Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wasting one's life . . .

When Sarita and I were at the Wycliffe Associates' President's Summit meeting last weekend, Bruce Smith, president of Wycliffe Associates, told of meeting with a Wycliffe translator whose book our company carries.

It was a strange and pleasant experience to hear of this "old friend" whom we have never met.

But then we were saddened to hear Bruce's report. I will not pretend to quote Bruce exactly. I will only report what I remember Bruce saying.

[Translator] and I walked to his house, the house that he built with his own hands. It looks like a Robinson Crusoe dwelling. As darkness fell, we sat on the porch and talked.

[Translator] and [his wife] have been working on the translation of the [language group] New Testament for 34 years. They are supposed to celebrate its publication this coming January. We sat and talked into the night. Somewhere around 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, [Translator] asked me, with real anguish in his voice: "Bruce, have I wasted my life?!?"

I don't know what, specifically, spurred [Translator] to think that thought or feel that desperation. I get the sense it was a momentary, fleeting impression, not a heavy, on-going meditation on [Translator]'s part. (I know, sometimes, my mind will find itself in the blind alley of an emotional rat's maze. No real reason for it to be there; it just is.)

Yet in the context of what Bruce was saying, I got the impression some of the anguish, some of the question came about because [Translator] and his wife (who was not present for this particular conversation) have been working pretty much alone--apart from (m)any others of their own cultural group--for so many years; and the sense, I'm sure, that few people (if any) "back home" appreciate at all what they are doing, what they have been going through, the sacrifices they have made; and--considering the comment about their house--the thought that, maybe, "Should we have 'made it' in this world?"

Bruce didn't say anything about any of these topics directly. He only mentioned what I have conveyed here in the "quoted" text. It is I who have attempted to psychologize the feeling.

This question brings tears to my eyes even as I write it. . . . Sometimes we think people like [Translator] are such spiritual giants. Nothing should hurt or discourage them. . . . And why now? His task is done, really, isn't it?

But then the questions come, and the wonderment: "Have I wasted my life?"

Is there someone you know who is struggling on the backside of nowhere, trying to do an "impossible"--yet highly valuable--task, who is foregoing most of the creature comforts of this world, who has been laboring "forever" without respite? Think he or she may be becoming weary in well-doing?

Perhaps you should be praying . . . and offering support?
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