“Same old same old.” I answered with a smart aleck smirk.
“Ah, but how are you feeling about the same old same old is probably the better question?”
“Indeed it is.” Not sure that I ever answered the question, I got up from the breakfast table (that’s right, I’ve adopted the age old tradition of eating breakfast since moving to S. Sudan...imagine that.) cleared my dishes, washed them at the sink, left the team house and slunk back to my house to fulfill my morning’s task of reading a bit of the gospel of Luke - another age old tradition I’m trying to adopt (reading scripture on a daily basis)...feeling generally discouraged about the language learning process and my part in it, and as it turns out, God noticed. Imagine that.
The portion on the slate for this morning? Chapter 5. Shall I refresh your memory? no problem, don’t mention it :)
The chapter begins with Jesus getting into Simon’s boat on the Sea of Galilee, with a couple other boats nearby, Jesus asks Simon and his buddies to head out a bit from the shore and then stop so he can teach the crowd gathered on the shore from the boat. He does His teaching thing, then things get particularly interesting...
Jesus tells Simon and his buddies to go out further into the lake where it’s deep and cast their nets. Simon’s response? Priceless.
“Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”
Essentially he tells Jesus, “Are you kidding?! We’ve been working all night and have NOTHING to show for it. But you are Jesus, so because you’ve asked, I’ll do it.”
You may remember what happens next. Brings the term “boat load” to new heights :) After they cast their nets, the nets filled to the point of starting to break under the weight of all the fish - they called their buddies to come with their boats to help bring in the catch - and the boats start sinking they're so full!
Simon’s response? Again, priceless.
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Jesus’ response is a bit curious to me...
“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
But the guys drop everything - all those fish they just caught - and follow Jesus wherever He’s off to.
Me and Simon, we’d be pretty tight I think. He says it like it is, doubt and blatant pronouncements of practical realities and all...reminding Jesus of just how ridiculous his request is...
You want me to do what? Go into the highways and byways of Mundri and plop my shy, extremely self conscious self down and whip out a few phrases in Arabic about what things are located near the roundabout and what kind of juice I want to order from the restaurant??!?! Just drum up some toddler like arabic conversations from thin air? Right. Who are you kidding?!?!?! I’ve been pressing on for more than a month and I still can only understand a few words, if that, when people talk to me...
But see Simon knew what was up. He knew Jesus was worth listening to, no matter how crazy ridiculous the request. Simon knew the value of the “trust and obey” mantra.
Okay, God I’ll go. I’ll go sit with Wilma again today. I’ll go try out a couple new phrases...Today I’ll do what you’ve asked of me, and for now, that means learning and practicing a bit more Arabic. I doubt that I’ll ever be able to follow and participate in conversation, I doubt that you, God, can actually bring Arabic proficien about in my life, but today you’ve put a lesson and the market in front of me. So I’ll go.
Maybe tomorrow will be progress towards the next step...the believing that He has the power to accomplish this crazy language thing in my life...maybe, just maybe. But how encouraging, to see God blow Simon’s lousy expectations and doubt TOTALLY out of the water...almost literally!
And then maybe the day after tomorrow there will be repentance for the doubt and lousy expectations and unbelief in my heart...
As I headed out the door, after having told Larissa about God’s gift to me in Luke 5 as I read, she hollered “remember the boats!”
Funny thing is I corrected her, telling her it was the nets I wanted to remember. But as I road off around the office towards the road, tears started rolling down my cheeks. In the echo of Larissa’s holler after me as I left the house, I heard my mom’s voice as she hollered after us as we headed out the door to school in St. Louis - “Remember who’s in your boat!”
My mom knew who Simon’s belief/unbelief battle was with, and she wanted us to remember He was with us as we walked through whatever He had for us that day. We rolled our eyes, being the teenagers we were, but the tears were rolling today in S. Sudan as I heard the echo of her voice of truth through Larissa.