happen on autopilot. It’s active and engaging requiring me to participate by presenting myself to Him in full surrender. Engaging with Him means I leave the piecemeal fabric of my brain behind and purposefully weave it with truth.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
…just living the thing.