I have always wished I was bilingual. Though I studied Spanish in high school and (briefly) in college, I never found enough time to devote myself to becoming fluent. When I chose to study abroad, rather than going somewhere to improve my Spanish, I opted for the place I'd wanted to visit since I was a child: London.
Despite this choice, my few years of Spanish study and my proclivity for languages have been somewhat beneficial. While studying in London, I spent my midterm break in France, visiting a high school friend who was studying at Collonges. Through context and determining root words using my understanding of Spanish, I was able to get the gist of most signs and flyers in French. Could I ask for directions or order an éclair in French? No. Could I understand what anyone speaking French was saying to me? No. But I could sing along with the praise songs during vespers with the words on the screen, and occasionally I even knew what I was singing.
About a year ago, while chatting with an acquaintance of mine, I happened to mention that I was interested in improving my Spanish but needed to find someone to practice with. She, an extensive traveler conversant in at least five languages and acquainted with people around the world, connected me with a newcomer to our community who had recently arrived from Argentina.
This wonderfully kind and sweet individual agreed to meet with me weekly to do a language exchange. She was eager to improve her English too, so we would spend part of the time speaking in English and part of the time speaking in Spanish, helping each other with vocabulary and pronunciation.
What has always impressed me about those who speak English as a second language is their ability to have intensely thoughtful, deep conversations in a language that is not their first one. They always insist their English is poor, but in my experience, they are wrong about that. My new friend is no different. When we get together we have meaningful conversations in English about altruism, education, healthcare, faith, and much more.
One time while we were chatting, my friend said something which made me stop in my tracks—something I’ve been pondering ever since.
“I view my walk with Christ much like my English-speaking skills," she said. "My growth will never stop; there is no destination, no end goal. Just like with my English, for the rest of my life, I will be studying, learning, and getting better in my relationship with God. It is a forever journey."
And so it is. I will only improve my Spanish if I study and practice reading, speaking, and listening to the language. And I will only ever improve my relationship with God if I study Him and regularly commune with Him; if I practice walking in His footsteps and heeding His guidance.
There is no destination, only a journey. And it is up to me to keep walking.
Becky St. Clair is a freelance writer living in California with her husband and three children. She has a decade of experience in public relations for the church, and currently writes and copyedits for various church entities around the world.