When I was in school, I took required classes in a foreign language. None of what I learned stuck. I did make it through graduation; but not much foreign language made it through me.
Today, sad to say, I'm nearly worthless at anything other than English. So I had a surprise on a recent trip, when I attended a church service in Quito, Ecuador - and found it richly meaningful. Oh, a few words of Spanish came through. I guessed that when one of the people conducting the service referred to el Seor, it meant the Lord. And a scriptural verse on the wall, "Conoceris la verdad, y la verdad os har libres," I knew to be the much-loved quotation of Christ "Ye shall know the truth and the truth, shall make you free" (John 8:32). But my surprise wasn't at deciphering a few words and phrases. It was at how much was communicated beyond the limits of human language.
What was communicated? First and foremost, love. Love was showered on me and my fellow travelers. The congregation was so filled with love that it made little difference we did not speak the same language. They loved the truth they were sharing, loved us, and very evidently loved one another. Their love washed over us and made the message come alive with warmth and meaning.
Second, they communicated conviction. Just listening to one woman reading from the Bible, I was struck by her certainty that what she was imparting was the truth. The whole worship service helped fortify my own conviction in the Word of God. It helped me renew my resolve to live a greater Christian love.
The behavior, and perhaps more important the attitude, of those people spoke volumes, understandable volumes. More real communication and more real communion took place than perhaps occurs in most same-language encounters.
Now that my trip is over, this small episode has become a primer for me on true communication. There is a language of the heart, in which the thoughts underpinning the words are both authentic and spiritual, soaring over barriers. When the intent of a person's communication is to express God, who is the divine Love and knows all, the usual limits of language begin to fall, and we find we all have a spirit of understanding - a kind of universal language. It may seem foreign at times, but is, in truth, native to everyone. The Monitor's founder once wrote, "When the heart speaks, however simple the words, its language is always acceptable to those who have hearts" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Miscellaneous Writings," pg. 262).
Good communication has a divine basis. God perpetually sees us all as His own. He's constantly imparting to us His clear ideas. Realizing this is what helps us be more genuine in our love, more coherent in sharing our insights. This is demonstrating that divine Love and divine Mind are one. Confusion and misunderstanding make fewer inroads, and the very best we have in our hearts can be shared with other open and honest people.
It's a lot like the day of Pentecost, related in the Bible (see Acts, chap. 2). This was a gathering of people of faith who nevertheless shared no common language. But when what is described as the descent of the Holy Ghost took place - the inspiration of God to each heart - each individual heard the message in his or her own language.
Maybe that episode seems too unique, too one-of-a-kind, for it to serve as a standard for today. After all, if what we're trying to get across is that we want the checkout person at the Safeway to give us plastic rather than paper, holy and authentic thought is not a plus.
Or is it? What if we made it a daily endeavor to talk as if speaking straight from the heart of Love? What if we strove to see our neighbor as doing what he or she is divinely capable of - expressing the inspiration of one Mind? Even the most routine contacts might become richer. More appreciation, more understanding (though not necessarily more words!) could permeate even small moments. God could be seen as always - not just rarely - present, and therefore as always at hand to bring the spirit of understanding to people's thinking and communicating.
We'd all benefit from that.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society