Perfectly Equipped, by Shirley Desmond Jackson
Years ago, I embarked on an incredible adventure: working with a small missionary church in Paris, France. People often ask me if I knew French before I moved there. To this I always quip the same response, “I thought I did.”
Language, I’ve been told, is a habit. We tend to use the same words and phrases over and over. In just a few short days, I realized my college French classes taught me how to converse about literature and to conjugate various verb tenses. But they did very little to prepare me for teaching the Bible or speaking about Jesus.
In those days, we were determined to build a French church, so we conducted every meeting in French. No English, please. Suddenly, I found myself speaking less intelligently than a five-year-old.
Before long, I felt starved for fellowship. In a rare moment, I broke the rules and confessed my frustration — in English. A good friend of mine sought to encourage me.
“Shirley,” he began, “Don’t worry about the French. God is so powerful. Remember how He made Balaam’s donkey talk in the Old Testament?” Only in his translation, my Swiss friend used a three-letter word for donkey.
To further illustrate his point, he reminded me how Jesus told the Pharisees the very stones would cry out in praise of Him. “So Shirley,” he concluded, “If God can make stones or a donkey talk, He can certainly equip you to speak in French.”
I admit that at the time, I did not fully appreciate my friend’s words. After all, who wants to be compared to a three-letter word for donkey? Or even rocks, where in English we have a saying, “Dumber than a box of … ”
But over time, I came to realize the timeless wisdom of his words. My friend may not have used the most eloquent examples, but they illustrated an essential truth. God can use any willing and obedient medium to proclaim His message.
I didn’t need to speak perfect French in order for Him to use me. I just needed enough courage to obey the calling He gave me. As I obeyed, He equipped. Sooner than expected, I began teaching about Him, in French.
Honestly, sometimes writing can feel like a foreign language. Phrases and vocabulary used in oral conversations do not always translate well in written form. Sometimes, finding just the right words to convey my thoughts makes me feel as I did all those years ago in France.
When feelings of inadequacy tempt me to question my calling to write, I remember the words of my friend, perfectly captured in the following Scripture:
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
As I learned long ago, my job is to obey. His is to equip. As I step out in faithful obedience, the words come. Placed in His care, our imperfect words become His perfect tool.
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