In many ways, language inhibits our ability to truly communicate. We so quickly use words to express our feelings that our words have been sucked dry of meaning. Listen to what James says about this:
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
Imagine reaching a point in your life where you lacked the food to feed your children. Suppose you went to a friend and shared your plight and they essentially said sorry and wished you good luck. You would rightfully be discouraged and hurt. Although they communicated with words that they care, their actions spoke otherwise.
We too easily use words to wrap up a conversation or an encounter with someone because words make the break more clean. It is infinitely more convenient to say, “I’ll pray for you” to someone who is suffering than to invest the time and energy necessary to understand their suffering and discover a way to love them in action.
All of this crystallized in my heart when I spent a week in Brazil this past October. I knew not a lick of Portuguese, but one of our primary goals involved loving the children in a poorer part of the city.
I remember the first few minutes as we began to meet the children, I felt terribly out of place. I graduated with a B.A. in Communication Studies. I am trained to talk! Yet, I could not use words to introduce myself or begin to get to know the kids.
Thankfully, love knows no bounds. Language does not hold love captive and over the next week, I got to know some of the most wonderful children in the world through a variety of ways:
- Playing Frisbee – Seriously, greatest invention ever. The kids had more fun with that than anything else.
- Having the kids make fun of me while I tried to repeat Portuguese words.
- Getting schooled in soccer.
- Building them a safer place to play.
- Trying to sing songs in Portuguese.
- Teaching them how to juggle.
- Simply spending time with them.
Honestly, I felt like I knew the kids my whole life by the time I left. Although language made conversation possible, real friendships were formed. I may never have been able to have a long conversation, but I still tear up when I look at their pictures because they mean so much to me.
All this to say, let’s stop going the easy route. Yes, we can tell people how we feel, but let’s not stop there. Show them.