I used to work as as sign language instructor at a public elementary school in Hutchinson. It wasn’t the job I’d hoped for when I graduated from college, but it was the only job available. And I needed to eat. I wasn’t the best signer in the world, but I was conversant. And it was for a second grade girl.
She was a real sweetheart, and I often still think of her. We had a lot of laughs as we got to know each other over that semester (yeah, I only made it one semester). There were times when we’d be talking (signing), and I would sign something I thought was a common word. But she’d get this look on her face that clearly communicated that she was confused. It worked the other way around too. She struggled getting her little 8-year-old hands to do some of the big signing words/gestures SEE requires. And try as she would, I couldn’t understand her, and we’d just end up spelling to each other.
She was in second grade, and I had only been signing for a year or two. We were both still learning. And it was natural that sometimes we couldn’t communicate with each other because one of us didn’t understand what the other was trying to say.
Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.
Communication is a big deal. It’s hard work, trying work. It’s not always easy either, because sometimes you have to communicate messages people don’t want to hear. Can you imagine the job the Disciples had after Jesus ascended? For that matter, imagine the job Jesus had when He began His ministry, turning what was commonly accepted as religious practice into meaningless ritual.
I tend to get really impatient with people who don’t believe in Jesus. To me, He’s the obvious choice. But I’ve known Him since I was 7 years old, and I’ve known of Him since before that. He’s walked every step with me, and I know He’s there because He shows me. But not everyone has had that experience.
They don’t understand.
And that’s not because I haven’t communicated well enough. It’s not even because God hasn’t communicated well enough. People are just clinging to what they know. That’s the way it worked in the early years of the Church and in Jesus’ ministry. People hadn’t heard of this crazy idea of grace through faith before. Surely that’s too good to be true. God can’t love us that much when we constantly fail Him. If we want to be saved, we must have to work for it. We must need to earn it. Or we must just need to do the best we can and hope it will all come out in the wash when all is said and done.
Know anyone who believes like that?
Don’t get angry at them. Don’t be impatient. They just don’t understand.
Understanding takes time and love and humility, because both of you have to admit you don’t know something. So before you get irritated and lose your temper or give up hope, step back and take a breath and just have a conversation. Let your faith show through the life you live. That’s step one, just generally, because if you aren’t living Christ why would anyone else want to either?
It’s easy for someone to keep holding on to the life they know. It’s what they know. It’s comfortable. So we need to be the ones to show them that a life lived with Jesus is bigger and better and more satisfying than anything else in the universe. But it’s not something you can just say and expect them to understand. You need to live it first.