Updated: Mar 9, 2018
Languages: the Pain and the Gift I have been learning foreign languages from an early age, which I am now very grateful for, as Finnish is not exactly the most widely spoken language in the world.
As a child I never enjoyed learning languages. All it meant was vocabulary tests and grammar lessons. It wasn’t until I moved to the Netherlands as an adult and took a beginners Dutch course given by a language trainer who also was an actor that I discovered the fun of learning languages. He taught me the joy of childlike, playful, whole-body focused language learning. Yet learning languages is always hard work.
I am still not a linguistic genius. I just recently married into a Korean speaking family and, so far, I have focused more on exploring Korean cooking rather than the language itself. It will come. Maybe.
I love languages simply for the fact that they have the potential to build a bridge of understanding, connection, and intimacy – making something foreign into something familiar.
The Christian Language I became a follower of Jesus in my teens and started learning the language of the Christian faith: ancient prayers, inductive Bible study methods, worship liturgy, the sacraments, and many new Christian words. (I just mentioned a few of them in the sentence before!). It was a lot to take in.
After some years, I was confronted by the need to ‘unlearn’ or learn to explain the language of ‘Christianese’ that only certain kinds of Christians would understand because it was exclusive and unhelpful to those who weren’t a part of that particular culture. I started to practice how to speak about my faith, God, and prayer in a way that makes sense. And make no mistake here, this is a life long journey to me, especially as I move across cultures and culture changes.
The Language of God More importantly though, I have become convinced that although learning to speak to and about God is extremely important, it is even more important to learn to understand the language of God. Just like babies, we learn a new language by listening. So it is with learning God’s language. We need to learn to listen to him. Make time to open ourselves to the possibility that God is with us and in us, and speaking.
Frank C. Laubach, a modern mystic, often used the phrase ‘learning the vocabulary of God’. He encourages us by his life and words to keep practicing the language of God:
“God, I want to give You every minute of this year… I shall try to learn Your language as it was taught by Jesus and all others through whom You speak – in beauty and singing birds and cool breezes, in radiant Christlike faces, in sacrifices and in tears.” (Streams of Living Water, by Richard Forster.)
What would it be like for you to stop and listen to God this weekend through:
words of a friend?
a face of a stranger?
art and music?
your own body and feelings?