I do remember 1977. Not every bit of it, of course. But I have my selective memory retention intact. The Late 70’s Memory File was reopened this morning when I heard my two teenage sons speaking Spanish. The younger boy was hurriedly running through various Spanish words and phrases in preparation for what I can only assume was a test of some sort in Spanish class. My older son, who completed two years of Spanish, was busy peppering his brother with more foreign terms, probably only serving to confuse the whole situation. Mixed in with the dialogue was the giggling of my first-grade daughter who just thought the boys sounded pretty silly.
With this odd mix of United Nations and slumber party running through my ears, I thought back to 1977. I was a freshman in high school taking Spanish I under the tutelage of Mrs. Kaye-Smith. We had the technologically-superior classroom, with trays of headphones that descended from the ceiling at the press of a button so we could learn our second language with the help of a state-of-the-art reel-to-reel tape recording.
I thought back to what I learned during those sessions. I learned basic words and phrases. I learned to conjugate verbs. And I learned how to create feedback in a pair of headphones.
I began to think to myself that I really should learn a second language. Spanish would be the most obvious choice since I already had a head start — a year of Spanish! Maybe I could pick up one of those “Muzzy” videos or a set of CDs for the car or even some computer software. My heart started to pick up the pace as I realized that I could certainly build on that year of headphone-enriched language skills. All it would take to be fluent in Spanish would be taking the time to study and memorize and learn and practice and…
Then I remembered 2008. “I don’t have time to do all that!” I reminded myself. “It’s all I can do to find time to mow the lawn and buy gas before the price changes.”
Sadly, that’s the way yet another brilliant inspiration ended. There in the driver’s seat of my car, my future as a bilingual quickly died. I could probably pull it off but it would mean dedication, sacrifice, and well, work. The ability to speak Spanish just isn’t a big enough reward for me to use up my spare time to achieve the goal.
It didn’t stop there. Oh, no. Once my mind starts filing through the memory banks, it apparently can’t stop. I was reminded of many other goals, promises, vows, and New Year’s resolutions that had suffered the same fate as my mastery of the Spanish language. Whatever happened to the closet I was going to build? What about starting that online business? And what happened to the whole exercise every day and get myself in shape promise?
I know most people have encountered the same experience. You set that goal of walking or running a mile every day, and the first five days go incredibly well. Then on Day Six it’s raining pretty hard and the decision has to be made. The real decision happens on Day Seven after missing a day and wondering if it’s all worth starting again.
I know people who set goals and try to stick to them. Read the Bible every day. Take self-defense classes. Stop smoking. Learn Spanish. Some people succeed. My dad gave up smoking cold turkey, an accomplishment I attribute mostly to his stubborn streak.
Many of the rest of us fall flat after some initial success. I think it comes down to, as one of my old coaches used to say, “How bad you want it.” If I see the goal as important enough, I’ll buckle down, make the sacrifice, put in the effort, and eventually succeed. If I am not convinced that achieving the goal is that big of a deal, I might as well wear a t-shirt that reads, “Quitter” across the front.
Others don't even try, not out of an inability to do something, but either a fear of failing or an overwhelming laziness. I have talked to many, many people about their need to read the Bible. I am convinced that it is the major way God communicates His truth to us. Yet far too many Christians refuse to make it a habit.
"I don't read very well."
"I don't like to read."
"I don't have time to read."
"I fall asleep when I read."
I've heard 'em all. But no matter the excuse, no matter the reasoning behind the failure to crack open the Good Book, it comes down to the question of how badly we want to do it. And, truth be told, far too many Christians don't see a real value in reading and studying Scripture. If we did believe it was important and we would get something out of it, WE WOULD ALL BE DOING IT!
As I drove this morning with the echoes of conjugated Spanish verbs still ringing in my ears, I understood that my mastery of Spanish will never go much beyond a Mexican restaurant menu. I don't value that skill enough to pull away from my fears or my limitations or my laziness. What we value, we will try to accomplish. And with God's strength, we can accomplish anything. Even reading, studying, and finding joy in a centuries-old Book.