Learning a language is a very humbling enterprise. In taking on Thai, my greatest hindrance from truly grasping it is fear to commit mistakes, which to me translates to looking foolish.
Pride, essentially. It was the main culprit of my slow and painful progress, but I had read enough amount of literature and accumulated sufficient personal and vicarious experiences about learning a new language to realize that if I intend to communicate with the people I live in the midst of and share the love of Jesus to them, I had to let go of that crippling mindset.
No, it was not easy. I had to basically swallow my bitter-tasting ego. I had to learn to accept that this time I was not the teacher, but the student. I also had to take my own medicine. I used to tell my students that mistakes are not entirely bad because you learn some valuable lessons that you can’t learn otherwise.
Ah, but I forgot how hard a pill to swallow mistakes are.
I am still not perfect in letting go of my fear of mistakes, however, I have had some success in conquering it. Thus the excitement I felt for camp — meaning being surrounded by Thai people for at least a full day — to practice speaking Thai was a considerable leap forward for me.
Two weekends ago, my husband and I spent a day with our Thai brethren for the yearly Family Camp. I was looking forward to the camp, to spending a night surrounded with Thai people and to taking pleasure in the time of fellowship with them. I also wanted a huge chunk of time to speak Thai. I saw this as an awesome opportunity.
We drove to another province for the camp, and we stayed at a mountain resort. We spent the night there; we woke up very early the next day to meet at the top of the resort — a grass field surrounded by tall trees. The sun was barely coming out and everything looked soft green with a hint of yellow. It was a charming spot.
As we met each other in the field, Ajarn Somjai (Ajarn means teacher which is also used to address pastors) asked my husband and me to read Scripture in Thai. Then, he added that we were doing “fâo dìao.” Ajarn Pani (Ajarn Somjai’s wife) translated the word for me after I asked her what it meant.
Fâo dìao (written เฝ้าเดี่ยว), she said, is Thai for devotional.
At first, I did not give it much thought. The word did not suggest anything extraordinary. Then I uttered it again under breath. I felt something different about it.
Again, I faintly repeated it to myself, because now I was curious more than I was interested in memorizing it.
I kept thinking about “fâo dìao” even after our time at the top of the resort. When that happens, it frequently means I have to attend to it. So I pulled up my Thai-English dictionary app, and I typed the word “fâo dìao.”
Nothing came up.
I broke it into two words, as I recognized that it is two words combined into one to create a new meaning. I know what “dìao” means from previous studies.
Dìao is a word that connotes being alone, one, individual, solo.
That leaves me with the word “fâo.” When I typed it in my dictionary, I paused and stared at its definition for about 5 seconds. It was not what I expected it to be.
Fâo, from what my dictionary said, means to watch, to wait expectantly, to guard, or to keep an eye on.
Wow! This is not what I had supposed about “fâo dìao.”
It suddenly hit me. Fâo dìao evokes an implication to personally watch with expectation on God. It’s not just doing a quiet time or a devotional, but to wait with eager anticipation on the Lord. The word paints a beautiful picture of a child absolutely enthralled with the Father. It is an image of taking delight on our precious Father who yearns for us.
You must think it’s silly of me extracting all this out of a word, and maybe I am. Still I cannot help but see God painted all over this simple Thai word which fundamentally is how we should be everyday of our lives — to await on God with the expectation of Him showing up!
Many of us have become so “used” to doing devotions that maybe more often than not we don’t earnestly long for God to show up as we spend time with Him. We do the routine of crossing off an activity on our daily checklist (i.e. devotional) but there is no real awareness of God and God’s presence.
With this sweet and brief reminder, my soul was quickened to recognize that I have slowly slipped to the trap of not waiting expectantly on God particularly in my time of being alone with Him. So glad He didn’t let me be, instead prompted me to awareness!
I am joyful He spoke to me in that instance. Not that I am naïve, but my level of anticipation to learn something new during the trip was extremely low. So imagine my awe when God suddenly spoke to me whilst teaching me a new Thai word.
I was elated. My heart wildly danced inside of me!
Abba Father, thank You for this pleasant revelation in one of Your elegant languages. I am profoundly amazed at how You sometimes choose to speak to us plainly through common yet not so common words like “fâo dìao.” Help me to watch, to wait expectantly on You and to never lose the hope in my heart. May I continually have the awareness of You, Lord, and Your presence wherever I am and whatever I am doing. In Jesus’ precious name, amen!
© 2014 Kezia Lewis. All Rights Reserved.