Messy life; choose rest

7 Dec

Is there a correlation between desiring control and living with the illusion that life can be measured and ordered?

Recently in a couple of areas of life I’ve experienced the damaging effects of this tightly held perspective: enslavement, frustration and discontent.

Call it law versus grace.

The illusion looks like this:

  • If I follow the rules, then I should get the desired outcome

Or to put it another way:

  • Effort in = product out

I teach French.  To human beings. Recently I woke up to the fact that I had moved back to a outcome-based method of planning activities for my classes.  We all want to see results. But what I had forgotten was that I was working with human beings and not machines.

Language learning is messy because language is complex and the way the brain learns is not linear. Instead it’s multi-dimensional.  It doesn’t work to teach rules and practice them.  You almost have to approach language from inside out, by living it as though it is a living and organic thing (which it is) and not something to be impersonally dissected and then reassembled.

At last month’s ACTFL conference I was helped hearing Dr. Stephen Krashen once again. In the course of 2 workshops, he repeatedly explained how normal it is for students to acquire language in fits and starts, NOT necessarily sequentially, but even moving backwards at times reassured me.

Why should I be surprised?  Isn’t parenting similar? Or growth in Christlikeness? What works in all three of these arenas,

  • language learning (mother tongue AND subsequent languages)
  • raising children
  • Christian sanctification

is continuous, personal and compelling input.

For my French classes, students will acquire proficiency in the language if I keep up the comprehensible input in novel and compelling ways

For raising children it’s a matter of constant training, tailored to the circumstances and needs of each individual child.

For growth in holiness, it’s daily feeding on the Good News of Christ and the cross so I can SEE Christ.  For the Bible teaches that we become what we behold.

And isn’t that true about how our children turn out? If they SEE parents modeling a life of offering grace to one another, won’t that example and vision rub off on them?

And in my classroom, to the degree my students hear and understand language, won’t the mental symbol in their brains grow clearer, so that what comes out of their mouths is more and more accurate?

So my question to myself is this:

Can I live with messiness, with chaos knowing that over time, clarity will come?

A Sally Breedlove line nails this idea for me: “Rest is allowing the present to be imperfect.” 

My sons are now adults and I can’t go back and redo parenting.  But I am still teaching, and growing as a Christian.  So as long as I have breath and energy, I want to be known and experienced as a joyful French teacher and a happy Christian.

My new syllogism:

If I accept that acquiring language and Christian character are messy endeavors, then I can be at rest as I pursue those ends.

 

 

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