(This post is a continuation of the thoughts I posted here.)
We have to acknowledge that our language is incapable of encompassing the totality of God. Asking our finite minds to apprehend the infinite God is like asking a ladybug to write a dissertation on humanity. God is simply too great, too transcendent, too “other” for our language. Perhaps we come closest to describing God by saying what He is not. But even this is a futile exercise because our descriptions of what God “isn’t” (sinful, temporal, etc.) are simply descriptions of who we ARE and only serve to underscore God’s “otherness” all the more.
And yet, what sets us apart from the rest of creation, or at least the primary thing that sets humanity apart, is that we bear God’s image. This means many things: not the least of which, we are relational beings with the capacity to love and to be loved in return. This relating takes place through the gift of language. Although our words may be wholly incapable of capturing or “pinning down” the reality of God, these same words are at least adequate to express our feelings, thoughts, and desires. In this sense, the gift of language is an incredible grace. Language allows us to relate to one another. Most importantly, I suppose, language allows us to relate to God.
God gifts us with the capacity to speak words of praise and adoration to Him, to articulate our concerns and our fears in prayer. The gift itself enables us to thank Him for the good gifts He grants us. He even chooses to communicate the most important Message of all, the Gospel, within the parameters of a narrative, a story, a language construct that invites our consideration as well as our participation. All of this is possible because of the gift of language.
My youngest son is 20 months old. He is experiencing what my wife likes to call a “word explosion”. In the past several weeks, it has been a real joy for us to watch as Jack learns all kinds of new words. This week he’s learned “elbow” (he proudly holds his arm up over his head and points to it with a huge grin on his face) and “knee” (we’re still working on head, shoulders, and toes!). I also love hearing him say “knuckles” (it’s more like “nuk”, but it’s cute). But my favorite may be his names for his brother and sister. Joshua is either “Ja Ja” (which makes me think of Jar Jar Binks, unfortunately) or, simply, “Bubba”. Abby Kate is “Sissy” (which comes out more like “Hee-Hee”, also cute). Jackson’s names for his siblings are inexact to be sure. But they’re close enough.
And somehow, I have to think that close enough is good enough for Someone else, too.