Some time ago Muriel and I met a group of young people who were on a trip together somewhere. It turned out that one of them was from Northern Ireland, and the others had some difficulty understanding her accent. One phrase in particular had them scratching their heads. It seems she had said that she was ‘gointy tik a parr sharr’ before dinner. Well they couldn’t work it out, and Muriel and I were laughing, recognising immediately that the BBC translation was that she was ‘going to take a power shower’. When you’re familiar with where someone comes from, it’s much easier to understand them.
Then there’s the potential for confusion between American and British English: tap/fawcett, garden/yard, car bonnet/hood, trainers/sneakers, trousers/pants, crisps/chips, biscuit/cookie, etc, etc, etc. I think it was Churchill who spoke of the USA and the UK as two countries divided by a common language.
But it’s not just the words used, or how they’re spoken. There’s also the question of context: if our Northern Irish friend had made her comment while heading up the stairs with a towel over her shoulder, no doubt someone would have picked up on the clues. Put the American speaker in the right environment and you’ll soon see what he’s getting at.
God is speaking all the time, in all kinds of ways – through my circumstances, through my neighbour (especially my wife), through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and primarily of course through His Word. But how often do I miss what He’s saying to me? How often do I hear but not understand? Perhaps He speaks in a different ‘accent’ – something I’m not familiar with, and I need to listen more closely. Or He comes to me in a different context, trying to get my attention away from what I’m focussing on and onto an area He wants to speak about. And I’m too busy to give Him my attention. Or I’m too narrow-minded to think outside the box. Or I’m just a bit short in the faith department. (Is all this just me??)
Believe it or not, there are times when Muriel speaks to me and I just don’t get it. Not that I don’t understand her words, but I’ve missed out on the context. Maybe she has been thinking about something and the next step seems obvious to her – and my blank stare is a source of great frustration! How often does God feel the same way, when I just don’t get it? “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked His disciples (Mt 15:16)
Jesus said ‘my sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me’. Lord, help me to listen carefully, without preconceived ideas. And then help me to follow you closely.