Ricardo’s interpreting for me this week. It’s a tough job. I forget to slow down when I speak. I use big, theological words and obscure Texas colloquialisms. Sometimes I slip up and cuss a bit; sometimes I do it on purpose.
But Ricardo’s a sport, and he’s been a huge encouragement to me.
Yesterday he told me that something I taught last year—when he was a student, and not my interpreter—helped him out. You see, I like to challenge students when I teach. I’m really not interested in affirming what they already know, or think they know. I push buttons. I kick anthills and thwack beehives—not because I like being stung, but because I’ve seen too many kids grow up in church without being challenged to think and respond deeply to Jesus, only to be ground up by the world when they’re on their own. They’re groomed by an industrial model of hyper-individualized religion that focuses on behavior modification and producing consumers of religious goods and services.
If that sounds harsh, it’s not near as harsh as I mean it to be.
As a former pusher of said toxic religious pablum, I’m part of the system. I drank the Kool-Aid and sold my share, to boot. I’m keenly aware that I helped create much of the problem I now see everywhere. When I teach, I often feel like I’m trying to put out a brush fire with a squirt gun. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind and all that.
But back to Ricardo: The week after I taught in his class, challenging him to think deeply and differently about his faith, he learned that his mother was infected with HIV and that his new stepfather, who was responsible, had deserted her. He was devastated by the news and said he probably would have walked away from his faith entirely if he hadn’t just been pressed to examine it more fully and to reimagine Jesus as he never had before.
I’m humbled to be a small part of a big work God’s doing in his life.
So during these next few days, I might not remember to slow down a bit, to choose easier or nicer words. But I’ll sure have a deeper appreciation for the friend who has to interpret them.