My conversion has been a lot more like studying a language than being granted the gift of tongues.
Iâ€™m in the throes of studying a new language again- Russian this time. I think Iâ€™ve finally learned a thing or two about learning a language. It simply takes hard work and patience. It rarely comes quickly. I have to keep at it…and at it…and at it. And more often than not, I feel like Iâ€™m not getting anywhere- I spend too much time looking ahead to what I still have to learn. Itâ€™s not till I stop and look back that I realize how far Iâ€™ve come.
Learning the genitive plural in Russian, or how to pronounce Kyrgyz words, or working my way through Arabic vocabulary lists are all vital to learning those languages. But itâ€™s as important to use what Iâ€™m learning- knowing something on paper doesnâ€™t necessarily translate to a productive conversation. I need helpful people who encourage me and gently correct me. I donâ€™t believe anyone can be fluent in a language or in the gospel without both study and application.
Remembering vocabulary in another language is very difficult for me. I usually have to sit down and memorize it over and over. But every so often a word comes with a specific experience that cements it in my mind. For example, I learned the Russian word for rain when a couple stopped in the rain to pick up our family while we were waiting for a bus on the side of a road far from Bishkek.
Iâ€™ve never had one single experience that I can look back on as something that convinced me that the gospel is true. I just have to keep studying the scriptures again and again, keep praying, keep having faith. But every so often little things- like the Russian word for rain- happen to me. I can look back on one particular prompting to not do something- something good- that would have completely changed the course of my life, or on a memorable night on the Mount of Olives, or an answered prayer at Bethel.
The language/tongues comparison obviously isnâ€™t perfect- certainly those who have a significant conversion experience have to study and work to keep their faith. I also have no desire to reach near-native ability in any language. I would like to get to that point with my conversion though. I know it will take a lifetime (or more), and that it will only work if I stick with it. But just as I see the benefits of learning a foreign language, Iâ€™ve seen the benefits- partly because of the Russian word for rain- of becoming converted to the gospel.