Most people have an oral crutch like “um” or “uh” which they they use to pause and gather their thoughts as they converse. My oral crutch is “I’m sorry but I don’t speak spanish very well.”
Yeah...It’s kinda long.
But it does two important things for me. One, it buys me some time to process what whoever I’m talking to has just said. But the other thing it does, the really cool thing it does, is beg forgiveness. In fact, sometimes I actually say, “You’ll have to forgive my Spanish, it’s horrible.”
It works wonders. The person on the receiving end of that statement instantly transforms into a mini-tutor, speaking slowly, enunciating carefully, and repeating themselves with the purpose and determination of a kindergarten teacher in September to help me along in the conversation. It’s awesome. It’s also terribly manipulative.
So the other day I was talking with someone and, as is my custom, I said something like, “Forgive me, I’m still getting used to things here in Costa Rica.”, and he smiled and said, “Oh, how long have you been here?”
“....Well...I’ve been here for.....three....years...”
He didn’t say it, but I could see the disappointment behind his eyes. He was thinking, “Three years is a long damn time to be ‘getting used to things”. And I could feel the embarrassment burning a path straight from my chest, up the sides of my neck and onto to my cheeks, like a lighthouse beacon, screaming, “Watch Out! This chick is asking for way more grace than she deserves!!”
It’s been bugging me ever since.
See, the thing is, it took that particular moment for me to realize that it’s just not reasonable for me be asking other people to take on the burden of my inability to communicate at this point. It’s not reasonable for me to expect the people here to continue to treat me as though I just stepped off the plane, three years after the fact.
It’s not cool. It looks bad. Like, really, really bad. It’s like the grace period for figuring things out has expired.
And then that got me to thinking about other junk that I’ve been hanging on to (crap that I’ve let linger in my life but that really should have been gone looong ago) while saying, too often and for too long, “Whoops, sorry! But you forgive me, right, God? You’ll give me more time to get it together, figure things out, ya know, ‘get used to things’....Won’t you, God?”
And it’s not that He’ll says no. It’s not that He might put the brakes on the mountains of grace that He piles on my head every day. That’s not it at all. I’m not saying that there’s a limit to God’s grace. I know that God doesn’t give us time frames, nor does He turn from us when we fail to let go of the things that continually tear our gaze from Him. I’m just saying that at some point we could be relying so heavily on God’s grace that it’s more of a manipulation than it is a necessity .
Does that even make sense?
I’m saying that, personally, I would rather invoke grace than actually change. And that’s not ok.
Speaking spanish is freaking hard work. It makes my brain go all wonky. It takes study, and practice, and time that I could be using to write a blog, or lay in the sun, or eat cupcakes or something. (Yeah. I said cupcakeSss, plural. Back off.) It’s just that it’s waaay easier for me to demand grace from others than it is for me to change myself.
So I decided to ditch my oral crutch. Not even kidding.
I hired a tutor and said, “forgive my terrible spanish” for the last time! (It was on the bus. A guy asked me where the last stop was and I said “Sorry, I no espeaky espaneesh!”. Ironically, I was on my way to see the tutor. But I haven’t said it since.... Ok... I have. BUT I’m not going to anymore.) So that’s pretty cool, right?
And I think I’ll be putting in a little more effort in some other areas as well because I really don't want to get face to face with God and have Him be all, “Jeez, 89 years seems like a hell of a lot of time to break a caffeine addiction.” Ya know?... How embarrassing would that be?
What's YOUR oral crutch?