Did I ever tell you I was born in Germany? My dad was in the service, stationed in a place called Neubrücke. I was born there, in the Army hospital, back in 1964.
I don’t have any memory of having lived in Germany. At least, I don’t have any conscious memory of having lived there. I moved to the United States with my parents before I was two years old. But, here’s the funny thing: My husband took me back to Germany for the very first time, just a couple of years ago and, although I had no memory of the place or the language, I found I could understand and even communicate—in German!—with the people there.
I’m not saying I was able to hold extended conversations at the coffee shops, but H and I were both astounded to discover I could understand and share simple directions, ask and answer basic questions, and even eavesdrop enough to decode the basic gist of dialogue between people on the train. Crazy, right?
When my husband and I returned home from our trip, I called my mother to tell her all about it. I wondered if she had any insights into my linguistic adventure. I remembered, as a child, hearing my parents use the German words for please and thank you, but that was pretty much the extent of it. When I talked with my mom, she didn’t have many answers for me. She thought perhaps my brain had stored away the language I’d been exposed to as an infant, from my German nanny.
It’s a mystery, isn’t it?
My natural inclination, when faced with a mystery, is to get to the bottom of it. I want the mystery unwrapped. I want it decidedly un-mysterious. I want it complete and understood so I can check it off my list and move on.
The very first manifestation of the Spirit of God in the New Testament is one where language barriers proved no obstacle at all. Just like that—with the sound of a mighty, rushing wind and the appearance of what looked like fire—people were able to converse with one another. Onlookers pronounced the disciples to be drunk because that’s what we do when we don’t understand something. When facing the great mysteries of our existence, we fold them up and squash them down and then we stuff them in a box, tape the lid shut, and write something on the box in black Sharpie ink. “Drunk,” we write. Or, sometimes we write, “Crazy,” or “Thug,” or “Racist,” or “Terrorist,” or “Heathen,” or “Idiot,” or, perhaps, “Stupid idiot,” or something similarly compact and finite. We deem ourselves too good for the mysterious because of our intellect and our proclivity toward and fondness for reason.
Meanwhile, we are completely missing out on something brand new. We fold ourselves up and squash ourselves down when we choose to explain away the mysterious. “Behold,” God says to us from the past or the future or this moment right now (and whenever there’s a “behold,” we should probably go ahead and behold, you know?) “I am doing something new! Don’t you see it? It’s springing forth right this moment!” (See Isaiah 43:19.)
I don’t have an explanation for my experience in Germany. But I’d be wrong to discount it. It’s been a few years since my visit to see where I was born, and I can’t let go of what it felt like to suddenly speak a language I’d never been taught.
The mysterious things of this world beckon to us as an invitation to allow God to reveal something new about himself and about the way he calls us to perceive and engage with the world around us. And with the people in the world.
In our culture, we’re being asked to re-examine lots of long-held beliefs and understandings and interpretations and perceptions. The mysterious keeps pressing us to come closer: to put down our Sharpies, to open the boxes, to unfold and unsquash and set free. It is scary to think we may be being asked to consider something brand new, and perhaps in opposition to what we’ve always thought about a thing. But, I know this for sure: we can trust God to be right at the center of what we find mysterious. After all, God is the ultimate mystery. If you’ve got him figured out, well, God bless you.
Is the mysterious-ness of the world and culture and life and all the rest reaching a hand in your direction? Don’t squash it or fold it or stuff it away.
Let it be a mystery, and see what happens next.
Jody Ohlsen Collins
The work of the Holy Spirit IS a mysterious thing….and given that your post began with a connection to language, I find it interesting the hallmark of the Holy Spirit’s movement is through language no one understands. Except for God.
We can’t be too quick to dismiss things we cannot figure out, especially when armed with our Sharpies and ‘squish’-ers. (not sure if that’s where you meant to go with these thoughts, but that’s what I read 🙂 )
Go where the words take you. xoxo
Oh, the God in me embraces the God in you with great gratitude. This right here…”Is the mysterious-ness of the world and culture and life and all the
rest reaching a hand in your direction? Don’t squash it or fold it or
stuff it away.” I am so angry at God right now that there are days when I feel I cannot breathe….so for you, in His Name, to give me release NOT to squash it, is precisely the lifeline I need right now.
For so many of us who are silently suffocating….thank you for the blessing you are.
Christmas Peace, dear friend.
in His Love,
Yes. I hear you. I feel you. I know what you’re saying. Taking one breath at a time with you.
Ihad a similar experiences nice when I went to South Africa. It felt surreal to me to be around the people and learn their la gauge. I felt very much at home. A familiarity existed that made me feel.like I was definitely.a part of tbem, and at Home. I even walked in a store and began speaking the language and a male South African swore I was from there! Although it felt good to fool him, I can never shake the feeling that perhaps I was there in spirit, before. Thanks people were so familiar.
I am always intrigued by God’s mysteries and as we pull off layers we find so much more about Him and His people. I love how he even speaks to us through dreams. I would have never even had a desire to go to South Africa had it not been for a dream and a desire He placed in me. By the time the dream came true, 2 years later I eerily knew I had been Sent to see his people. That dream and the manifestation of it changed my life. When I tell people of it, it such a mystery and testament to the fact God is real. Thanks for sharing Deidra. The unexplainable ways of God are magnificent!????
So fascinating! Thanks for sharing, Jennifer.
wowzer! that’s wonderful!
Love this. Thank you. Will be thinking on mystery now and how mysterious His doing all things new can be. (And disorienting.)
I love how God works mystery into our lives. He always has a plan for us and I am thankful for His plan. Merry Christmas!
“In our culture, we’re being asked to re-examine lots of long-held beliefs and understandings and interpretations and perceptions.”
So much confusion right now. If my country, my community, isn’t what I thought it was, then what is it?
I realize I can say this about my family too, especially as we all see one another around the holidays. If my family members seem unfamiliar to me, then who are they?
Here’s the difference your perspective and words help happen:
Not knowing is not necessarily bad. Not knowing is a way of allowing the unknown to happen, and God knows the unknown.
So, allowing the unknown to play out is really a way of letting God’s desires play out, according to his plan, not mine, and his ideas are always greater for me than I would have imagined.
Thank you for putting a great goal into words.
My message today isn’t to do with this post. It’s just, my being a Luddite, I wasn’t sure of another way to connect with you (no pintrest, twitter, or facebook in my life) and I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas.
I also wanted to let you know that although I’ve been visiting the (in)courage site for years, recently you have become one of my “go to” blogs. All through the confusion and fear of the past year or so, your words have found their mark with me, calmed me, and covered me with God’s grace. Thank you.
Merry Christmas to you, one of God’s great messengers.
Your words are like a sweet blessing, right on the crown of my head, Shelly. Thank you. Merry Christmas to you, friend.
Peace on Earth.