Sunday, March 24, 2013

Confessions of a Hebrew Student

Last week, my Hebrew professor was talking about the discipline of studying a language. She mentioned that the whole point of focusing on something like grammar is so that it can become "subsidiary:" as readers of a language, we don't focus on things like jerunds or participles; rather, we read the sentences those words build, in order to understand what is "focal:" the ideas and meanings they convey. What's so unnatural and difficult about studying a language is that for a time, we have to make the "subsidiary" focal-- memorizing the alphabet, practicing handwriting, mastering vocab, remembering how participles decline-- AKA boring stuff, that we suffer through in order to get to the good stuff, being able to understand a language. 

But, she also reminded us that this is something we've committed before the Lord to do, something we feel called to study. We've signed up for school and therefore, doing it well is an act of obedience and worship. In that way, something like studying vocab is more than just focusing on the subsidiary: it's focal too, because worship is the main focus of our lives. If worship yesterday looked like being a good barista at Starbucks, and worship today looks like studying Hebrew with integrity, and worship tomorrow looks like changing diapers with grace or preparing a sermon with humility or noticing a neighbor's need and helping to meet it, then it is focal: it is an end in itself, not just a means to an end. 

I nodded and smiled and said "amen" during her little sermonette in class, then found myself cursing later after I sat scratching my head for hours during the homework. "This is way too hard. How ridiculous! I quit." As I looked around the room for something to throw-- hard-- I remembered what she said about the very act of studying being focal, in the sense that it is about worship. It is a sanctifying endeavor. I realized that a vocab list had been used of the Lord to expose my pride, impatience, and anger. I remembered that obedience sometimes means doing things that aren't fun, don't feel good, and have no instant gratification to offer. I understood that this Hebrew homework session was actually about far more than mastering vocab; it was about my heart. 

What does obedience look like for you right now? Does it comfort you to know that the difficult, slow, boring, and frustrating times are ones of great significance in your life?

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