The Language She Knew By Heart


“The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”

– Julian of Norwich –

What is love? A raw emotion? Something sacred to family? Romance? A word that works overtime as a noun and a verb? A churchy kind of feeling? An emotionless action? Something grown trite?

I want to know.

A while back, I was talking on the phone to a friend and we found that our spiritual struggles overlapped in an interesting way–we had both been questioning “practical love.” That is, we were hungry to know just What God wanted us to do and How He wanted us to do it, especially in our families. Mostly, we wondered how to pull off love when we just didn’t know how to begin.

So, the next several posts will make up a Practical Love Series, my ponderings and questions about what love really is.  This is the goal:

To pause and reflect on the Biblical portrait of Love, so that, by seeing Him, we might better see.


Our connection was immediate.

Disparity of age–more than twenty-five years, perhaps.

To communicate, we had to lock eyes. My friend is, mostly, deaf.

And years–I’m not even sure how many had passed since our last meeting. Five? Ten? I was a child last time I saw her.

Yet she pulled me into her arms like a dear friend. Her lips carefully shaped tones to speak my language.

English, my language. A language she could not hear.

Her fingers flowed with her enunciated speech, punctuating words with fluid American Sign Language.

Two women–almost strangers, a generation apart, and separated by state lines. Her finger-words and my oral language seemed to be barriers. Our bodies decreed the separation–I with ears young and whole; and she, who could be my mother, living in shuddery echoes of silence.

But a language transcended all these walls, a language of the heart that shone bright in her eyes.

I dove into the conversation, almost trembling with joy with the way our eyes drank in every lip movement, every finger twitch, of the other. I was caught up in rapt concentration, full immersion in the exchange.

I had long adored the mute grace of ASL, and it was pure excitement to be able to converse with someone bridging the gap between the language I knew and the language I loved.

Unmistakable was her energetic expression of abundance. This once-again friend shone with the joy of Jesus Christ. Patiently–apparently with all her soul–she sat with me and encouraged me.

You know that feeling, when hearts twine together?

“I’d love to learn to sign,” I said, with a radiant, wistful look.

She smiled. “You can pray that God will bring someone to help you learn.”

I laughed. “But I love to do so many things that I don’t know what to choose.”

“Take all the opportunities you can,” she advised. “Some doors will close.” A twinkle shot through her eyes. “Then look for a window to crawl through.”

I showed her, faltering, my attempt at the ASL alphabet.

“I”ll just stop you if you mess up.” She leaned back after a few signs, nodding. To my relief, she did not have to stop me at all.

“I think you could learn fast,” she told me.

Although our whole conversation overflowed with ecstatic words, one moment nestled the woman’s beautiful spirit into my heart.

“God has great things planned for you,” she said.

That night, lying in bed, I closed my eyes and could still feel the glow of our meeting.

We live two separate lives, with few intersections. But the grace of God bloomed at one of those brief moments and the love of our Savior became a language we both knew by heart.

Her fingers and my mouth weren’t even necessary to translate the language.

And now, I remember that sacred joy that welled up in my heart, and I long to take that same breathless love into every conversation, every day.

A thirty minute conversation opened a window to heaven for me. For a moment, I saw more than the woman seated across from me. I saw the evidence of Christ within her. In her smile, in the light of her eyes, in the joyous proclamation of her life that God is good, I recognized the imprint of my Master.

Through His strength, she loved me.

Weeks before, a telephone conversation began my quest for the “how-to” of love. This, my first lesson, fills me with inspiration.

For my first teacher, words weren’t even necessary.

I wonder what will come next on my journey?

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge….”

– Colossians 2:2-3, NIV –





A big thanks to Public Domain Pictures and George Hodan for the photo today!