It’s Greek To Me

5 Nov

Looking back, the impulse to take Greek my first quarter of seminary probably originated from a moment of insanity, particularly when just about everyone (including my own pastor) encouraged me NOT to take it. But every time I prayed about which classes to take, I kept seeing the words – “Greek, Greek, Greek” in my mind’s eye, as if written on a chalk board. “Okay, I guess I’m supposed to take Greek.” Signs usually don’t get more clear than that. 

Greek has an alphabet different than our own and looks like hieroglyphics. But that isn’t what makes it difficult. What makes Greek challenging is its many different case endings and declensions. I quickly learned that if I didn’t study on a daily basis I was screwed. And that because I’m on a scholarship and have to do well in this class to keep the scholarship, the stakes are much higher. Why didn’t I just wait until the end of the road instead of making things more difficult now? 

I guess because ever since I was a little girl if you told me no, or that something was too hard, I felt all the more determined to find out why. This streak germinated more from curiosity than defiance. The adults said not to  touch the stove because it was hot. Well, I wanted to find out just how hot, so I put my hand straight down on the burner. I found out all right. I was told not to jump into the lake; I went straight in, even though it was in the middle of winter. And I discovered the water was quite cold. Hearing, “Greek is hard….”, I needed to know just HOW hard.  Okay, okay. It is hard.

But I also felt the Lord calling me to take Greek and in its own bizarre way, it’s becoming a metaphor for my very walk with God. I need to do it daily; I actually enjoy it; I’m not always good at it; in fact, at times, I’m utterly lost. Sometimes in fact, I feel almost frozen with fear –  looking at a page I can’t decipher. And I hear God saying, “Stay with it. The unknown. The struggle. The ambiguity. The not knowing. The mistakes. Don’t give up.” And then suddenly, a light bulb goes on. And the sentence translates itself. I can see the forest through the trees. And I hear the Word of God literarily. In the native tongue it was written. I hear words like “euangelion” or “pistis” or  “basileia” and suddenly the Good News, faith and Kingdom take on an entirely new meaning, echoing through the chambers of my being in a very different way.

I also feel God challenging me through learning this language to love myself as He loves me because I am not “perfect” at Greek and I often don’t like myself when I’m not perfect. God isn’t interested in whether I’m perfect; He wants me to get to know Him. And part of that process is that I learn for learning’s sake; whether I parse the verbs correctly or not; whether I can distinguish the accusative from the dative or not.

Finally, God is working out one more little thing in having me take Greek. He’s telling me that as a girl I have a right to be educated. I have a right to learn this very special language that at one time represented the height of ancient culture. I remember from my history books that rare was the girl who read Greek – not because girls were dumb but because girls weren’t considered worth educating. Capable of education. And it was that desire for knowledge that made me first want to know more; hearing my pastor know this very special language and feeling like he had keys to this incredible universe that I was ignorant of. I wanted to know how to read. I wanted to join the community. I wanted to know God.

Now in reality, knowing God has nothing to do with what language one does or doesn’t speak. I know that. What matters is that in my tenuous efforts to learn Greek, I am learning to know God. And that is worth all the discipline in the world. For me, learning Greek symbolizes a leap of faith very much akin to experiencing God.

One Response to “It’s Greek To Me”

  1. Stephanie November 5, 2009 at 4:57 am #

    Lise – this is so beautiful and wonderfully profound for all of us. Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with us. Love you!!!

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