Learning the Language

Walking down the streets of Katutura I have meet a number of interesting people, or better yet, a number of locals have meet a strange white girl. One of my tasks during the day is to walk around the township practicing my language lesson from earlier that day. It must be quite entertaining for these people, to have some random foreigner walking around trying to speak their language… emphasis on trying.

Generally there are two responses by people when I approach them; people are either confused and seemingly uninterested or they interact with me, helping me with pronunciation and learning new words. Some are so excited they even want to teach me profanity. The goal with this isn’t just for me to learn the language but also for me to learn about the people.

Languages are unique because they imply so much more than just words. Behind every language there is a people group, that are all united by one common denominator that is a foundation for building lives, relationships, business, and families. It is not merely something we learn in school, but it is something that connects people beyond a spelling test or a reading quiz.

Perhaps this is not on accident, but God has something in mind when creating the unique and profound ability for humans to communicate in a deep relational way. Perhaps he himself was planning on communicating with us, His creation. In John we see that God became tangible for humanity, because Jesus Christ became The Word. Jesus Christ, who existed beyond culture and language, entered into time for what? To become the word that gives life.

Christianity is more than a set of rules or a humanitarian movement. While there is certainly those aspect involved, I see Christianity as a language. I see being in Christ as a way to connect people. I see being in Christ as a foundation for building lives, relationships, business, and families. I see Christianity as learning the language of The Word.

When a child is learning to speak their first language they make mistakes, their grammar isn’t perfect, and generally basic concepts such as “hungry, sad, and mamma” are all that is communicated. When a foreigner is learning a new language, such as myself, the language will be broken. In the states, I love talking to foreigners, something about broken English just makes me smile. Some people have better levels of language abilities, but there is one common factor, all are striving to be connected by a common denominator.

Christianity works the same way, some people are born into it. They learn about God starting in Sunday school, and they’re not able to communicate the deep theological issues, but they know about God and they know Jesus loves them and well as everyone. Then there are people who learn later in life about Jesus, and decide they want to learn the language of hope that Jesus spoke about. Things get pronounced wrong, 1 Corinthians get confused with 1 Chronicles, but there’s a community that is there learning with them.

I saw on facebook a test you could take to see how profound your English vocabulary is. A friend of mine shared her results, saying her level of vocabulary is at the top 5% of all English speakers. I thought to myself “I am gonna do pretty good on this, I’m more than half way done with a bachelors degree, and I read a lot of books.” The test started easy, so it helped my confidence. It got harder and I had to think longer, and then I just started guessing. My results? Top 40%. Equivalent to a 12 year old, according to the test.

I definitely didn’t share my results, but the thing is even though my English vocabulary isn’t impressive, I am able to connect and communicate on a deep level with people who are so different from me. I have something in common with people all across the country I live in, and even across the world. Christianity is no different. Whatever the season of Christianity you are in, you are connected with so many people across your neighborhood and across the world. We may see different levels of spiritual maturity, but the bottom line is that we are all deeply rooted as one by the blood of Christ. Don’t allow your maturity or immaturity to prevent you from speaking the language of Christ, but allow for the Spirit of Christ to unite you with his body, who is the church.

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