Immersing Ourselves in the Language of Story (Sept-Dec 2003)

By Matt Dabbs

By Mike Cope

As I recall, it wasn’t love for the language that made me such an eager Spanish student thirty years ago.  It was love for the language teacher.

Mrs. Gillig was 21, perky, beautiful–with a smile that lit up the otherwise dank classroom.  She may have been my first true love.  (The fact that she never knew that is beside the point.)

My best day of Spanish had nothing to do with Spanish class.  We had a huge snowfall in Southwest Missouri, and Mrs. Gillig couldn’t get her car out.  So she called me, knowing we lived nearby. “Hola, Miguel.  I’m unable to get my car out.  It’s stuck in the snow.  Would you mind picking me up and giving me a ride to school?”

It’s thirty years later, yet I’m pretty sure I’m quoting word for word.  “Would you mind . . . ?”  Ha! Mrs. Gillig I loved.  (All right, she was 21 and I was 16.  Maybe I was just infatuated.)  But learning Spanish as we all did was no great thrill.  We memorized words, we learned to count, we conjugated verbs.  Tengo, tienes, tiene, tenemos, tienen.

Now, after three decades have erased most of what I learned, I’m taking Spanish again.  I’m what they euphemistically refer to as a “nontraditional student.”  (Translation:  old guy who has a son the age of everyone else in the class.)  Only this time, the learning style is very different.  Our university class is watching a Spanish soap opera called “Destinos.

It is the story of don Fernando Castillo, an old man who’s dying at his estate called La Gavia, outside Mexico City.  So far we’ve met his four hijos–Ramon, Mercedes, Carlos, and Juan.  We’ve been introduced to his hermano, Pedro.  And we’ve learned a bit about Raquel, the bright, young abogada (lawyer) from Los Angeles, who is investigating his secret.

Don’t expect “Destinos” to hit your local Spanish television station.  The acting and storyline aren’t quite prime time!

But the concept behind the soap opera is to immerse us in a story.  Especially in the beginning, we don’t understand most of what is being said.  (At least I hope I’m not the only one!)  But we’re catching the context, recognizing a few words, and learning pronunciation.

There’s still time for conjugating verbs.  But now the memorization and the grammar are related to the story.  We find ourselves in a story, and as we learn the story we’re learning the language. In this issue of New Wineskins, we’re focusing on God’s story.  We find ourselves in a plot that begins in creation and ends in the grand consummation.  Now that we’re in the story, we’re learning the grammar.  We’re coming to understand the main words.

Each of us has a story—a story where each chapter is significant.  But the most important part of understanding our story is seeing how it fits into the huge, overarching story of God.

Our writers are going to help you learn the shape of this big story.  But when you’ve finished reading, don’t stop there.  Get personal.  Ask yourself questions about the rule of God in your own life.  Where have you seen his hand at work?  What movements of grace have there been?  What chapters of pain could you write about?  And what did you learn from that pain?  Who are the characters accompanying you on this journey?  What have you learned about the grammar and language of faith?  In what ways can you see that your life is caught up into God’s story?

It’ll take some work, but it’s a story worth immersing ourselves in.  Buena suerte!

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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