Synonyms and the Language of God

22 Nov


Photo by jdurham on Morgue File.

I’m sitting at my desk, putting some finishing touches on my Sunday school lesson for tomorrow. I am currently teaching a church history class on Sunday mornings during Sunday school. We will begin looking at St. Augustine tomorrow, which should be an interesting study!

(My desk is in the garage with a couple of bookshelves around me. I basically made a corner of the garage an office space.)

As I am finishing up some research and my PowerPoint slides, my two-year old came over to me. She wanted to sit in my lap and help me type, I have learned through trial and error this is not a good idea!

Instead, I talked with her and tickled her a bit. We went around in circles in the chair and stopped so we were facing the garage door, which was up to let the sunlight in the garage. She pointed out the door and said, (or, at least what I thought she said was), Daddy, let’s wash the cars.

I replied, No, silly girl, it’s too cold to wash the cars.

She corrected my misunderstanding by responding, No Daddy, see the cars, not wash the cars!

In other words, she recognized that I had misunderstood her and wanted to correct my misunderstanding. How did she do it? She used a synonym to make her point clearer to me. She substituted see for watch.

I thought this was quite remarkable for her to do. It was remarkable timing as well, since I had been looking up some synonyms online for certain words for my PowerPoint presentation. So literally seconds before she came out and hopped in my lap, I had been musing over synonyms. Then, in less then a couple of minutes, she uses one to help me understand what she had said!

Now, this may not be a big deal to many people, but I thought a two-year old having the wherewithal to use a synonym for clarity was pretty remarkable!

Yes, I suppose I am taking an occasion to brag on my daughter, as I am want to do as a father! But, it still seems noteworthy to me nonetheless.

The point is we all want to be understand as we communicate. Communication is about understanding one another, or at least, it should be. When we talk over each other or around each other, we are doing others, and ourselves, an injustice. When we communicate, we should respect ourselves and the other person enough to try to be as understandable as possible.

As a preacher/teacher I know I will sometimes say something in such a way that is confusing to the audience. I can usually tell when this happens by some of the looks I get or the slight cocking of people’s heads. I then have to stop, rewind and try to say it in a different, more understandable way.

I will sometimes have people tell me that I used a word or two they were not familiar with and so did not understand. Or, they many tell me that I speak unnaturally fast!

Communication is about understanding one another. It is not only about getting my point across or barking out orders; rather, it is about identifying with another person is an intimate, thoughtful way.

God has taken great pains to communicate to us. He has communicated to us, according to Scripture, through creation, history, our experiences, his Word and Christ. All around us, as it were, God is speaking to us. He is communicating to us on a personal level. As with all communication, for it to be effective, not only must the speaker do his/her part to make him/herself understandable, the listener must be engaged and give attention to what is being said.

The truth is this: communication is a two-way street.

Are we paying attention? Are we listening to what God has and is saying to us?

God will say one thing in a myriad of ways just to help us to get it. For instance, in the New Testament there are something like ninety figures for the church used. Basically, that’s ninety different ways God uses to talk about one thing: the church. It’s a good bet that out of ninety figures, I am bound to understand at least one of them! That is God going to amazing ends to communicate to us. God does not repeat himself for the sake of repetition; but rather, to help us understand. For our part, we must listen.

It always amazes me how God can use something so simple (like a two-year little girl using a synonym for clarification) to remind me of his goodness and grace.

So, the next time you pray, you may want to thank God for things like synonyms!


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One response to “Synonyms and the Language of God

  1. Beth Murray

    November 22, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    That 2 year old is highly intelligent, as well as the soon to be 5 year old. They get it from their MiMi, who happens to be your mother!!!


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