Back in the late 1980ís, I was a junior enlisted man in the U.S. Coast Guard. In preparation to go to my first ship, I was sent to various schools to learn how to repair the electronics that I would be responsible for. The first school that I needed to attend was at the Navy base in Norfolk Virginia. I checked into the Naval base and was assigned to a room with three other sailors.
The first night, one of my roommates invited me to go to a local restaurant with him. I accepted the invitation, and we went out to supper. We placed our orders, received the food, swapped stories and jokes and had a great time. Everything went well until the waitress came back to the table to check in on us.
The waitress was a round black woman that gave you the impression that she was everyoneís mom. If she had been wearing a name tag, Iím sure it would have had "mom" on it. I am sure that sll of her experience raising her own and the neighborhood children did not quite prepare her for me or for what was about to happen. She walked up to our table, looked at me and said, "Motisa."
I was raised west of Chicago and considered myself to be a cultured young man. After all, I had been to almost all of the museums in Chicago, been to a Cubs baseball game, and had even attended the Nutcracker ballet. But even with all this cultural upbringing, I had no idea what a motisa was. I briefly wondered if Motisa was the artist whose paintings hung between Picasso and Monet at the art museum. I dismissed that idea. The waitress could tell from my blank expression that I obviously had no idea what on earth a motisa was. My roommate was turning blue and green in his efforts not to erupt in laughter.
Webster's dictionary defines miscommunication as "to communicate mistakenly, unclearly, or inadequately." The waitress and I were clearly not communicating. We were definitely having a lack of clear or adequate communication. She knew exactly what she was saying, but I was at a complete and total loss. The word was so obvious to her that she did not know how to make it any more plain or obvious to me. All I could think to say was, "What?"
The waitress sighed and tried again. This time she tried it a little more slowly, as if that would help. "MoÖtiÖsaÖ" She may as well have been speaking a foreign language since I was still clueless. Slowing down the word did not help me one little bit. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my roommate start to slide under table, sounding like a steam pipe releasing steam. I was starting to become embarrassed with my own stupidity. Perhaps I should have taken some Latin classes while I was attending the university. Perhaps then I would have known what a motisa was.
The waitress tried saying the word again, this time adding more emphasis to each syllable. "MoÖTiÖSa." I still didnít get it. I could hear my roommate sobbing underneath the table. I knew he got it, and thought that it was tremendously funny that I did not. I knew from the waitressís expression that she had dealt with stupid people before, but no one like me. Apparently this was a word that everyone in southern Virginia was supposed to know. My roommate stuck his head up over the table and wiped the tears from his eyes. "She wants to know if you want more tea." He choked down another laugh. "More tea sir." He slid back under the table, unable to contain his laughter. Thatís when I got it. "Motisa" meant "more tea sir." She was not saying a word to me; she was asking me a question.
I sheepishly looked back up at the now very upset waitress. "Yes please," I said as I handed her my glass. I didnít really want any more tea, but I felt guilty about wasting so much of her time while I was trying to translate "motisa." That waitress probably still tells that story to her friends, as does my old roommate. Many years later, God pointed out a scriptural parallel.
Even though the waitress and I both spoke English, I did not speak her language. I grew up in northern Illinois, and she grew up in the deep South. It was as difficult for her to understand my mid-west accent as it was for me to understand her southern accent. For all practical purposes, we were speaking in a foreign language to each other.
God created mankind and instilled in us His language. We all have the ability to understand God when He speaks to us. But there is a problem. We live in sin. God lives in holiness. Sin corrupts Gods language and as a result, we develop an accent. Sin strips us of our ability to easily understand God. We still hear God's voice, but after a while, it doesnít make any sense, so we stop listening. Our conscience hears Godís voice, and tells us right from wrong, but sin will try very hard to dull that also. Some people will completely block out the sound of God's voice so that it does not interfere with their sin.
So God tugs on our "heartstrings" convicting us of our sin; convincing us that we need a Savior. His voice penetrates through the all clutter and sin and we hear his voice. We then have decision to make: to repent of our sin; or not. Do we accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior, or not? Do we want to continue to speak in the accent of sin, or do we want to learn how to speak Godís language of holiness?
If we choose to be saved from our sin, and accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, God will then start to teach us His language. We will start to lose the accent of sin, and start to gain the accent of holiness as our lives become regenerated. Regeneration is simply a theological word that means to have life other than the life we already have. What does that mean? To be regenerated is to be born of God (John 1:13), and to be born of God is to have the life of God, that is, eternal life (John 3:15-16). Regeneration, then, is to rid us of the old accent of sin with all its deeds and to teach us a new accent of holiness which causes us to become a new creation with God's divine life.
There are some things that you need to be doing in the regeneration process. The following items are not necessarily in any order. You need to pray. It is through prayer that one communicates with God on a personal level. The more time that you spend listening to God and talking with him, the more you will develop his accent of holiness. You need to study the Bible. Studying the Bible and daily devotional reading are other disciplines that contribute greatly to the development of the accent of holiness.
Fellowship with other believers is another vital aspect to developing our new accent of holiness. Church membership and regular participation in church activities provides a place in which to worship together and to learn more about holiness and our new language. Finally, a tremendous way to grow in faith and learn your new accent of holiness is through acts of service. When the act of service is done in love and with no thought of compensation, a God rewards us with a deep sense of satisfaction and joy. This is a direct communion with the heart of God and brings about intimacy with Him and also causes us to learn our new language of holiness.
God refuses to talk to us using the accent of sin. We must talk to him using his language and his accent. We must strive to make it our goal to be able to speak fluently with God. Our relationship with God should be deep enough that we easily hear God when he speaks. That is His goal for us. He wants us to understand Him. He wants us to become holy and to live a holy life. If we will do this, we will never have a miscommunication with God, simply because we do not speak with his accent. If we will commit ourselves to learning Godís accent of holiness, we will never have a "motisa" incident with God. Are you willing to do what it takes to speak with God's accent?
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