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Excerpts from a frequently revised life

April 21, 2010

I gave my husband my word this morning that I would take no material step toward relocating our household to a place where the sun has been recorded to shine two or more days in a row. Hurry, this offer is limited. My word expires…

But I have kept my word. In fact, I have been very happily immersed, even as I continue to live in the shadowy region of Pewter Sound, in Sinclair Ferguson’s book, In Christ Alone. My thoughts locked onto this book when I saw it on a church book table. I haven’t read any books by Sinclair Ferguson before, but I have read some of his articles, and certainly his name has been a household word to me for many years. Suddenly, reading this book was a biological imperative, and I went back and bought the book a couple of days after seeing it. This turned out to be one of the most favorable providential impulses of my recent personal history. After reading so many volumes of prolix Puritans, Sinclair Ferguson stands out for his refreshing way of pointing his reader to Christ. The book is like a devotional that teaches systematic theology to the beginner, or that vivifies the fruits of one’s years of theological study. It is like the river that Gregory the Great likened to the Scriptures when he said, “Scripture is like a river again, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim.”

I have seldom abandoned any course of study, and I’m not even sure I can remember the last time I did so, but I decided to divert from Korean. If you buy RosettaStone from the company instead of Amazon, you get a six-month return privilege, and this I did, and this I invoked. After nearly completing the entire three-level program, I was still unable to say anything of consequence in Korean, and I was beginning to feel oppressed by the duty of witless guessing. The final lesson presented images that foiled my intuition completely: it was a case of “I don’t see what you (the software designer) see.” Moreover, I seem to have little aptitude for sequencing nonsense syllables — and that is what an alien language presents when taught without a grammatically structured foundation. My faithful friend Laura sent me a link to the Foreign Service Institute’s list of languages by category, and Korean is in the most difficult category of languages for native English speakers to learn. That is little consolation for someone who has gone through life thinking she was a superior-being learner of languages, but there it is.

I aspire to divert the time I spent learning Korean to memorizing at least some of the Shorter Catechism. Reading the Catechism aloud and memorizing the first few questions and answers gives me an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I was born an Anglophone — and a stubborn one at that, who prefers 17th-century versions of things to modern ones. Every syllable of the Catechism makes sense, is worth learning, is infinitely useful, and sounds in eternal pragmatic beauty. Beyond that, I have no doubt it will preserve at least as many neurons as studying Korean. What a boon to be born into the very language of the Westminster and London assemblies!

It is indeed a happy thing in life to look forward to a hundred visions and revisions before the taking of toast and tea. And what a boon that T.S. Eliot wrote Prufrock in English, too.


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