Before I begin, while I wrote this article, I must give the credit of this concept to my amazing sister, Mikki. She revealed this facet of parenting to me. She is a gifted teacher and has taught this subject, plus many others, in the Minnesota area. Besides that, she has played the role of sounding board, counselor, mentor, and dear friend to me. She is one of those people who seems to be an expert at anything to which she puts her hand. Besides that, she is a fitness fanatic and unbelievably beautiful. You all try living up to a sister like that! 🙂
So, on to Family Language.
Genesis 11: 1 – 8 “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech…Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth. But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’ So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.”
The above passage is describing the scene of the Tower of Babel as told in Genesis in the Bible. A group of people got together with the intent to build a tower up to heaven for two purposes: so that they could make a name for themselves, and to prevent themselves from being scattered over the earth.
God looked down, saw their progress and observed that anything that they tried to accomplish would succeed. Without getting into the theology of this passage too deeply, I believe that the problem that God had with their efforts wasn’t their success, but rather their lack of dependence on Him. They had determined to accomplish this tower without Him, and they had built up pride and arrogance that would’ve rivaled the height of the tower that they were building.
To recapture their hearts and to reestablish their need for reliance on Him, he confused their language and scattered them.
Common language. Gathered. Nothing intended to do will be impossible.
Different language. Scattered. No great goal accomplished.
That is the heart of developing a family language. It is the concept that when everyone speaks in unity with the same language, everyone is understood, feels a part, and can accomplish anything to which they put their hands.
Isn’t that what we want for our families? Isn’t that the kind of counter-cultural family model to which we want to aspire?
So what is Family Language? Of course, it isn’t simply about the same dialect or regional language. What I am speaking about is a language of shared experiences, shared goals, a simple code that families can share. It is the intentional crafting of moments to which a family can refer.
When I was in college, I spent a summer in Japan. I went over with an organization from my campus that sent students on short term programs to teach English on their various universities. I stayed with a Japanese family, and I worked with students on a Japanese campus. I was immersed in the culture and language of Japan, even though I didn’t speak Japanese.
After having spent so much time hearing (and tuning out) the Japanese language around me, to be out on the campus or in the marketplace and hear English spoken, even if it wasn’t directed at me, was a head-turning moment. Even though several languages might be spoken around me, and even though it was a very loud environment, I immediately tuned in on English being spoken – because it was MY language.
And, what’s more, even though the person speaking English was a complete stranger, I felt like I KNEW them! I felt like running up to them and pouring out my heart, sharing my experiences, and talking about the shared experience of being a foreigner in Japan.
It is that sense of home, a sense of being understood, that a shared language creates.
There are many languages in culture. There are many groups who have crafted their own terminology and language. And those groups are happily marketing themselves to your children to lure them away. (Peers, internet, TV, gangs, etc.) More than anywhere else they frequent, you want to make sure that the place where they are most understood, where their native emotional language is spoken, is in your home.
I’m going to stop here because this post is getting long and I have a lot more to say. In my next post, I’ll give a lot of examples and suggestions on how to create a family language. Until then, start thinking about what shared experiences you have had with your family that you keep referring back to, or that could be a point of unity for your kids. At the end of this, I want to hear them all!