That phrase, along with its close friend non capisco, are my two most-used sentences in Italian courses.
“I don’t know.” “I don’t understand.”
Lately life’s been feeling a lot like Italian class: very confusing and utterly frustrating.
I’ve been enrolled in an Italian course each semester since the fall of my sophomore year. When my IT 102 professor suggested I bump my two-semester foreign language requirement up to a six-semester minor, I was encouraged and eager, so I did it. There have been moments in each of those classes when I questioned what possessed me to do such a ridiculous thing, but none quite as strong as this semester.
I’m currently enrolled in IT 323, better known as Italian conversation. Sounds molto bene, no?
No. No, is correct.
Don’t misunderstand, I love this language, the Italian culture and everything I’ve learned throughout this process, but sitting clueless in a room where English has been banished and your knowledge of the spoken language is limited? Quite intimidating.
I’ve had the preparation. I’ve put in study time (ok, definitely not enough, but at least some). I follow all the major Italian fashion magazines on Instagram. So what’s the deal?
That’s a question I’ve throwing at God a lot lately: what’s the deal?!
I balance friendships pretty well, don’t I? I rarely turn down social opportunities. I visit home as often as possible. I nurture my relationship healthily. So what’s the deal?
Typically I tend to be rather optimistic; if we’re being honest, idealistic is more my speed. Yet in light of recent happenings–the chaos that is senior year, intense family struggles, tensions in friendships and expectations for next steps–I left my heart wide open to the deep-seeping, death-seeking vine of bitter cynicism.
I’ve allowed unmet expectations and perceived silence from God dull the sparkle that I so love to see in the life around me. That bitterness has drained the life from me emotionally, academically, physically, socially and in every other possible way. It’s a weed that has to be killed at the root.
The root? Motivation.
My motivation for an Italian minor spurred from an early compliment and a desire to be ~cultured~ and multilingual. While that’s grown with further exposure to the language, my current motivation is to be a fluent Italian speaker. A large goal for a short amount of time and minimal practice opportunities–so every time I’m reminded that I’m not there yet, I’m more frustrated. To hold one solid conversation in Italian is a much more feasible bite.
In life I want to reach this *nonexistent* place where all my relationships–friends, family and romantic–are healthy and harmonious and lovely. So when one of those suddenly jumps off my carefully-herded path, I’m left throwing my arms up and cursing the air.
Long story short: unattainable goals choke our spirits. No amount of preparation will ever be enough for us to coast on through life and stop working; we’ve got to keep spraying those weeds. And it’s going to hurt.
That prep you’ve been working on so one day you’ll finally get there? Well, friend, it’s still going to hurt when that family member decides to walk away. It’s still going to hurt when that friendship comes to a tense draw and a difficult conversation. It’s still going to hurt when you part ways with old friends to take on life’s next season.
But you’ve got to keep spraying those weeds; we’ve got to work diligently in our pain and our waiting.
Pain doesn’t mean you stop progressing, it just means it’s gotten more challenging. Don’t hear me telling you that your struggles don’t matter, because that’s an absolute lie. But do hear me tell you that those struggles don’t have power over you. You’re going to make it to the other side.
Every battle you’ve faced thus far has prepared you for today, and today’s battle will prepare you for tomorrow. Your today might last for years. It might be the single most horrifying and dreadful experience of your life, but you’re going to make it to the other side.
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13 (NIV)
A few months ago I found this verse on Twitter and shared it with fellow seniors later that week at a senior dinner: “Even if nothing gets better than this crap I’m in right now, eternity is still a thing.” Some pals snickered at the seemingly-depressing humor in my statement, but it did (and continues to) fill me with so much hope. If nothing else, I’m confident in God’s eternal goodness to His people. And that’s enough.
That doesn’t stop me from being frustrated with the lack of answers about what’s going to happen with my future, my family, my friendships, but it sure helps me take a step back, brush off my hands and get back to work.
I’m not going to learn Italian if I let my frustrations shut me out of the class conversations. Yes, it’s hard (much harder than I’d like it to be), but it’s worth the work.
I’m not going to see God’s faithfulness in the midst of life’s trials if I let bitterness cloud my heart. He’s not inflicting pain on my life; He’s using broken, sinful situations to strengthen my endurance for His glory.
That’s just going to take time, and in that time there’s going to be hardship. It’s inescapable, no matter how badly that truth stinks.
But if we really trust the God of Easter, the God who used a Friday of mourning and a Saturday of ignorance to lead to the Sunday of resurrection, surely we can trust that same God to resurrect ourselves.
I can only imagine the frustration and confusion the disciples felt on Saturday, to wake up and realize it wasn’t a dream, to be so certain in your logically-thinking flesh that everything you’d trusted was at its end. If I’ve ever felt that soul-deep longing for answers, it’s been this season of life.
But thankfully I, we, know a hope-filled truth the disciples of Saturday did not: Sunday is coming. And as certain as I am that Christ rose to defeat death on that first Easter Sunday, I’m confident that I will see the goodness of the Lord. I’ll endure to the finish and work while I wait because it’s worth it.