By Marilyn Muller
I am waiting for a plane which will take me west after a ten days’ stay with my daughter Rachael, her partner Christian and Alexi, our 7-1/2-year-old grandson. The folks here are at least bilingual, two are at least trilingual, with some hints of at least two more languages being understood and spoken. Last year when I visited, Christian’s guideline was “English only used when Grandma’s present.” During this visit, the guidelines have been softened and I find myself listening to conversations in French, Russian, and a dash of English. Alexi, my grandson, has done his best to patiently explain any of the storyline (and words) of his favourite animated TV show “Ernest and Celestine” which has been recorded by PVR and we have watched together, over and over and over in the early morning hours to help me translate!
Many people have come and gone throughout my holiday here in Quebec: speaking English, French, Ukrainian, Russian, Japanese, and so on. After listening for several days, to conversations I do not understand, it dawns on me that this is like the experience of many of our refugees who have been welcomed into Canada, skilled in so many ways in their previous situations, some highly so, but struggling even after several months without understanding the English or the French language. This has made me grateful for the love that many show in practical ways through Friends Speak, or other forms of EAL, love more of us must be willing to express!
The mystery of new languages and being understood also makes me think of examples from the Scriptures – the wonderful day of Pentecost when through the Holy Spirit, miraculously, simple fishermen and a tax collector and others spoke the Best News in languages not their own, so that all could hear and understand (Acts 2).
Of course, language comes in many forms and so much of how we communicate has nothing to do with words. I am thinking of the conversations I have listened to through the warmth or coolness of eyes, through the smiles and compassion of facial expressions…and believe we can give the same warmth and compassion through our welcoming smiles and firm hand-shakes or, if allowed, hugs… (for which some of us are famous).
Even the grip of a handshake with a smile or shared tears are very telling ways to begin to share His Light through each of us. Consider these verses:
2 Corinthians 4:7-12 MSG
Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!
I am reminded of this scripture of a lesson I heard many years ago by Patsy Clairmont entitled, “God Uses Cracked Pots”. Eloquently she taught…we are vessels of clay, cracked by many struggles and often battered, but not demoralized! We’re not sure what to do, but God knows! And He is willing to use us. We are cracked vessels for Him. Because of the cracks, the light can come in and shine out through us too. This is the language of light.
Recently, Andrea Muirhead introduced me to a Newfoundland-based music group, The Once. They sing many beautiful songs with gifted musical skills and have widened my world. One song, however, relates to this topic of our roles in sharing His light. They sing (inspired by Leonard Cohen) “there is a crack, a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in!”
So, Paul in Corinthians, teaches we are clay containers – here for a little while – through which, like lanterns, we shine out to those around us, the Light He has offered us, and placed inside us, to be used up, with every ounce of energy we have. And, the reality is, we are all cracked, broken to be used by God… So, whether we can speak the language of words, or of a simple use of a handshake or a genuine love through the warmth in your eyes, a greeting, or hugs, be willing to share your light with anyone, everyone, wherever you are…