Praising God in a language I don’t understand helps me remember that God is infinitely bigger than the breath of my vocabulary and scope of comprehension. There is something mysterious and utterly marvellous in understanding the essence of what is being said—apart from the meaning.
When I stand in worship with the Malagasy believers, singing in their own language, the words and syllables trip up my tongue, so I just close my eyes and listen with my heart. I hear the love they sing to our Father.
I sense the submission and the expectation they have for Him to stir up the Spirit within their midst to change and guide them. I perceive the belief that He will provide for them even as He has done just recently with the new land that has been provided at just the right time for His church in Antananarivo.
I used to join the church in Liepaja, Latvia, on weekends to escape the confines of dormitory life in Lithuania. Sitting in the back of the draughty church building, the soothing sounds of Latvian praise and worship settling over me, I would ask with the utter conviction that it could happen for God to bestow upon me the gift of tongues—specifically those of Latvian, Lithuanian, and Russian.
Now I pray for the gift of French fluency and Malagasy comprehension. Yet even as I struggle to learn and absorb the vocabulary of these languages I marvel at how vast God is that He would create so many divergent people with multitudinous ways of perceiving and articulating the world around them.
I have grown to appreciate, even require, these friends of diverse cultures to show me more of who Jesus is, because I cannot comprehend the immensity of God with my own limited understanding. To quote Timothy Keller:
C.S. Lewis argues that it takes a community of people to get to know an individual person. Reflecting on his own friendships, he observed that some aspects of one of his friend’s personality were brought out only through interaction with a second friend. That meant if he lost the second friend, he lost the part of his first friend that was otherwise invisible. “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” If it takes a community to know an ordinary human being, how much more necessary would it be to get to know Jesus alongside others? By praying [and worshiping] with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God, Tim Keller, Dutton, 2014, 119).
We are the church within our local communities, joined to the global church. She is a deep pool of wisdom and understanding of our Lord and Saviour revealed by the Lord Himself to his Bride of many cultures. She is so beautiful. He is making her beautiful for Himself, and it is glorious in my eyes.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference