And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs– in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” Acts 2:6-10
When I was seventeen years old, my family and I went to Disney World over Christmas. One day, we happened to be in the store that sold Mickey Mouse ear hats. I overheard a woman attempting to communicate to the clerk, but she only spoke Spanish. The clerk (unusual for Disney, but this was MANY years ago..) spoke only English. I was an overconfident teenager with four years of rudimentary Spanish under my belt, which foolishly compelled me to march over and offer assistance. Somehow, with my lacking skills and a whole lot of patience on the customer’s part, we were able to exchange the hat she paid for with the size she needed. It was exciting to help, but I was nonchalant. For the rest of the day, every time we ran into this family from Mexico (and there was a large crowd) they would shout and wave enthusiastically, much to my adolescent horror. They were grateful and unashamed to show it.
There is power in understanding. The ability to meet people where they are, be it a matter of language, experience or knowledge, will build a bridge quickly. The passage you create will be sturdier than pandering and will withstand the test of time. When we feel known, we allow a vulnerability and a willingness to risk that opens doors and can set our lives on new and exciting directions.
I often place myself in this scripture. I have traveled to lands where my language was not spoken freely. I have felt the isolation of not knowing what people were discussing (although somehow I knew when they were discussing me) as they engaged in conversation around me. What it must have been like to hear one’s own language being spoken in such a powerful moment…could you imagine? Suddenly, you can rest into the embrace of familiarity. This message was meant for me. I am included in this great promise of salvation. I have a place in this new language of love.
When we’re lost, when we’re in need, or even when we just want a child size hat, speaking the language of our sisters and brothers can break down barriers that ultimately set us free. Speak a song of salvation and grace in every language- so all may know the warmth of unconditional love.