Pay attention to the tension in your body. Let go of it and any expectations to do anything other than God’s will today. Prepare yourself to hear God’s word.
Genesis 11:1-9 (NRSV)
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the LORD said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
Last year I attended a Spanish immersion language school in Minnesota. All of the teachers were from countries where the native language is—you guessed it—Spanish. My time there was truly an immersion experience. Everything from the architecture of the camp to the meals we ate to the dances we attempted mimicked that of Spanish-speaking cultures.
It was a beautiful setting with rich learning opportunities filled with beautiful people…who refused to speak a single word of English to me and corrected me when I attempted to communicate in English. By the second day, even dreams were in Spanish and I truly felt as though my head was going to explode. Trying to beat the system, I downloaded a translation app on my phone so I could finally understand everyone else around me…but did I really understand them?
When I read today’s text and think about its application in our context today, I enter into a place of wondering if, at least for us, the Tower of Babel is less about language differences and more about understanding others.
While I would definitely recommend the Spanish school I attended to anyone, I did not learn a lot of Spanish. What I did learn, though, was how to interact and engage with people who are different from me. People who speak a different language, have a different skin tone, and place value on different aspects of art, songs, and dance than I do. In my own little Tower of Babel in the middle of nowhere Minnesota, despite my confusion, lack of ability to communicate, and sometimes pure frustration, I saw God.
God of all, give us ears to hear others. Help us to speak in truth and in love. Give us the courage to step out, seek understanding, and recognize your image in those who are different than we are. Amen.
Go with God.