Part 2: Misconceptions – Lost in Translation
Genesis 11:9 “That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.”
The word babble has always been one of my favorite words. It is a good “story-telling” word that I use when I am trying to get the point across that someone is talking for a very long time without saying anything. I ask my kids sometimes, “What are you babbling about?” If I’m relaying a story about someone that won’t stop talking, I’ll say something like, “This pompous windbag was driving me crazy with his incessant babbling.” It’s a great word and it makes me giggle a little inside when I use it.
I feel like I can use this word because I’ll be honest, if you haven’t guessed from the way I write, I like to talk. Sometimes, I’m the one babbling incessantly and driving other people crazy. What’s this got to do with price of tea in China? (My grandma used to say that sometimes, and I have no idea what it means but it seems fitting here.) Well, I was listening to a Youtube church lesson from Pastor Michael Todd called Crazy Faith and he said that sometimes God uses “his translation.” The tower of Babel came to my mind.
If you don’t know the story, Genesis 11 is about a time in the world where everyone spoke the same language and used the same words. People had settled in a place called Babylonia and began to build a huge tower so that they could be famous all over the world. They had just learned how to make bricks, so they were using them to build this huge tower that went up to the heavens.
I started researching a little bit about why that was a big deal. In the Ancient History Encyclopedia, it talks about how Babylon was a city of great wealth and prosperity. It became the most powerful and influential city in all of Mesopotamia. This place was beautiful and was considered to be one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Not only was it big and beautiful, but it was also one of the learning centers of the world. People came to Babylon because it was a place for scholars. It was where all the smart people hung out. Babylon was a place to be proud of.
Back in “Bible” times, monuments were resurrected to God, but the people of Babylon wanted to make another monument…which in and of itself wasn’t wrong. But they wanted to build a tower to themselves. It was going to be bigger than all of God’s monuments and they wanted to build it so they would be famous. They wanted the recognition, the clout, the awe to be of themselves and not of God. The Hebrews were supposed to be God’s chosen people and they wanted to make a tower that told everybody they deserved that recognition and that clout.
God said, “Okay people, we are not doing that.” And so, he went down and confused them and that’s how we ended up with all the different languages we have today. People found others that spoke the same language as they did, and they moved away from the people they couldn’t understand. In the footnotes from the Life Application Study Bible NIV it says, “The tower of Babel was a great human achievement, a wonder of the world. But, it was a monument to the people themselves, rather than to God. We may build monuments ourselves (expensive clothes, fancy houses, fast cars, important career positions) to call attention to our achievements. These may not be wrong in themselves, but when we use them to give us identity and self-worth, they take God’s place in our lives. We are free to develop in many areas, but we are not free to think we have replaced God.”
I also read in Jeremiah 50:32 “O land of arrogance, you will stumble and fall and no one will raise you up. For I will light a fire in the cities of Babylon that will burn up everything around them. This is what the Lord of Heaven’s armies says: The people of Israel and Judea have been wronged. Their captors hold them and refuse to let them go. But, THE ONE WHO REDEEMS them is strong. His name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. He will defend them and give them rest again in Israel. But, for the people of Babylon there will be no rest.”
Again, I read the footnotes from the Life Application Study Bible. “Pride (arrogance) was Babylon’s characteristic sin. Pride comes from feeling self-sufficient or believing that we don’t need God. Proud nations, or persons, will eventually fall because they refuse to recognize God as the ultimate power. Getting rid of pride is not easy, but we can admit that it often rules us and ask God to forgive us and help us overcome it. The best antidote to pride is to focus our attention on the greatness and goodness of God.”
John O’Gara says, “To take pride in an accomplishment or take pride in your work is not necessarily wrong. The kind of pride that is wrong from the Bible’s standpoint is the smug feeling of being superior to others or thinking that most people are stupid when compared to yourself.”
I began to see the connection that God was trying to show me here. Forgive me for the long intro to a story but I wanted you to have the background information that brought me to the reason that this post was a necessary part of my story. You see, I don’t consider myself a proud person. I’m smart, yes. But I never think I know everything. I am a great mom and I worked hard to be that mom for my kids. I’m not proud of the way I look because I didn’t create myself to look the way I do; I just take care of the outside of what God gave me. I’m not rich and I don’t care about that because I’m not a person who is impressed by money or positions. I just really don’t care…if I have enough to do what I need to get done for my kids and we can live in a house that functions and I can have fun decorating it, then I am cool. I’d go through all these things and think, “Pride isn’t something I struggle with.” And then, I had an oldest child.
I am an oldest child, but when you are a child you just don’t see things sometimes. As with many things in life we see things from one perspective. Ours. We don’t see things from someone else’s point of view. Sarah Jakes Roberts says in her sermon, “Pop Quiz”, “There are some things you won’t know until you get in them because you don’t really need to know unless you are in the middle of something sometimes. Sometimes, we beat ourselves up for not knowing what we didn’t know that we wouldn’t have known until we got ourselves into that situation.” (Have I mentioned how much I love the way she words things?)
You see, oldest children get used to people looking at them. We get used to watching all the adults in our lives watch us intently and praise everything we do for the first time with an intense reaction. With my son Corbin, watching him experience everything for the first time was absolutely awe inspiring. Everything he did was incredible. He took his first steps and I called everybody I knew. He learned how to do anything, and I told the whole world. Most first-time parents are like that. As a kid, the oldest child learns that whenever they do something the entire world will either clap or mutter under their breath at the magnitude of their failure. We grow up believing that all eyes are on us. Our shortcomings are met with the same degree of intensity, but as a child you never even think about why. Most of the time, when a kid does something wrong, the parents freak out because they are scared they messed up, not necessarily that their kid messed up. Everybody knows kids are supposed to make mistakes, and everybody knows that we are supposed to be the ones teaching them how to do things the right way.
Communication is one of the most crucial aspects of parenting and relationships and yet we mess it up constantly. We don’t have to get to not being able to understand someone who speaks a different language. I speak the same languages as my kids and I still find myself constantly asking “Do you understand what I’m saying?” and very often you could picture Chris Tucker in Rush Hour “Do you understand the words that are comin out of my mouth?” You see, this chapter is important to my story because I am not sure that my parents or I individually have all the “right” views of my story. I saw them from one angle and my parents saw them from another.
How many times have you heard someone say the same thing over and over again for a million years and then all the sudden, you “hear” something different and suddenly, because of an experience you had that was different, that annoying thing they say that you wish they’d quit saying makes total sense to you? You understand something now because your view changed. Not their words. Why is it that we are always asking ourselves why someone isn’t listening to us? One of the most common things I hear in my school kids is that nobody ever listens to them. That’s not true. Some of them are the loudest children I have ever met in my entire life. They whisper like they learned how in a helicopter filled with chainsaws…not a whisper at all, and it is impossible for anyone with a four-mile radius not to hear them. What they often mean is, “Nobody understands me.”
This brings me to the point. I am older now and I don’t have to listen to anything my parents say. I haven’t for quite a long time. I don’t need to. I am a grown up. But, when we don’t heal from our hurts then we don’t hear what God says. We do need to do that. It might sound easy, but how many times have we said, “I wish someone would have told me.” The problem comes in when we can’t listen. I wonder sometimes if this is God’s way of “Babeling” us.
Communication is essential to our roles in every part of our lives. We talk and talk and talk and think we know best, but when someone presents an idea that feels wrong to us, we spend all of our time and energy trying to prove why it’s wrong instead of examining our reasons behind not wanting it to be “right”.
The relationship I was in right after my divorce lasted for ten years because I found a million reasons why I wasn’t wrong to be in it. I was under the impression that if I took my time and didn’t commit to anything too soon then I was being different than my mother. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes as her. I was proud of myself for waiting 8 years to move in with him because I didn’t “jump into a relationship” with someone just to have someone to take out the trash or sleep in the same bed as me at night. I was putting my kids first. I was putting me first. Now, I’m not saying that my relationship was all bad. It wasn’t…in the beginning. My pride was. I thought that people pretty much treated me the way I treated them. I would come to find out a very painful and overly dramatic ten years later that nothing could be further from the truth. I thought I was concentrating on my own self-worth. Within the time frame of this relationship I put myself through college, I went from being a newly divorced single mom of 5 to being a college graduate, having a rewarding (not very well paying, but rewarding nonetheless) career, and having 5 kids who exceled in baseball and at just being people. I taught my kids how to be respectful to others and how to be compassionate. What I didn’t realize I was teaching them was how to not respect themselves. Very early in our relationship, my boyfriend cheated on me and then said he didn’t know we were exclusive when five years in he finally admitted that he’d done it. It took him 4 years to tell me that he loved me and then when I asked why he’d never said it before he said, “I didn’t think I had to. I thought you knew.” I found out after we broke up that the only reason, he kept seeing me at first was that I didn’t complain, and I kept food in his refrigerator. All of his friends would tell me that they wished they could find a girlfriend like me. I did everything he asked, and he did less than what was needed to keep me happy. I was miserable a lot and I felt incredibly unimportant. I just needed to work harder. I was never good enough for him no matter how hard I worked or what I didn’t argue with him about. When I finally started to argue back, he went and got reinforcements and told everybody he knew what a terrible person I was and how sloppy and messy my kids were. I learned a lot about character flaws from this relationship. I learned that I would put up with a lot to just not be single. I hated being single…because people ask you why you are all the time. I didn’t think I was good enough to have someone who wanted to do things with me or was nice to me for no reason other than he simply wanted to. I settled for someone who just didn’t hit me. He cheated on me several more times throughout our relationship and told his mom every single thing that I did wrong until it got to the point that I felt like they were dating and I was just the third wheel. He wanted money he went to her, he wanted to know how to do something, he went to her, he wanted to feel loved he went to her. I was just there. I was getting nothing from him but ridicule and condemnation and still I tried to take care of him. He told everybody that would listen things about my family that I had told him in confidence, and he knew those things hurt me. I told nobody about the things that hurt him and the things that had happened to him in his life that caused his breakdown of trust. When his son put us through the ringer several years in a row getting into pretty big trouble, I told nobody because I didn’t want them judging my boyfriend. I was not awarded that same respect and I didn’t make him respect me. Often times, we would be out somewhere, and my boyfriend would start making fun of me to other people. Sometimes it was people we knew and sometimes he would just start talking to perfect strangers about how stupid or naïve or sheltered I was. I would smile and ignore him but inside I wouldn’t even admit to myself how much he was hurting me. He didn’t care and pretty soon he didn’t even need an audience anymore. I thought it was better because it was at home where nobody could hear him. The problem was that I could hear him. I could also hear my mom continuing to say, “Nobody loves you, Jackie. They love what you can do for them, but they don’t love you.” She had no idea how much that statement hurt me. I didn’t know that I was showing her and the rest of the world exactly what that statement meant. My boyfriend had no clue how to love me because he didn’t love himself either. He said he did, and he was very different than me in some areas. If someone hurt his feelings or disrespected him, he had no problems cutting down their character or telling him how stupid and worthless they were. Any time we would argue he would tell me that I had no idea what I was talking about because you don’t get life experience from something you learned in a college textbook written by the government and that I had to have street knowledge to back it up. When I gave him real life examples that were behind my thoughts he told me in so many words (most of them do not belong in a blog that has to do with God) that the way I grew up wasn’t normal and so none of my thoughts were normal either and I was just too stupid to see it. When I started college and began making the Dean’s List at first, he was supportive. But after I graduated and we’d be out somewhere he would tell people that I thought I knew everything because I had a degree. It didn’t matter that most of the time what I was talking to people about had to do with my life experience and looking at things from the perspective of the kids that I worked with.
I let someone steal my self-worth and constantly tell me how inferior I was because I didn’t think like him. I didn’t know that everyone around me was wondering why I stayed with a person that insulted not only my intelligence and my looks, but my character and the events of my past. At every given point in our relationship that he could have been proud of me, he turned it into something to be laughed at. And still I stayed. When it was finally over, he looked at me with pity and said, “I don’t hold any ill will towards you.” I lost my mind. I considered burning his house down. I wanted to put all of his business out on every social media outlet I could find. I knew things about him that nobody else knew. I wanted so badly to show the world that he was the problem in our relationship and that the information that they had been getting about me was his narcissistic way of taking the attention off of how stupid he felt about himself. He was a fake and I knew it. He knew it. I wanted to tell everyone.
Something weird happened. When I found God’s voice again, I realized that I didn’t need to care about all the things he was telling people about me. The weird part of all of that was that I didn’t need to care because he never had the right to judge me in the first place. God did and I had to deal with my pride. My pride was hurt…not my reputation. Not my job. My kids were hurt but they learned something from my mistakes too. They learned that their worth didn’t come from having a PERSON give it to them. My daughter learned that her worth came from God and she was able to show me that in the way she lived. She was only 13 when we split up and I don’t know what she learned that I didn’t at that age, but that’s where I think the Lost in Translation comes into play. I didn’t teach her anything different than my mother taught me in that regard. My daughter doesn’t have a father either. Aja learned that her Father was in heaven and that anything she got down here was a poor substitute.
I was like the people of Babylon. I was too proud to look inside myself and say you know what? This guy has no clue how to love me. My mom is right…nobody in my life loves me for who I am. They love me for what I can do for them. I was so determined not to be like her that I let someone destroy my own sense of self just to prove her wrong. Now, I’m not saying that my Mom did anything to help that. I’ve mentioned before that I am not fortunate enough to have a loving relationship with my mom and my relationship with my Dad, while healing, is not like other people’s. But, what hurt the most to look at was that some of the things that occurred in my life kept reoccurring because I was too proud to consider the option that I thought I could do life without God.
Remember in my post, Church Reject, where I say that my Dad had wanted me to be God-fearing and I thought that meant I was supposed to be afraid of what God would do to me if I didn’t follow his rules? Well, both meanings came to have some significance to me, and it was prideful to only consider one of them. God was allowing my circumstances, that I put myself in, to show me that he wanted me to have a close relationship with him and I didn’t listen. I didn’t want to follow his rules. I followed my own. And then when I didn’t listen, he let me reap the consequences of my own definition of God-fearing. That kind of relationship where I was torn apart was the result of not listening to God say, “I’m talking to you. I’m knocking and you won’t open the door. I want to give you something better, but you have to get away from the choices you are making.” I was too proud to look and way too proud to listen. For ten years, I ignored him and then sat around and told people God hated me.
He never said that. I heard that. His love for me had gotten lost in translation.