Lima Life #3: Poco a Poco

Greetings from the beautiful Edificio Bolivar 431! (that’s my building). This was a pretty fun week! It was Jimmy’s birthday, which was another excuse to go to Chili’s.

Happy Birthday, Jim!
Happy Birthday, Jim!

Let’s jump right into it. This has been the hardest week so far in Lima. Granted, it’s only been three weeks. But this week was the first week that didn’t fly by. I am feeling a little discouraged about the whole Spanish thing. I don’t feel bad about that, though, because I think it’s totally normal. When I was learning philosophy and I did not understand any of the concepts at first, at least I could explain myself or have someone else explain a particular philosopher’s main argument. But when you’re trying to navigate and learn but are confused and you literally do not know what to say or what others are saying to you….it gets a little overwhemling.

I remember when I was in France and was the only seminarian in our group who spoke French and although I was confident in my ability I was still incredibly overwhelmed trying to figure things out and translate everything. That’s kind of what’s going on here except whenever I make a mistake in class or say something stupid at home (when I first arrived, instead of saying “me gusta mucho” (I like it a lot) I was saying “mucho gusto” (nice to meet you)” “Oh wow, this food is great! Nice to meet you!”) there would be that little voice in the back of my head whispering so gently, “Ryan, you’re a moron. MORON.”

But every time this happens, someone comes along and literally says “Ryan, tranquilo. Poco a poco.” Literally every time. This is a gift! Thank you, Jesus. Accepting these “pocos” as true and devoting myself to learning Spanish is a sacrifice that I gladly offer and that I pray is holy and acceptable in the sight of the Father. That was my prayer at the beginning of the week, anyway. Then one day I was praying the Liturgy of the Hours and these words from Psalm 40 stuck out to me:

“You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings, but an open ear. You do not ask for holocaust and victim; instead, here am I.” Ps. 40:7

God is very funny. Right after I resolved to offer up this learning Spanish as a sacrifice and to renew my desire to give myself to this summer assignment, those are the words I read. It seems to me that God would rather I didn’t crave external affection and affirmation at all. Instead, I want to be totally filled by the love, presence, and internal affirmation of the Father, made known to me Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Whether we’re studying languages or closing a business deal or going to high school or literally whatever, God doesn’t ask us to kill ourselves over small things, over things that in themselves have no bearing on eternity. Instead he asks us to do something much more difficult than build rockets, stop climate change, or solve every issue of civil rights. He asks us to love. To love him, first and above all, and then to love our neighbors as ourselves.

So this week, I’m going to focus on Jesus. I want to see and follow the Lord of life who lives in me and whose “poco a poco” will always trump the devil’s moronic accusations. I’m reminded of the words of the Sister Maria Magdalena who took care of us during our retreat in Norcia, Italy:

“If you wish to be successful, abandon your thoughts and open your heart.”

+Jesus, give me what I need to want to do your will. Open my eyes to see you, my ears to hear you, my heart to receive you, and my mouth to proclaim the glory of your name. Amen.

In Him,