In study this morning I came across a most fascinating point by Eugene Peterson (Working the Angles). The idea hinges on the fact that God spoke first and as a result, creation became. Henceforth, the dynamo of the language process is that we learn to speak by having language spoken into us. Language is a response to what is learned by first hearing...over and over and over. No one learns to speak Spanish without first hearing it spoken into the student.
...language is spoken into us; we learn language by being spoken to. We are plunged at birth into a sea of language. We swim in words. We are soaked in nouns and verbs. Gradually we realize that some of these words are directed to us---personally targeted words that name, love, and comfort. Then slowly, syllable by syllable, we acquire the capacity to answer: mama, papa, bottle, blanket, yes, and no. Not one of these words was a first word. Hundreds of thousands of words, for days and weeks and months, were spoken to us before we began to answer, to speak our own words. All speech is answering speech. We were all spoken to before we spoke.
How did we get where we are in our church talk? We received it. This is both fascinating and concerning. We speak what we have taken in. We learn to say what has been passed on to us. Before we learned to speak the language of faith or of doubt; it was first spoken to us.
If we received a dented and damaged faith, such is our language to speak. If we happened to absorb graceful and merciful faith, again we speak in that tongue.
For me, I had to go to language school after I had been in ministry about twenty years. I was reciting skinned and dented faith. I've learned a new language because the Word and people of the Word have spoken a new language into me.
Parents, bosses, and teachers especially have to be on high alert to this for the subjects' language reflects what we have groomed them to say. Faith language is an important tongue. It isn't what comes out that is first. The words going in are once again the powers of creation.
May we swim in faith words such as possibility, apology, and hope. May we learn well the nouns and the verbs of the Jesus-style since what we learn to say will be repeated by those who overhear.