Reneging on Reneging

Before I get started, I’d like to point to this post on The Sexy Celibate; not only is it something worth reading, it’s also one of the best explanations for Jacob that I’ve come across.

It’s been another week of some intensity, Reader, which seems to always be the case in my life; for a pretty mellow person, I do tend to stir up a lot of drama just for myself.  I did get the chance to remind myself, though, that Latin is best translated on rainy nights with jazz and a cup of tea.  What rain is doing in the Great White North in January, I don’t know; its only saving grace is that I love the sound of rain.  I want my snow, though.  I waited all summer for winter.  Where is my snow?

That Latin…it’s been quite the lightning rod for the God Experiment this term, because this month has been All Vulgate, All the Time.  This means that I spend at least six hours a week buried on my loveseat under Latin dictionaries and grammar guides picking apart each little nuance of various Biblical passages.  You tend to think a lot more about passages when you have to defend to a Very Scary Professor the use of the future rather than the imperfect in a specific tense sequence.  So I’ve been delving rather deeply into a couple of the Psalms, the Decalogue in Exodus, and, for yesterday, the parable of the Good Samaritan.

And I love it.  Let me underscore how odd this is; I’ve been taking Latin at some level for nearly seven years (and no, I still don’t know it) and it’s not my favorite thing to do.  I love languages and I respect them greatly, but I’m not very good at them (except for English, which is a bit like breathing because I never really learned it, in a scholastic way).  I recognize this; I don’t have the gift for languages that some people do.  I’ve sort of accepted this, despite the goal that I had when I was 8 of someday learning every language in the world (my first year of Spanish in high school sort of shot that one in the head, along with the discovery  of how very many there really are).  I trip over the subjunctive, forget why the dative can be something other than the indirect object, confuse the forms of the future passive with the pluperfect indicative—I’m simply not a whiz at languages, and that’s kind of okay, because I’m quite good at other things.

But this careful, word-by-word messing with the Vulgate…I love it.  I don’t mind going to Latin, and the Very Scary Professor has complimented me on things because I know what I’m talking about when I translate, and I have questions that are intelligent, and when I don’t understand why Jerome decided that something should be this way in Latin I go to the Hebrew and check out how it changed.  Interpreter is being very gracious in indulging my asking very trivial questions about conjunctions and the impact of person changes in verbs.  I love it because I’m translating something I care very deeply about, and I’m only getting deeper into it, which is very frustrating to someone who steadfastly wants to pretend that a life built around this Text isn’t for her.

So this past Tuesday, I got out of Latin and I was just frustrated.  I had stayed late after class to continue talking about Latin, I had even talked to the Very Scary Professor about the possibility of doing a similar class in the fall (which would mean voluntary Latin, how stupid is that?!), and I was just swimming in questions that I knew I would actually track down (like looking up the change in distance from sea level between Jerusalem and Jericho because the verb connecting them connotes a moving downward; yeah, I did that).  And I was frustrated, because I don’t want to love this—I have a whole list, actually, of why.  (I like lists.)

So as I was walking to my car in the parking garage, I was ranting at God (as I do) and I said, “You know what?  This is ridiculous.  I was just kidding when I said You can have my life and direct it however; I want it back.  I want my life back.”

Reader, I almost choked on the words.  I did, in fact, stop dead after saying it (though fortunately not in the middle of the road), because as soon as I said it I realized I didn’t mean it.  I was trying to renege on my promise to God to let Him have the driver’s seat in everything (I still don’t think “renege” should be spelled that way, by the by; I’ve always felt there should be an “i” somewhere, ever since the first time I saw it written down in commentary about the game of Euchre), but I was reneging on my reneging.  I realized with the force of a ton of concrete that I was indeed frustrated, that I was scared, that my whole life is changing and I don’t really understand it anymore, and that I wouldn’t trade that for all the tea in China.  Or the money in Switzerland.  Or whatever other mass amount of things that would be really nice to have—I didn’t want my life back, because it was His, it is His, and that’s what it needs to be.

It’s not just that I’d screw it up the moment I was back in charge (although that’s also true); it’s that I’m beginning to accept that His directives are making me so much more than I could ever be on my own.  I’m not the person that I wanted to be, but somehow not being that person is making me the person I want to be, and I don’t know how that works at all, but I want my life to be wrapped always around the central core of God.

Now, if only I knew what the hell that meant.

I don’t, and that’s something that I’m trying to deal with, but now I know that there really is no going back—I desire only the path in front of me, laid by the One who sees its end and guides the blindfolded me over the sharp edges with nothing but love.


Jesus saw the crowd around him. So he gave his disciples orders to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  Then a teacher of the law came to him. He said, “Teacher, I will follow you no matter where you go.”  Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes. Birds of the air have nests. But the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  Another follower said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  But Jesus told him, “Follow me. Let the dead bury their own dead.”  (Matthew 8:18-22, NIRV)

3 thoughts on “Reneging on Reneging

  1. scrunchylips says:

    thanks for posting a link to that sexycelibate blog!
    Good too!
    really great!

    “I’m not the person that I wanted to be, but somehow not being that person is making me the person I want to be, and I don’t know how that works at all, but I want my life to be wrapped always around the central core of God.”

    Thanks for sharing!!!


  2. Ron Johnson says:

    I always enjoy hearing about your study of Latin because you seek to understand the messages that are being communicated through tense, aspect, and mood, etc. The technical aspects of studying a language make sense when you talk about them, and they do so on a deeply personal level.

    As for your struggle to yield yourself fully to God (reneging on reneging — and you’re right, it just doesn’t look like it’s spelled correctly), I thank you for your honesty. It’s strange how the thing we love most can also be the hardest thing for us to do. There are no easy answers when it comes to our vocation. You know I’m praying for you (just as I need your prayers to stay on the path set before me).

    And thanks for the link to the Sexy Celebate. She reminds us that this takes many shapes and forms, but we all have our own unique struggles.


    • I delight in the power of language, even if I’m not very good at the non-English ones. It’s so incredible to me to get into and behind and underneath the ways that we communicate with each other–and even with ourselves. So much nuance and overtones go with what we say and how we say it, even more so in a religion based on a Book of words. For me, ideas are intrinsically linked to language; I think in words, not images, so my concepts are very language-based.

      I thank you, as always, for your prayer, and definitely hold you in mine. I told Interpreter a short version of this story and said, “I realized I didn’t want my life back.”
      “You will,” he said, and I laughed because I know it will be true and not true every day. I would love an easy answer, but you’re right, they’re not to be found here.


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