Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Language That Is Lacking

As much as I love words – reading them, searching for the perfect one to convey an image or feeling, arranging them into poems and sentences, I often find language constricting. Sometimes I just can't find the right words to express exactly what I want to say. And nowhere do I find a lack of meaningful language more than when I'm trying to write or speak about religion.

Maybe it's that the language that does exist about our relationship with God has been hijacked.

I don't think I'm alone here.

My oldest friend (no, she's not old. . .she's just the friend I've known longest and best!) has been attending church in Colorado. She used to come to church with me back when we were in high school and my dad was a pastor of a local Southern Baptist church. Church was fraught with obstacles then. Hell-fire and brimstone were front and center. I only went because I didn't have a choice and she only went to spend time with me.

Fast-forward about 27 years. . . because God is patient! My friend moved to Colorado, found a church and met people who helped her answer questions about the possibilities of being a follower of Jesus. She listened. Asked questions. Prayed. Waited.

I wonder if even those Sundays filled with angst in the Baptist church prepared her to encounter God in a different, more healthy way now.

So, last Sunday evening my phone rang and it was my friend. She said, "Guess what I did today?" I had no idea and said so. She was persistent. "Come on! What day of the week is it? What did I do today?"

"You went to church?"

"Yes! But what did I do??"

And this is where language let me down. My mind raced. How do you ask it?? If you use the conventional, religious phraseology it leads you to a place you don't really want to go! If I had said, "You got saved?" I would dare to say that I'm not the only person in the world who immediately envisions a smarmy television evangelist and all that stereotype entails.

Fumbling for words I said, "Oh! You joined the church!"

There was kind of a long pause as she was beginning to struggle with the same language barrier that I was. "Nooooo. . .not exactly. . ."

This was going nowhere fast.

I struggled with other options. You came to know the Lord? Too heavy handed and and pious. You accepted Jesus in your heart? That one makes my skin crawl. I was sinking quickly.

She interrupted the uncomfortable silence I was creating with my lack of language and said, "When they asked at the end of the service if God had been working in people's lives, I raised my hand."

And there it was. As simple as that. We struggle. God soothes. We say yes, please. And then later, thank you.

Turns out that all the words you might need are ones you learned from your cradle. Yes. Please. Thank you. And that, maybe more importantly, when it comes to talking to God no words are really necessary anyway.

But good luck telling your friends about it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No words... just tears.