Yesterday in church I sat in church between two children, Frank on my right and a little girl on my left. This little girl only spoke Spanish a year ago when I met her, but so much has changed in her life, including the way she communicates with most of those around her.
She sat politely in her chair. She looked at the slides and laughed with everyone else, but maybe just not as hard. I remembered when school started that she’d wanted to get into the bilingual program where they speak English half the day and Spanish for the other half. It isn’t that she isn’t great at speaking one or the other. It was just that she felt she’d be more comfortable.
Pastor Adrian continued in the sermon, reading from Matthew 5, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” I watched her watching him and looking up at the screen behind him. I remembered what it has been like for me when I have sat in 3rd service, our Hispanic service. By the end of it, I am exhausted from the mental energy it takes for me to keep up.
In front of me, Pastor Adrian was talking about what the original Greek said, how it was important to remember that the Bible wasn’t written in English, how in other languages they have multiple different words for “love” but in English be just say “love.”
I have a Bible app on my phone that lets me use the Bible in seemingly endless translations and languages. I scrolled through some options and changed Mathew 5 to Mateo 5.
Ustedes han oído que se dijo: “Ama a tu prójimo y odia a tu enemigo”. Pero yo les digo: Amen a sus enemigos y oren por quienes los persiguen, para que sean hijos de su Padre que está en el cielo.
Her eyes scan across those words, the same words which were on the screen, but in her own language. I watched her mouth open and her eyes get big. She turned her face up and her eyes met mine. “Oh wow!” she said, before turning back to the little glowing screen where she read to the end of the chapter.
“Oh, wow.” Something clicked in those two little words, said with such sincerity.
For her, you could see her worldview shifting. Amen a sus enemigos? Oren por quienes los persiguen? Oh, wow. For me, another verse rolled through my mind.
“Yo soy el que soy.”
Yo soy. The first time I read that it moved something inside of me. I love to hear God called “I am.” It has meant so much to me to learn what that means over the past few years. I spend a fair bit of time saying one of my favorite phrases to myself, “I am not I AM.” But Yo Soy? It sounded so different, new and yet still, somehow, known.
Sitting there yesterday, watching her eyes get bigger and bigger as she read on, I thought, it is so incredible that we have the ability to translate this text. But even more incredible is that we have The Spirit who clarifies those words.
She and I may each feel more comfortable speaking two different languages, but the same message is clear to each of us. Love is different than we think. It asks more of us, asks us to choose to stay with loving even those who hate us, not the way we love our spouse or children, but in its own way. This love is the fierce determination that hate will not drive out fear and that if we claim to be the children of God, we must be marked by this kind of dangerous, unreasonable, irrational, unconquerable love.
I have marveled watching this little girl over the past year, watching her navigate new physical, social, and cultural territory. It has been difficult at times for me to connect with her when her world is so incredibly different from my own.
But here is what I know. Yo Soy knows her just as He knows me. He knows her name just like He knows mine. It is a great tool to have a translator on my phone, but I am so much more appreciative that we have this Great Translator available to us.
I encourage you, if you have the opportunity to learn another language, do it. There are so many apps out there that make it possible. But also this. I have found that the greatest tool I have when I am trying to communicate with others in Spanish is prayer which asks the Translator to fill in the gaps, to give me the right words, and to help me hear.
For today my prayer is this….will you pray this with me?
Father, that I might love, that I might learn, that I might persist and choose to love my enemies, that I might speak and that I might hold my tongue, that I might listen and that might really hear, I ask for you to clarify my words, the words of those around me, but most importantly, Your Word. Give me the conversations that You want me to have today. Amen.