So often I will be speaking to my young son, forgetting that he is only 3 and can’t always follow what I’m saying. His sweet, small voice will chime in with the question “What you mean, Mommy? What you mean?”
I have only to pull myself down on one knee, look him in the eyes and he listens very intently as I reword my sentences, making it clear enough for him to grasp. His eyes then light up with understanding. “If only I had taken the time to do that in the first place,” I think to myself.
This reminds me so much of the first eight verses of Nehemiah 8. Once the wall had been complete and the exiles had settled into their towns, the Book of the Law was read to “all who could listen with understanding.” I picture in my mind what this must have looked like as Ezra stood up to read aloud to a crowd that “listened attentively.” People were interested. They hung on every word, offering up an Amen each time Ezra praised The Lord. We learn that in verse 8 “they read out of the Book of the Law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.”
Ohhhhh! …giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.
These are a people that had been so far removed from the Word of God that they had absolutely no idea what it meant. They had been subjected to so many Babylonian practices that, by the end of the exile when Cyrus allowed them to return home, they were clueless. Several generations had passed and much of their Hebrew heritage, in regards to The Lord, had been stamped out of them. “What you mean?” was probably a regular thing for them…
What about us? How do we go about sharing God’s Word with others? Do we take the time to give the meaning behind it for those who so desperately need it? Do we speak in a dialect they can understand or are we all wrapped up in our Christianese, scaring them off before they’ve even had a taste of how wonderful the Word is? Or do we just keep our explanations to ourselves and hope they catch on by watching us live our lives?
There is a quote that is credited to St. Francis of Assisi that says “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” While I can wholeheartedly agree with preaching the gospel at all times via our actions I also have to remember that a belief may be born this way, but faith is not sustained this way. People might come to Christ through the actions of others, but those same people cannot develop their faith without learning the Word. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
But how do we help them learn? How can we present the Word in such a way that a deep understanding takes place?
These aren’t questions that I can readily answer. On the contrary, it’s a little bit of a struggle for me right now. A friend planted this seed in my mind earlier this week along with the realization that it’s something I need to take more seriously.
If only I could do this in the same way that I explain something to my son…by bending down on one knee, rewording my sentences and watching their faces light up with a clear understanding.