In a perfect world–well, in my perfect world–people would always understand each other. No matter what language is used.
I’m a mono-lingual American. One of those.
Having recently been in a foreign country, it was rather obvious that the language spoken most frequently wasn’t English. (I can go to the big mall in Orlando where all the tourists shop and not hear much English either.) But I anticipated this language discrepancy in Africa. Though we were in Francophone West Africa, French wasn’t always the language of choice. There are 60 separate dialects in Burkina Faso alone.
That equals a lot of confusion.
What was truly wonderful was the reality of qualified interpreters who helped us make sense out of what we couldn’t understand.
One amazing opportunity was sitting with two different groups of people who had issues to work out. Neither group spoke the language of the other. Interpreters patiently worked through two separate tribal languages as we met with one group, then the other. There were differences of opinion. Problems that needed to be addressed. Disagreements due to the lack of understanding.
I watched him closely. The interpreter watched the person who was speaking closely. He understood what was being explained. He nodded as he listened. And when the speaker was finished, the interpreter turned towards us, the ones needing him to explain in a way we could understand.
We all struggle with understanding others. Even if we speak the same language. I find that often I let my mind wander while I’m listening to someone. Or I’m thinking of how I should respond when it’s my time to talk. Or I just choose not to listen.
I need an interpreter. Daily. Not just in a place like Africa–frankly, the people we met were gracious and kind with our limited ability to communicate. Kinder than I think I would have been. I wanted to understand. I wanted to be understood.
I had an aha moment while in Burkina. God has known from the beginning that we would need an interpreter to help us know Him. Someone who would communicate what and who He is so that we could understand Him. So that we could feel understood. It’s why He sent Jesus, the only One who could help us grasp that God loves us. That He wants to be in relationship with us. That He has things for us to know about Him that will make our lives full.
I’m not always good at listening. I’m often not good at understanding, especially if someone is very different from me.
But this I know: God loves me enough to send me a Savior, because what I need more than anything else is to hear from Him that He loves me. That He can and will restore me to a right relationship with Him. Because of Jesus. I have a Savior who gets me, because He became human, and yet is Himself God.
You can’t find a more trustworthy interpreter.