When Words Grow Obsolete…


I’m a writer. Words are what I do.

But of all people, writers know that human language has its limits. There are things that words just cannot convey. People often describe a time when they were “speechless.” Or something huge happens, and we reel with emotion and finally gasp, “Words fail me!”

The discussion following my August 15 post, “What I Did on my Summer Vacation, Part 3: Immigration” got me to looking forward to the day when those limits (and others) will be no more.

A friend who hails from South America read the post and emailed me: “I can definitely relate to the immigration experience every time we travel outside the US. And also thinking about how we are citizens of Heaven and there won’t be any racism or differences in skin color or accents, etc…”

She is right. Already — in fact since the first century AD — the things that divide people have lost their power. Oh, we still sometimes let racial or economic or speech differences keep us apart, but although those differences exist, they are not really important for those who trust in Christ. The apostle Paul pointed this out in his letter to the Galatian church…

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3: 26-28).

Most of the comments revolved around how we citizens of Heaven will all enjoy each other’s company, once we get there (with or without waiting in line!) Our unity will transcend all differences. And as near as I can figure, I believe our language barriers will fall too, and I will no longer need my limited English vocabulary. Words as we know them may even grow obsolete…

…if so, then human beings “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation”* can all communicate in pure meaning. No longer will we have to try and force glorious, ineffable, shimmering thoughts into clunky words of perhaps two or three syllables. Again, I can only speculate, but this pure communication may be part of what Paul refers to in his letter to the Corinthians (chapter 13, verse 12), “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (emphasis mine)

I’m no expert. For all I know, in Heaven we may all speak ordinary Hebrew or Aramaic or Greek. But I do like to think about how it might be.

Have you ever found your language inadequate to convey something that you desperately wanted to say?

This week I am linking up with Jen and our Soli Deo Gloria friends, AND with Rachel Anne and the Company Girls over at Home Sanctuary.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

*See the Book of Revelation, chapter 5, v. 9.

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12 Responses to When Words Grow Obsolete…

  1. Jen says:

    I have been speechless. Mostly when I’m overcome with sadness for someone else. If it’s face-to-face, I can communicate with a hug, or empathy in my eyes. But when this speechless thing happens in the blog world, it becomes so much harder, for our words are all we have to encourage each other.

    So glad there’s no sadness in Heaven!

    Like

    • Jan says:

      Hi, Jen, Thank you for the heartfelt comment. I agree that writing is even more inadequate than face-to-face because you lose the non-verbal aspect of communication. Somehow “emoticons” just don’t do the job…

      Like

  2. I love words and yet, they are often inadequate…interesting to think about how we’ll communicate in heaven. But I do love the aspect that there will be no language barrier — no nation, tribe, or tongue. We’ll all be together and no sin to be misinterpreted!!

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    • Jan says:

      Hmm, Kathleen, I think you are onto something: our own sin (pride, seeking approval from each other rather than accepting God’s love) makes us misinterpret what others say. With sin out of the way, I imagine we will each understand the meanings that others are expressing.
      Thanks for stopping by!
      Jan

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  3. zoanna says:

    Thoughtful post, Jan. I think about heaven a lot, and how we will all be able to understand each other. But I had never thought just WHAT language that would be. Or maybe we’ll speak multiple languages but still be able to understand each other. We’d probably have to sing in the same one so that’s in unison? But who knows? Maybe the united diversity in every facet is part of God’s glorious plan?

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    • Jan says:

      Hi, Zoanna! I appreciate your comment. The “multiple languages” idea reminds me of what happened in Acts 2, so that could easily be how things will work.
      Diversity in unity — I love it!
      Jan

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      • Kelly C says:

        Acts 2 is also what came to my mind while reading your post in addition to John 1. Jesus is the Word. I love to study themes and studying the relationship between the Word and our words/languages could be very interesting.

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      • Jan says:

        Hi, Kelly,
        I have also thought of pursuing the Word / words connection. I guess we word-lovers are all alike at heart!
        Best,
        Jan

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  4. Katharine says:

    I have been without words, especially in grief. I imagine that heaven may render me that way at first, except then it will be from pure joy. Imagine, no barriers at all between each other and the Father….forever.

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    • Jan says:

      Hello, Katherine! It amazes me that powerful emotions — both positive AND negative — can render us speechless. The great joy at seeing heaven would do that… yet, no barriers there… I love it! Jan

      Like

  5. Janet Macy says:

    I think in Heaven it will be as it was before the Tower of Babel. We will just all understand each other.

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