LIVING AS APPRENTICES
Remarkable progress has been made in brain research in the last 20 years, particularly in the study of bilingual brains. We have learned that if a person is bilingual, both languages are active in the brain at all times. A bilingual person cannot shut off one of his or her languages. If a person who speaks English and Spanish is talking to someone in Spanish, the English language section in his or her brain is active, too. The brain has a remarkable capacity to keep the proper language operative.
As I mulled over this new piece of information, I thought about my desire as a Christian (and perhaps your desire) to listen to God in “God language” while I am actively thinking or speaking in “human language.” We always struggle with this concept – as if we have to detach from our human language to hear God language. When we read about Frank Laubach’s experiments in keeping in touch with God or Brother Lawrence’s extraordinary ability to go about his daily work and still be conversing with God, we think about how unusually gifted those men must have been and toss off the idea of “constant contact” with God as impossible in the 21st century.
However, the fact that our brains can learn to listen, speak, and think in several languages and each of them is in operation at the same time, albeit “under the surface” seems a perfect metaphor for holding our God language and our English or Spanish or French together in our minds. We can, perhaps, become spiritually “bi-lingual.”
This is such a strange thought that I hesitate to try to find logic to explain it. Here is what I risk hypothesizing. First, Jesus seemed to be able to listen and even respond to God at the same time he was communicating with humans. He knew (or intuited) things about people who seem to have been strangers (the rich young ruler, the woman at the well, Zaccheus).
Second, it seems possible that if we know as much about God’s language, God’s way of communicating with us, as we do about English (or whatever language we speak), we, too, might be able to operate in those two languages simultaneously. We can be a blessing to others if we can draw on our communication to and from God at the same time we are communicating to others.
Third, it seems to me that the way we learn the language of God is through the practice of spiritual disciplines. If we immerse ourselves in Scripture, we see how God spoke to others. If we make God the Master of our lives, we begin to recognize His voice. Living as Apprentices of Jesus, who was the Word, we can learn Jesus’ language for navigating this earth. If are silent more than we speak, we can sort out when God is giving us direction. If we live simply, our brains have less clutter and more focus. Finally, in the same we know more about our friends, our spouse, our children by spending time in conversation, the more time we spend in prayer and listening for God’s responses, the more we will know about God.
We are created in the image of God and thus equipped to be in communion with that same God. Learning God’s language is possible and dialogue with God is life-changing.
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Thanks, Bill. You should be encouraged to know that the experts who spoke about the bi-lingual brain said that yes, children learn a second language more easily, but it is entirely possible for old geezers like us to become proficient in another language. When I heard that, I was tempted to put it to the test, but now that you are learning French, I don’t have to!
Thank you for another amazing post. Watch out Richard Rohr! Your depth of insight connecting the things of news, science, and literature always amazes me and prompts me again and again to say Cheers to God for Karen Bables.
PS. I am beginning the undertaking of learning French! It hurts my brain!!!
William R. Boersma
Minister of Care
Christ Memorial Reformed Church
595 Graafschap Rd
Holland, MI 49423