In a few short days, I will have been here for a whole month. Podgorica is starting to feel like home. My team is starting to feel like my family. Life on STINT is starting to get a rhythm.
We’ve now had two full weeks on campus. Our team of twelve has made literally hundreds of new friends. A few times now, we’ve been able to go a little deeper in our conversations with students.
All of this excites me. This is what I’m here to do: to learn the story of students, to share my own, to share the story of Christ, to talk about what it looks like to integrate their stories into His. There’s a problem though. I don’t speak their language. I’m trying to learn, but it’s not going to happen in a few short weeks.
Many of the students speak English fairly well. Communication, something that feels like such a natural and easy part of being human, is not a given when a language barrier is present.
Also, I’ve been really tired. Unlike the student population, most adults in Podgorica don’t speak English. So, going to the grocery store is always an adventure. Buying something is an act of faith. “I think this is sour cream, but it might be yogurt. I think I asked for two bananas, but it might have been two bunches of bananas.” At our training before we came here, a speaker during one of the sessions told us to be prepared to be tired all the time because it’s exhausting to feel stupid all the time.
So I know I’m in the sweet spot for the Lord to use me this year. Because I have no idea what I’m doing, because it’s hard simply to communicate, because I’m tired. I know that seems illogical, but take a look at what Paul says.
But he said to me, “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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions,in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)
Paul was given a thorn in his flesh. He doesn’t say exactly what it is, and I’m not going to speculate. The Lord uses the weakness, the thorn because it draws Paul to admit his own insufficiency and inadequacy. The Lord uses this thorn to push Paul to greater dependence upon Him and in so doing reveals what true strength is.
I’m still going to attempt to learn the language. I’m going to attempt to grow in my cultural competency. I’m going to rest and recuperate. But for now, my incompetency and exhaustion are a reminder of my deeper weakness: my brokenness, my sinfulness, my limits.
As I learn to embrace my rather obvious limits, my heart is beginning to embrace my deeper limits. I begin to accept myself as I am not as I portray myself to be. That’s freedom. That’s the sweet spot. That’s where God wants to meet me, showing me His love and drawing me to pour it out. That’s where He wants to meet the students I have the privilege to befriend. That’s where He wants to meet you too.