Communication experts tell us that the words we use only constitute around 30% of how we communicate. While I’m not sure how they arrived at that figure, it’s easy enough to see what they’re saying from how we communicate without words. For example, we often use ourhands to communicate. When a hand is used to wave or make a fist it is communicating two distinct things. A finger on a hand can point at something or another finger can say something not quite as helpful. A frown or a smile also communicates quite different messages. A kiss can communicate different things depending on whether it’s your Grandma or your three-year old daughter or your spouse. Because communication and language involves around 70% non-verbal speech, it is quite tricky to master—and especially so if you want to develop some close relationships. In fact, if you want to learn how to get along with anyone, you must learn how they communicate. And to state the obvious, if you have committed, or ever will commit, yourself entirely to another person, you will soon discover that you both have a “language” that will be at the heart of all of your conflicts.
We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. First John 4:6
I’ve been language learning for a number of years. This has included learning Biblical Greek; then, as my theological enquiries have deepened and broadened, I began to learn German some time ago (as many of the most influential theologians in the world are German). If you’ve ever tried to learn a foreign language you’ll soon discover that each language has strange expressions that sound nonsensical when translated word-for-word into English. This is certainly the case in both Biblical Greek and German. These odd expressions are known as idioms. The German idiom – “Die Nase voll haben” which in English literally is, “Your nose is full.” But this German expression has nothing to do with having a head-cold, flu symptoms, or even a snuffly nose. It actually means that someone is frustrated and fed-up! This highlights that even if language only consisted of the words we use, it would still be difficult to always understand what someone might really mean when they use an unfamiliar idiom!
“‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me’” Matthew 15:8
GOD HAS A LANGUAGE
For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:20
The Bible contains the language of God. It also reveals how God communicates – through the world He has made, the lives He has transformed, and His plan of redemption revealed in the Bible. If you want to communicate with God you need to learn God’s language – because language is the means by which you get close to anyone. Perhaps the greatest lesson anyone in a relationship with another person can learn though, is that language is not just, and is far more than, words. When two become close and learn each others language, they recognise that even a look can communicate a lot. God invites His children to look to Him (Ps. 123:2) and as we do He will “counsel us with His eye” (Ps. 32:8).
¶ I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. Psalm 32:8-9
EVERYONE HAS A WORDLESS LANGUAGE
Communication experts tell us that there are five levels of communication. Only three of the five levels are word-based and even though words are used in the other two, they are not based on these words. To understand these two particular levels of communication involves being able to read facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and reactions. But it also involves being able hear and understand what is being communicated. From my experience this requires a minimum of 25 years to begin to be able to communicate at these two levels with one other person. It requires patience, trial and error, and a willingness to learn how to apologise.
¶ Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. First Peter 3:7
THE GREATEST PROBLEM YOU’LL THINK YOU’LL EVER FACE IN LIFE
The most difficult challenge you’ll ever have to deal with throughout your life is others. They’ll make you angry, get you frustrated, and hurt you. At the root of these challenges will be miscommunication with others and communication breakdowns. Your ability to understand how language and communication really works could save you from much of this heartache. But the most unrealised — and by far the potentially greatest source of — heartache may eternally shock untold numbers of poor souls when they realise too late that they did not respond to God’s communications.
THE SOLUTION TO OUR GREATEST COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN
Communication is not merely about the words we use. The language used in communication often takes the form of our actions, our choices, our attitude, and how we treat others. Our greatest communication breakdown is when we refuse to communicate with God and deliberately choose to distance ourselves from Him.
¶ Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. Isaiah 59:1-2
If we pause and reflect on how God has reached out to us, we see that He has sent His Son into our world as a zygote who became a baby. This tells us that God was has taken every effort to us know that He is keen to connect with us with intimidating us. As we reflect on how the Christ-child grew up into manhood in a small village, we see that God was patient in how He communicated with us and not frustrated with us. As we consider how Jesus conducted Himself in defending the vulnerable, the poor, women and particularly widows, we see that God is deeply caring and compassionate toward us. And, especially if we listen to Jesus the Christ and what He taught about God and how to live for God, we will hear that God is kind, merciful, just, willing to save, and our Heavenly Father who offers to adopt us.
You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. Deuteronomy 13:4
Perhaps the clearest thing we would hear from God by reflecting on Christ’s actions, choices, attitude, and how He treated others, is that God invites us to come to Him (Matt. 11:28) and accept His offer of forgiveness and reconciliation. All of our objections to accepting His invitation fade away as we come closer. All of our doubts vanish in the light of the truth that gets brighter as we continue toward Him.
¶ “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 THE MESSAGE
Language is not merely about words. We’ve all heard the expression that a picture paints a thousand words — and while Dr. F.W. Boreham could tell you that a picture can inspire a thousands words, there is actually something uniquely precious about being able to precisely express yourself with just right words. This is why I think this saying needs revising because sometimes it takes ‘a thousand words to paint a [mental] picture’ and a thousand conversations to learn the language of your child or your spouse, and a good deal of time in God’s Word to become familiar with God’s language. If we can begin to learn each other’s language, we might find that each other’s communication picture becomes clearer and easier to see and in the process we may also find those conflicts we’ve become so used to aren’t as common as they once were.
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.