This past weekend, my husband, Ken, and I attended a surprise birthday party for our next-door neighbor. Their house was filled to overflowing with family and friends – and yet, it was interestingly quiet. Our neighbors are deaf, and most of
their friends are too. But even though there wasn’t much sound, there was a LOT of communication going on.
We were surrounded by friendly people who were having a great time together, laughing – mostly silently – gesturing, and paying close attention to what the others were saying with their hands and faces. We did our best to understand them and to make ourselves understood, although neither of us knows much sign language. And they were all making the same effort toward us.
Luckily for us, their daughter is hearing, and of course, also knows sign language. She very graciously helped us to connect by interpreting what our new friends were saying, and then translating our words into signing for them. In this situation, we all needed an interpreter, someone who understood both languages and could help us communicate.
That birthday party got me thinking about how we experience communicating with God. Sometimes the language barrier between God and us seems impossible to cross. Even though we may believe that He is present and is communicating to us personally through creation, the Bible, and other people, we still need help in learning the language of the Spirit.
We were created for community, not isolation – and common language is a primary bridge to this connection. We become fluent in God’s language, and thus connected to His community, the same way we learn human languages – by watching, imitating, studying, and practicing – learning from others who are walking with God and can help us interpret what we are reading, hearing, and experiencing.
Great quote by Ruth Haley Barton, from Sacred Rhythms:
It is impossible to overstate the importance of community in the spiritual transformation process. This is not the same thing as the Christian busyness that often accompanies church life; it is about quietly sharing the journey with others who are also drawn to deeper levels of spiritual transformation that enable them to discern and do God’s will.
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