What was the hardest part of living with an Indian family? Was it the 100 degree weather with no AC, the long stretches of no electricity each day, the lack of control over what we got to eat, the bouts of diarrhea, the lack of water? Nope, no, and nope again. These things were hard and they did wear on us and grow us, but by far the hardest part of the whole experience was not being able to communicate.
There is something so deep with in us that longs to be understood and to understand. Yes, you can connect with someone over a smile, a hug, or a kind gesture to a certain extent. But deep life sharing, the kind where you feel truly connected comes through language communication. Try only smiling at your best friend or your spouse for a day and see if you feel like you know what is really going on with them in their heart and mind.
We have been in India almost 6 months and for about 4 of those months we have been doing language pretty hardcore (the two months of no language are breaks we took during Thanksgiving, Christmas, moving, searching for a home, and a trip to Thailand). I am amazed at how much we have learned in these 4 months, but there is SO MUCH MORE that we want to learn and to be able to share in life with the people of India. On a daily basis someone in our Indian family tried to tell us about something and we just could not understand….they were really gracious with trying to repeat and trying to simplify their language, but many times we just ended knowing we understood some of what they were staying, but didn’t really understand, if you know what I mean.
I have been thinking a lot about how children learn to speak and communicate and I think about how when kids can’t get their point across (hungry, tired, ect) they will cry or fuss or disobey. It is crazy how I have found myself reverting back to these things. Riding on a rickshaw crying or feeling so frustrated that everything seems horrible, all because I just want someone to understand me, or I want to understand someone. Language is so much more than just sounds and words that have definitions, it is the window into people’s hearts and it is the ability to know and be known. It is really an amazing thing. I am just now starting to see how much God is using this to refine and shape me to reflect more of him, if only I could stop whining so much….