Sunday, June 16, 2013

What language are you speaking?

As I was walking home yesterday, I was practicing counting to ten in Italian in my head. We leave this week for our Vision Trip to see if Italy is where the LORD is leading us to move long-term to share the Gospel.

I started thinking about potential future Italian language school...and how important it is. We must learn to communicate {and effectively} in order to share the Gospel with dear souls. This is the POINT of going. And we have to know our audience-- what do certain words mean to them? What is the cultural context? What is their background? How do they define words that I might define slightly differently? etc.

It then hit me: we need to be doing this all the time in life everywhere-- learning the "language" of others.

It is so easy to take our understanding and definitions of "God" and "justice" and "mercy", wrath, love, grace, atonement, sacrifice, etc. and share with others who might have a very different understanding of those words than us, the Bible, or maybe even no definition at all!

If I walked the streets of Italy sharing the Gospel in English, a few heads might turn recognizing the language. And while God can perform miracles, for the sake of argument: it would be an incredibly ineffective use of my time. However, I could still go home and say, "I shared the Gospel with over 1,000 people today!" and feel pretty good about that.

Yet...not ONE of those 1,000 people really heard the Gospel. I did not give grace to those who heard. I sat ignorant of my audience, speaking in words they couldn't understand, and yet "checking" off my list that I've evangelized or did ministry "the best I could."

I started wondering how often I've done that in my life. Spoken more than asked questions. Wanted to "answer" before really understanding what was being asked. Left a conversation feeling good that I'd done all I could, when perhaps I needed a bit more education in that area.

This affects the way we interact with Believers as well. We must be careful to listen-- quick to listen. Slow to speak. How many times are we encouraged with these very words in Scripture? This means listening to the WHOLE story; the bigger picture-- getting a better idea of where people's hearts are at. Our hearts are, in fact, where our sin first resides, and the reason why Christ came! He is clearly after our hearts.

So what about you? Have you ever had someone just totally miss you, as though they answered in another language? Are you a student of those you love and care for? Desiring to go to their "language school" to love and communicate with them more effectively?

As we face our mundane lives, conflict, marriage, seek to comfort those facing tragedy, singleness, discipling or being discipled, parenting...whatever context we are speaking in: would we learn the languages of humility, love, active-listening, and...the language of our audience. That we might love them in wisdom to the glory and praise of God.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Insensitive Passing Comments

I'm finding that regardless of the season of life we're in...

...words {even just a few} can be tremendously discouraging, belittling, or condemning without the slightest intention of being so.

We, collectively, do a poor job of giving grace to those who hear. Or meeting people where they're at: weeping with those who weep, or rejoicing with those who rejoice.

A tired and exhausted mom, with her arms full, her children screaming, desperate for a moment of met with, "Those young and little days are nothing compared to teenage years!"

A dating couple who is desperately in love, and is the last of their friends to get married, has been patiently waiting, and communicates their excitement about marriage hears, "Oh, just wait. It'll get so much harder when you get married. There are so many difficult conflicts, and so much hard work; you'll see. Dating is so easy and wonderful- just enjoy that."

A pregnant woman isn't sleeping at night and makes a comment about how she wishes she was awake with the baby at night, so excited for his/her arrival...and she hears, "Oh no, you'll never sleep again. You won't be saying that when you ARE awake at night with a baby!"

I don't know what it is. If its our culture, or if we think everyone's experience will be the same as ours...or if we want to "teach" and "warn" or change people...? But our words {or facebook comments} can be so discouraging and disheartening.

Sometimes, I overhear parenting conversations and my heart just squeezes. I want to shout, "Are you TRYING to steal her joy?!" or "Do you WANT to minimize the genuine, real-life difficulty she's facing?!"

So often these comments seem like they're supposed to be "Take it from me, The Expert on Life" talks. Like we should stop, drop what we're doing, and applaud the difficulty of whoever is giving this counsel or warning.

We unintentionally put pressure on people and communicate expectations of them:

-- a mom to somehow enjoy her exhaustion...

...there are countless joys of little ones, ABSOLUTELY! But there are days when a weary heart needs to be freshly, sweetly, humbly reminded and encouraged, that Jesus is near and does not grow tired or weak. And not made to feel that looming days of DOOM are ahead, or that she'll miss the difficulty of now. Even if there are difficult days ahead...will not the Saviour be there? Guiding, encouraging, helping, leading?

--a younger couple not "together as long as me and mine"

...while talking about our lives and what we've learned more than has it's place, there is such a difference between sharing and teaching or instructing. No one will marry my husband. So. I can't tell them "just how to be a wife" or "what marriage is like", because my experience and knowledge...comes from being JOSH'S wife. As marrieds, we cannot make blanket statements that "marriage is so wonderful/difficult/ encouraging/hard..." whatever adjective yours is in this season. We are not the author of our listener's marriage. Their marriage will be different from ours. There will be seasons to it: times to celebrate and rejoice with them, and other times to pray for, encourage, and uphold them. But we must STOP thinking all relationships are like ours!!

-- pregnant women to be anxious about the future, and suppress the difficulties of their pregnancy.

...I have three very dear friends and a sister-in-law who are pregnant or who've recently had a baby. I have wanted to delete comments or posts FOR THEM on facebook. What happened to celebrating and rejoicing WITH others? When it comes to pregnancy, there is such little encouragement, it is so sad. And then there's little compassion, too...what do we want from them?! When a night's been sleepless or morning sickness wearisome, there is a flood of comments about how "this is preparing you for how awful and difficult your life is going to be." When cute new clothes are bought, there are comments about "how many times you'll have to wash that", or "wait til its got poop all over it." Dear Pregnant Reader, on behalf of everyone who's said hurtful or insensitive things to you, I am so sorry.

Can I also take this opportunity to say, that no two pregnancies have ever been alike. I've never been pregnant, and yet am flabbergasted at the ways conversations take place, and things that are said. We cannot talk about "pregnancy" as though its the same experience for everyone!

As a church in America especially, we are weak in this. Someone experiences tragedy and we slap a, "God is faithful!" on their facebook wall. Is God faithful? Oh, INDEED. More than we can know or comprehend. But what our friend needs in this moment perhaps, is something that more accurately reflects the heart of God for them. Humility. Care. Compassion. Love. Not instruction. Teaching. Correction.

I know this post is a bit bold. Perhaps my impatience at such communication is evident. My heart and desire is that we, as Christians, would look to support, encourage, and love others well where they're at. There are times for teaching. For correction. For reproof. But the majority of the time...passing comments are not those places...