They warned us that it would happen. And it did. The infamous 6 month blues!
The novelty of being in a new place starts to wear off… the reality of the daily grind begins to hit home… “home”, wouldn’t it be so much easier to be at home, not having to learn this difficult language….
For me (Nathanael/Natch/Nat/Bug/?), I’d just started the intermediate course and felt a real crunch of the gears. I felt like I was asking teachers to explain things again and again and again… and it just wasn’t going in. Sometimes I felt like I was banging my head against a wall!
I’ve since heard others (who’ve been through it and got to the other side!) talk about the “Intermediate wilderness”. In the beginners level, you learn some new words or a new grammar patterns and you begin to notice it and hear it all around you. There’s a real buzz; “I understand what that person said just then! I learnt that word yesterday!” But with the intermediate level, the words and grammar patterns aren’t used so often so you’re less likely to hear them or get an opportunity to use them in the few, simple conversations you have.
Anna experienced the blues differently. She always knew it would be a slog trying to learn Japanese, but she was willing to give it her best. But when the blues hit, she thought, “I’ve worked hard – now I’m ready to stop and go home!”
We’ve actually been here for about 10 months (!) and the blues didn’t hit at exactly 6 months; it wasn’t as clear-cut as that. We gradually became more aware that we weren’t enjoying language study as much, and it continued over a period of a couple of months. We’re feeling more positive after a good rest over the Christmas break.
Funnily enough, a change in the weather helped! The first day it snowed I felt like a little kid waking up to a white Christmas! Getting parcels from friends and family (including some chocolate!) helped too!
On a more serious note, over the past few months we’ve been exposed to 2 Corinthians a lot – online sermons from our sending churches and others; our joint Bible readings; our fellowship group Bible study. It was great to be reminded that feeling weak and inadequate is a good thing!
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (4:7)
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (11:30)
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (12:7b-10)
Boast in weakness?! Delight in difficulties?! Yes, because it shows God’s power all the more clearly, to ourselves as much as to anyone else!
Pray that we would be humbled not proud; boast in our blues and delight in difficulties – so that people can clearly see our weakness, and God’s power.