What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks one language?
I recently was told about this amazing website called ‘Can You Guess Where My Accent Is From?’ It’s a game where you watch video of a person reading a poem, scripture, randomness, etc. and then they ask if you can guess what nationality their dialect is. It’s addicting, really. So far my high score is a measly 26.
While you’re watching the videos it’s amazing how intensely you begin to listen to every word, every nuanced syllable, looking for clues to whether that drawn out vowel is Kiwi or Aussie, Russian or Yugoslavian, Canadian or American.
It’s amazing how subtle the distinctions are to an untrained ear; and how insulting it is when you mistake someone you meet from Auckland, New Zealand with someone from Perth, Australia.
The same could be said for communities of faith. I recently was in Hawaii where a sincere pastor explained to me that his church was ‘inclusive’– which mean that baptists and presbyterian’s were allowed to come.
When we begin to isolate ourselves within our own culture, whether it be American culture, or Brazilian culture, or Baptist culture, we begin to lose our ability to appreciate human uniqueness. We begin to become bad listeners, and we begin to loose our capacity to distinguish the different dialects of the human soul.
Recently a friend of mine helped another friend of mine choose to follow Jesus for the first time. I was standing right there as it was happening. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. My friend who chose Jesus that night seemed so open, eager almost, to make a decision that we sometimes convince ourselves that no one but Christians are willing to make.
Afterwards my friend who led her to Jesus was helping me understand that I wasn’t really listening to the core of her being– to her soul. I wasn’t hearing the nuance between a person who has rejected Jesus to a person who has a tough exterior but is desperately searching for trust in her core.
‘Jason, you have to really listen,’ He said. ‘You have to be able to interpret for people what it is that they’re feeling– to help them see that they’re experiencing God coming into their lives even though they don’t understand it.’
I wonder how many of us are surrounded by people who’s souls are trying to tell us something– something quiet– nuanced.
If only we might learn to really listen.