28 November 2010

From Foreign to Familiar

After the Bible, the book that has (and continues to) impacted my spiritual walk the most is M.J. Stanford's The Green Letters: Principles of Spiritual Growth. In it he has a chapter on the concept of REST. While discussing Hebrews 4:9-11a he says: " 'Let us labor therefore to enter into the rest.' As for labor, it is true that there is a great deal of struggling and searching, pleading and agonizing, in the process of discovering and understanding truths fitted to our needs." A few paragraphs later and he quotes Norman Grubb saying:
Take as example the learning of a foreign language. You are faced with a series of hieroglyphics in a book, you hear a medley of sounds around, which mean absolutely nothing. Yet you know that it is a language that can be learned. More than that you have gone there to learn it. Now that is the first rung in the ladder of faith. However weak or waveringly, in your heart you do believe that you can and will get it. Otherwise, obviously you wouldn't try to learn it. So you plod on. Many a time faith and courage fail, the mind is weary and the heart is heavy, and you almost give up. But not quite. To give up is faith's unforgivable sin. On you go at it. Months pass. It seems largely to go in one ear and out the other. Then--the length of time depends on the difficulty of the language and the ability and industry of the pupil of course--a miracle seems to happen. The day or period comes when, without your hardly realizing it, what you are seeking has found you; what you are trying to grasp has grasped you! You just begin automatically to speak the language, to think it, to hear it. What was an incomprehensible jumble of sounds without, ha become an ordered language within the mind.

So, in the spiritual labor of faith, the moment or period comes when know. Every vestige of strain and labor is gone. Indeed, faith, as such is not felt or recognized any more. The channel is lost sight of in the abundance of the supply. As we came to know that we were children of God by an inner certainty, a witness of the Spirit in our spirits; so now we come to know that the old 'I' is crucified with Christ, the new 'I' has Christ as its permanent life, spirit with Spirit have been fused into one; the branch grafted into the vine; the member joined to the body, the problem of abiding becomes as natural as breathing.

Thank God for the needs that just will not allow the hungry heart to stop short of finding them me in Him
When reading this chapter before August 2009, I knew there would come a day that this chapter meant so much more to me.  Before emabarking on this journey I was confident that at some point I would be able to speak French.  There were many moments (sometimes 'moments' of a more extended duration) that I hoped more than believed that I would get there . . . days and weeks that I doubted the possibility of arriving at a point where primative communication would be a reason for rejoicing, let alone a logical cohesive conversation!  I questioned (frequently) every being able to have a discussion in French that went deeper than the surface.

But then one day it happened.  And I didn't even realize it.  I just found myself there.  Speaking and listening in a new language.  Not just strange words put in the 'right' order . . . real communication . . . shared experiences! 

So here's to the process!  The journey!  A tangible metaphor for better understanding the grafting of the branch with the vine!

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