Overcoming the Language Gap
We named our son “Whine.” At least that’s what our new friends in Russia believed. His name is Noah, a beautiful, Biblical moniker meaning “rest” to us. But to the people of his birth country, the word sounded like “noy,” which means “whine or sulk.” Yikes! Talk about a language gap!
I actually have encountered gaps like that in our own country as well. As my family and I have relocated to the east and south of our home state we’ve heard strange phrases like:
- “Get up” As a mostly native Ohioan, I would understand the term to mean “rise from a seated or reclining position.” So, when a young man in my teenage home of North Carolina told me he’d “get up” with me later, I was horrified! My parents would never approve of that! Then, I realized that he meant he would call me.
- “Awhile” South Central Pennsylvanians place this word at the end of questions, such as “May I take your order awhile?” or, “May I hang your coat awhile?” Each time I was asked those questions, I wondered why they wanted me to wait! “No, you can take my order and hang my coat right now, please. I’d rather not wait,” my Midwestern self thought.
- “Bless your heart.” I remember this term fondly from an elegant garden party I attended while living in Mississippi. I was new to the area and spoke in my most refined Cleveland twang. (You know what I mean! Northeast Ohioans don’t call out to their “mom.” We yell, “Mamm!” straight through our nasal passages!) When I spoke to the hostess, she gave me the prettiest smile and oh-so-softly said, “Bless your heart. You’re not from around here are you?” I realized that wasn’t a good thing when she quickly moved on to other guests.
I share those examples all in good fun, but they drive home an important point. What we hear and/or read doesn’t always mean what we think. And the words of the Bible definitely are no exception! Let’s take a closer look. When the apostle John wrote, “God so loved the world…” he meant, “God so loved the world.” His intent matched his words. When we read Romans 12:20, however, we might want to pause as we consider the apostle Paul’s words. He writes, “…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Um, I’m sorry, could you repeat that?
Truth be told, even well-known Biblical scholars debate Paul’s true intentions when he penned those words. How do I know? I did some digging. And Proverbs tells us that digging is a crucial habit to develop:
“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:1-6, emphasis added)
The writer of Proverbs makes it clear that wisdom does not come from a superficial skimming of the Bible. Indeed, we are to value it like a precious metal and dig for it as if it’s buried riches. When we do that, we reap the benefits:
- We understand and walk in a good fear of our Creator (v. 5).
- We discover His knowledge.
- We grow in wisdom – wisdom that comes directly from Him and that can direct our paths!
For those reasons – and because I would be lost without wisdom from above – I have tried to incorporate some tools into my Bible reading time. My Bible time looks something like this:
- I prepare for lift-off by
- Praying before I read and asking the Holy Spirit to guide my reading, showing me where I should concentrate.
- Reading the introduction to the book where the passage is located (i.e., reading the introduction to Romans if I am trying to understand Romans 12) so that I understand the passage’s context.
- Soaring to 30,000 feet by reading the passage once all the way through.
- Diving deep into the details by
- Re-reading it and looking for repeated words or transition words such as “if/then,” “therefore,” or “but.”
- Linking those transition words to the verses that surround the passage.
- Reading verses that are cross-referenced to the one I am reading.
- Looking up the roots and Biblical definitions of certain words in the passage.
- Recording my discoveries in my journal.
- Unearthing the treasure – allowing the exposed truths to speak to me as encouragement, conviction and instruction. I often journal those application points, as well.
That approach may seem daunting to you. I don’t share it as instruction, but as inspiration; because here’s the thing: when I am willing to invest my time and energy into study of God’s word, I am never disappointed. He reveals rich truths about Himself, His plan, His character, and His children. Children like me! And that makes my awe of Him and my relationship with Him all the more profound.
Friend, has your Bible time been more of a fly-over, or have you truly invested yourself in knowing God’s word? I pray that your Bible reading includes everything from 30,000-foot views to deep dives below the surface. May you discover rich treasures that you can hide in your heart for eternity. You will indeed be blessed!