Christianese and Other Languages

“Tricycle me, Pop! Tricycle me!” three-year old Elizabeth hollered while sitting on her red trike in the driveway. E’s little legs didn’t have the strength to push the pedals.  But Pop had plenty of strength, guiding her with the gentle push she needed to keep her rolling.

Bill (Pop) mentioned later, “Children amaze me how they change words to fit their needs. Like making the noun tricycle into a verb.”

I thought about that illustration while on my prayer walk this morning in the same circle drive. “Peace me, Lord. Peace me,” I prayed. God understood me and what I was asking. He didn’t red-ink me either for improper word usage. He gently offered His peace to the areas where I felt unrest.

Thirty-six years ago, I formed a new language in which I thanked the Lord throughout my days. And in order for others to realize that anything good I was doing was not me, but God’s doing, I simply gave Him the credit.

However, over the years, I’ve come to realize others find my expressions offensive.

I’ll never forget a time, maybe, twenty-odd years ago while I working for a company. A group of us were driving somewhere when a dog ran out in front of us. The driver screeched the car to a halt, and we all jumped out to find this dog flattened out on its side in the middle of the road. Imagine a ring of adults peering down on this dog, all holding our breaths as we measured the breaths or last breath of this apparently unscathed canine.

I said a simple prayer. Not out loud, of course, but one of those inner brain ones only God hears.

All of a sudden, the dog leapt up on its four feet and ran off.

“Thank you, Jesus,” I whispered as a natural response, not meant for others to hear, but obviously loud enough that one man heard it.

This one man, E.G., thought it was so funny he spent the next week imitating me, with his “Thank you, Jesus!” and then letting out his roaring laughter. Actually, I would have been fine with it but he was doing it behind my back, purposefully mocking me and my faith.

And that is what our language can do–stereotype us and erect walls from misinterpretation.

For even those who attend church have been bothered by my expressions. So in not wanting to offend the Lord, I started biting my tongue.

For even when I shared my love and gratitude to the Lord through words, those around me in religious settings stepped back, some family and friends rolled their eyes. I knew my heart’s motives, but obviously they didn’t.

And I have to wonder: Maybe it’s because they recognized I wasn’t a perfect person and felt my outward praises shouldn’t be spoken so freely. Maybe they’d been hurt by someone claiming to be a Christian.

How many have heard someone describe a rude/cranky/self-entitled man or woman as a “pillar” in the church? How many only saw a cracked surface providing at the least minimal support?

I have and I have wondered how those words could adequately describe someone whose behavior did not seem too Christlike.

Lately though, I’ve noticed I’ve been growing a few hedges for protection. You know, the kind with the prickly leaves, the kind experts advise us to plant under our windows to keep burglars out.

With ears open, I’ve heard some pretty ugly things said by those whose words should have been praiseworthy. I’ve watched Christians make fun of other C’s behind their backs. I’m not laughing.

If to the pure all things are pure and the wicked all things are wicked, our communicating and understanding of one another has to penetrate past the words, past the attitudes. And it starts with us–as in my doing some inventory, you doing yours, asking for help when necessary.

When Jeremiah got frustrated with others and complained to God that he was no longer going to speak words about his God, his processing came to this conclusion,

“But if I say, ‘I will not mention him [the Lord] or speak any more in His name,’”  . . .

then Jeremiah realized, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

So maybe, I don’t need to surround myself with thick masses of prickly hedges. I just need to be okay with the fact that I have to praise Him somehow in what I say and do, me and the rocks. (FYI, from “if we don’t praise Him, the rocks will cry out.)

”You can never give another person that which you have found, but you can make him homesick for that which you have.”  Oswald Chambers    My Utmost for His Highest (June 10)

The art this month is a weathered door entitled The Beauty of a Textured Life.

Happy Independence Day! May we appreciate our freedoms and live strong! Faith brings freedom if we let it.

2 thoughts on “Christianese and Other Languages

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I have not been subject to the kind of criticism you have, so far, (possibly just haven’t lived long enough or spoken out enough), but I have long been a bit self-conscious about how I express myself and how different it can be from the norm….at those times I have sometimes even questioned my own motives, (am I really secretly trying to impress someone, etc)–but what I often come back to is that, as far as I can know about myself, I *am* sincere! God knows our hearts, and as you said, we can share His light with others, make them homesick for what we have, even if it makes us feel a little awkward and different sometimes. This was really encouraging to me–thank you!

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    • Thank you for your reply! You’re right! We have to look at our motives with everything. And in our desire to speak from a pure heart, maybe we learn and grow and purify more so in the process. And yet, I’m also realizing that some people are critical without any conviction to change. Should we continue to let them douse water on our flame? We can’t stop others from dousing, but we can certainly emit the warmth of God’s love in return. Blessings to you and all you do.

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