Translators for God

Several years ago, I was in Brazil speaking at two conferences on sexual abuse. It was one of those experiences that is life altering. I will not look at the world, the church, myself or my faith in quite the same way ever again. I gleaned many things from my time there and was richly blessed by the people of Brazil.

I believe God often uses life experiences as parables for us. He did so when He was here in the flesh and He often continues to teach us in that fashion. He turned my experience with a translator into a parable for me.My first translator was a young Brazilian man. We were different genders, cultures, professions, and life histories. He was my way into the culture and the people. I needed his heart, his mind, and his mouth. He needed mine. I could not reach the people without him. He could not reach the people with what I had to give without me. I came to the people of Brazil through my translator.

Being translated is grueling work—for both parties. I had to present my thoughts in fragments. Lessons were given bit by bit. Periodically we would encounter a word for which there was no Portuguese equivalent. I would then have to find a way to describe and explain so the concept could be grasped. One of those words was “flashback.” No one had heard of such a thing. I struggled to find a way to explain what a flashback was like and finally used a definition one of my clients had come up with years ago. A flashback is like having a nightmare while you are awake. As soon as they heard the description my audience knew what I meant. Many of them had experienced abuse themselves and had lived with flashbacks, not understanding what they were or how to respond to them. I had helped them understand themselves. Or, as a former client used to say, “You have explained me to myself.”

Is all of this not a taste of the incarnation? Christ came in flesh. It was His way into the culture, the people, and our lives. It still is. He needs our hearts, our minds, and our mouths in order to reach the people. We need His in order to teach them truth. John 1 tells us that Jesus came “to explain the Father to us.” He also came to explain us to ourselves. It is through Christ and His Word that we know who we are and why we act the way we do. He has put accurate names to our experience of life and ourselves in this world.

The experience of being translated requires a great deal of trust. The translator must listen accurately and speak truly. He must know two languages. He must know how to communicate both the words and heart of the one he represents. The speaker must relinquish a measure of control, and trust that the translator will take what is presented and accurately deliver it, so the speaker is not misrepresented. The reputation of the speaker is in the hands of the translator.The translator also profoundly impacts the relationship the speaker has with the individuals in the audience.

Is this not something like our lives as Christians? Are we not the representatives, the translators of God in this world? We must listen accurately and speak truly to the world. We must know the language of heaven and the language of men. Our lives and mouths are to communicate the words of God and the heart of God to the world. We represent Him and He has entrusted us with His reputation in this world. Others know Him and experience Him through our lives and our words.

I heard some funny stories about translators who purposely misrepresented speakers who were offensive or did not speak truth. However, it would not be funny for a translator to take the truth from a speaker and falsely represent what was said because he did not like what he heard, or it went against his preferences or biases. Do we not, however, often do that to God? He says things that ruffle feathers and make us squirm. We alter them, soften them or neglect them. We make His thoughts adapt to ours rather than bowing to His words in our own lives and then representing Him accurately.

I was keenly aware that I had put myself in the hands (mouth) of another. I longed for the translator to know me, to understand my topic, and to grasp my love for the people. I wanted my listeners to receive my compassion for those who have been abused. I wanted them to sense my love. I wanted them to hear my strong belief that there is hope for healing in Jesus Christ. I wanted them to hear the truth about abuse and its effects. I wanted them to get an accurate set of facts. Their lives and the lives of many others would be impacted by what the translator gave them. Is this not a glimmer into the heart of our God? He has given us His heart and His words. Does He not long for us as His “translators” to represent His truths and His heart well?

Spend a moment with this image of translator. Consider how you represent His heart.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  John 1:14

Langberg, Diane. In Our Lives First: Meditations for Counselors, Week 4, Day 26

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash