Normally, I love learning. I'm that weird person who misses studying at school. I would be quite content to live in a library as long as a steady stream of tea and coffee were provided. However, in ministry, I find there's pressure to be perfect and complete in one's knowledge of theology, culture, and the local language. In contrast, the things I know the most about are probably poetry and a plethora of useless trivia. I can teach you how to build a trebuchet or help a horse with colic, but I can't quote whole books of the Bible. I'm snarky and stubborn, and I understand that I'm not exactly the ideal candidate for evangelism. Still, somehow three months into this experience, I feel the need to be perfect and fluent and know how to navigate an extremely relational and circumstantial cross-cultural position. For the first time, I find myself a bit embarrassed to be a student. Unfortunately, (spoiler alert) I have a lot to learn, and God isn't surprised.
In a recent move up the side of one of the mountains around Grenoble, I find myself at a Bible college for further training, and that's okay. In fact, it's actually normal. Throughout the Bible, there are instances of God leading people towards education and understanding. Before Daniel was told to have a slumber party in a lions' den and Shadrach and company were having their toes toasted with Jesus, they were selected to serve and subsequently trained for three years by the king's chief of court officials in "the language and literature of the Babylonians" (Daniel 1:4). These men were taken from their land and had to learn the language and ways of the new place. Even Daniel needed a little education. No one goes into another country with a complete understanding of what it's like. There is always at least a little cultural shock, so time is required to learn and prepare. Likewise, in Acts 18, Apollos had to be taught beyond the basics to be effective. He was on fire for the Lord, but he needed assistance in the theology department, so Priscilla and Aquila helped him out. In short, it's okay for me to still be learning. No one is born with books of knowledge preprogrammed into their brains. Each person is taught what they need to know as they go.
So how do I deal with the pressure to be perfect for this position? I let it go. As it turns out, I can learn and serve simultaneously, something built into this curriculum. Among other things, I have the opportunity to work with a local group in Grenoble working with university students, a very similar ministry to what I would be doing if I were currently fluent. I am a totally unqualified, former English major living in France, and that's how God works. He takes us as we are in our weakness to further his own glory. Paul wrote about his own affliction and weakness in 1 Corinthians 12:9 relaying the words of the Lord writing, "'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." God is in the business of transforming people into useful tools for his purposes. He works out of our weakness to do his will. In my insufficiency, God is made greater, and I know every good thing has to come from him.