Parlez-vous Franšais?

John 12:36 "Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." NIV

Have you ever tried to teach an old dog a new trick? "Roll over!" You say, but in response, your dog jumps on you, smearing his muddy paws on your best sweater. Should you try again? Should you punish the dog? Should you give up? Should you maybe consider getting a new, somewhat younger dog???

My wife and I were facing a similar dilemma. We had a wonderful trick, only instead of trying to teach it to our dog, we were trying to teach it to our boys! The trick? To speak French! Let me give you a little background. I am a French teacher by profession. My family and I live in Canada, where being able to speak French is considered an advantage, and my mother, who lives in Belgium, doesn't speak any English. When all of these factors are added together, they can only have one possible outcome: My boys needed to be able to speak French!

Unfortunately, my boys had been taking lessons from the dog. They would "smear muddy paws" on my "best sweater" by assaulting each of my attempts to use French at home with: "It's too hard!" Or "We don't understand you! Speak English!"

A tiny break in their resistance came last summer. While we were traveling through Nova Scotia, we decided to visit the fort of Louisburg, site of one of the first French forts in Canada. My youngest son was enamored by the visit and decided that he wanted to move to France. We jumped onto that one! "You know, son, to be able to live in France, you need to be able to speak French!"

It worked. Sort of.

"Yeah," he said. "I want to learn to speak French! Later!"

When a whole year went by, however, with "later" never arriving, we became frustrated anew. So we tried other tricks: Standing on our heads; diving into empty swimming pools; eating live toads . . . But it was to no avail. Every attempt was met with indifference, to say nothing of questions like, "Should we call the mental hospital???"

At school, I was having a similar problem. French immersion students are generally self-motivated. However, it became apparent as early as the first week of September that this particular class had also been taking lessons from my dog (or was it directly from my boys???)! I was at the end of my rope. I was a total failure at school AND at home! What could I do?

That's when I finally did something that I should have done in the beginning: I prayed about it!

Just two short days later, God revealed a plan that would change my desperation, both in the classroom and at home, into success. Why do I always wait until things are hopeless to turn to Him???

God's plan went like this. I initiated a contest between my boys and my students, and the group that spoke the best French by the end of the school year would receive a prize. If my class won, they would be free to plan their own class trip. If my boys won, they would be able to choose a special building kit, either Legos or K'Nex or Hot Wheels.

An immediate reward system was also established. If a word in English was spoken at home, the perpetrator would receive "un dollar". The one with less than 5 fake dollars at the end of the day would get to sleep with the dog in his room. And believe me, this was considered a GREAT thing to work for! The classroom students had other immediate rewards, like being able to sit with their friends, choosing the class video or music, etc.

Did it work? Absolutely!

My boys chatter constantly in French now, wherever we are. In fact we have a new challenge. Whenever my wife or I say even the tiniest word in English at home, we are assaulted with: "Un dollar!" My mother is ecstatic. She can finally speak with her grandkids.

The success was just as great in the classroom. My students were also finally starting to learn the language they've been immersing themselves in for the past 3 years. What I had tried with my own efforts was met with complete defeat. When I finally turned to God for help, my failure was turned into complete success.

Isn't this always the way it is? Why do we always want to try to do everything on our own first?

Are you tired and frustrated by your futile efforts at solving something? Why not take it to Jesus instead? He will make the difference! Ephesians 3:20: "God can do anything, you know--far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!" (The Message) And because we are all "sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26), you can rest assured that He cares about even the minutest details of your lives!

Would you like to learn French? Why not pray about it first???

Parlez-vous Franšais?

Rob Chaffart

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