Sign language

June 2017

“when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses…”– Acts 1:8

Have you ever been in a place where you didn’t speak the language?  Maybe you managed by making hand gestures, or pointing. A kind of sign language.

Helen Keller grew up blind and deaf in the 1800s. For six years she lived in dark silence: self-absorbed, frustrated, undisciplined, and ferocious. She threw violent kicking tantrums. Locked her mother in a closet. Dumped her baby sister out of the cradle.

Then Annie Sullivan began to teach her sign language. She would place Helen’s hand on a thing and spell it. Weeks later, at the water pump, Helen suddenly connected the word spelled on her hand, and the water flowing over her fingers.

Words transformed Helen. Words gave her power to understand the world, to understand people, and to communicate her thoughts. What a gift! Every relationship is based on communication. Even our relationship with God. It begins as God speaks to us.

When we try to live without God, we are a bit like Helen Keller before she discovered language. Without God’s light bringing us hope; without God’s voice speaking love, truth, forgiveness, and purpose, the darkness can make us frustrated, selfish, hurtful.

But Jesus pierced the darkness with God’s light and God’s speech. In Jesus, God’s Word arrived in person. Jesus communicates God’s love for us and for the world. Sets us free from the prison of living for ourselves. Invites us into life with him & with each other.

And when he returned to his Father, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live in us: our companion, guide, and teacher. In Jesus, God moved into the neighbourhood. Now, by the Holy Spirit, God moves into our very lives. 

The Holy Spirit is not just an optional extra. He comes on every person who trusts in Jesus as Lord. When you welcome Jesus, the Holy Spirit gets to work. He guides us into truth. He speaks God’s truth to our hearts, and gives us the ability to speak truth. “You will be my witnesses,” Jesus says.

The Spirit transforms us, the way language transformed Helen Keller. He grows our love, and joy. Peace and patience. Kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness… even self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Spirit changes the way we see our neighbours. He ignites love in us. And he gives us a voice. New ways to share the good news of Jesus. You could call it sign language: signs of God’s love.

The Spirit makes us bold to speak where we once lacked courage. He gives us words, where we once had no clue what to say. He creates opportunities to show someone God’s compassion in practical ways.

Sign language allowed Helen Keller to speak, and others to speak to her. The Holy Spirit comes like a joyful new language. He helps us communicate with God and receive God’s love. He helps us converse with folks who live in the dark, bringing them clues of God’s love.