IVP - Strangely Dim - Shalom, Anyone?

September 29, 2010

Shalom, Anyone?

A week or two ago I babysat for two fantastic boys, ages three and four, so their parents could go on a date. I was feeling great about how the evening was going. But then, out of the blue, an innocent question from the eldest: "Do you know Hebrew?"

This from the child whose teeth I'm helping to brush, whose Cars pajamas I will help him into momentarily--and whose father, a coworker of mine, does know Hebrew and is teaching it to these very boys. Do I know Hebrew? Well. Shalom is Hebrew, right? "Shalom your pajamas on!" I should have shouted in response. "Shalom to bed now!" Somehow I don't think they would have been impressed. What I said instead was a very demure "No, I don't." It's hard to admit to the pre-K crowd what you don't know.

"My daddy knows Hebrew," he replied (again, so innocently).

"I know," I humbly responded. "I've asked your daddy Hebrew questions before." (My teeth-brushing chant that got them from the kitchen into the bathroom to start the bedtime routine no longer seemed like such a remarkable accomplishment.)

But then the conversation was done, and they seemed fully accepting of me and my lack of Hebrew as I read Bible stories to them in English (the only measly language I know, in case you've forgotten).

After they were safely nestled in bed, I settled down on the couch with a light, easy-reading, very nonscholarly (read: no Greek or Hebrew knowledge needed) magazine. Humbling as their question was, I have to admit that it was one of my favorite parts of the night. It's why I think it's so good for me to be around children. They remind me of my limits but accept me anyway, which helps me laugh at all I don't know.

And really, our own limits, whether physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, spatial, verbal or what have you, are why we need relationship with others: I need you to do what you're able to that I can't (like, say, translate Hebrew), and you need me to do what you can't. I need to hear (or, by extension, read) your perspective, see through your eyes, learn from your knowledge--and not just from you, but also from my coworkers and my friends and my family and my church and the woman I'm behind in line at the grocery store.

Moreover, our limits also turn us toward God by reminding us of our own humanness. Though we don't always see it this way, needing God and needing others is part of the beauty and genius of how we're made. Contrary to popular opinion and well-known songs, we are not rocks, or islands, or the one, solitary sailboat afloat on the great lake that is our world . . . (Ahem. Sorry.)

Letting our limits lead us to--instead of away from--God and others is a choice, however. I, for example, don't have much experience working closely with and tangibly helping the poorest of the poor. If the opportunity or desire to do that comes up for me, I can either run from it because it feels too big, too hard and too overwhelming, or I can admit the limits of my experience and knowledge and ask for help, by talking with people I know who are doing it, or by reading about the experiences of those who are serving in Third World countries. When I see my own sin, for another example, I can turn away from God because I'm afraid he'll reject me, or I can ask for his--and others'--forgiveness, and let the grace he shows form me more into his likeness. We can choose to let our ignorance make us fearful and defensive, or we can let it move us to learn. We can wallow in our limitations, or we can seek out people--and people's books--that help us live and think more faithfully in this world we dwell in.

I admit, this is hard for me. Being an introvert, I'd often rather do things on my own. Being single, I've learned to do a lot of things on my own, and generally like the independence I feel as a result. And having some pride in me (unfortunately), I'd rather not admit what I don't know or make myself vulnerable by asking for help. But the richness of all that others have brought to my life, and the innocence and humility and acceptance of children as they learn and grow, and the grace of God that I'm only just beginning to know the depths of, make me want to keep trying. So ask me for help when you need it. I'll ask you for help. And, uh, shalom to us all in the process.
Posted by Lisa Rieck at September 29, 2010 10:02 AM Bookmark and Share


A good proofer, editor and writer like you--you'd do well in Hebrew. And love it! But next, they'll ask you if you know any Greek. (Answer: Sure, I know a little Greek. He runs a restaurant down the street.)

Comment by: Dan at October 1, 2010 11:15 AM

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Dan! I actually have thought at points about taking Hebrew and Greek (though I doubt that will ever actually happen). Now, though, I don't need to, since you've given me a great response to the Greek question . . .

Comment by: Lisa at October 1, 2010 11:47 AM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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