I popped by a furniture shop to look for a few things. As I ventured in between beds and sofas I overheard a conversation between two employees. One seemed to be the manager, a tall man in his forties, while the other was younger, energetic, and slightly anxious. I guessed that the younger man was a refugee. He was listening intently, wanting to learn, eager to please. They were carrying something between them, and I moved to get out of their way.
As they passed, I heard the manager saying, “You just have to listen for the difference.”
The other shook his head, “I can’t hear any difference.”
Still carrying the furniture, the first guy smiled, “Listen! ‘O’… ‘U’… Do you hear the difference?”
The young man frowned, “No.”
I smiled. It was often difficult for foreigners to nail the Norwegian ‘u’ without accidentally ending up with an ‘o’ or a ‘y’, occasionally landing them in confusing misunderstandings or in unintended funny situations.
The manager continued, “Watch my mouth… ‘O’… ‘U’… See what I do? For the ‘o’ my tongue is pulled slightly back, while for the ‘u’ I push my tongue against my teeth. See?”
The handsome dark man studied him carefully before trying again.
It sounded better. At least there was a difference between the two vowels. His pronunciation sounded remotely similar to an ‘o’ and a ‘u’…
The two men continued to work, moving the furniture and rearranging the exposition. Hidden behind the shelves, I watched them for a while, listening to the improvised language class and the feeble attempts at understanding the mystery of the Norwegian vowels. I giggled as I realized that I was moving my tongue back and forth to check the man’s theory, only to find that he was right.
I could only imagine the young man’s history and his hazardous journey to safety. He had probably not anticipated how hard it would be to adapt to a new country and a foreign culture. It was unlikely that he ever imagined how difficult it would be to learn a new language, to understand the many varied accents, and to be acknowledged as anything else than a guest, a stranger, a threat to familiarity and comfort.
The young man studied his boss, “Are you a teacher?”
He smiled while fixing his gaze at a distant memory, “No, I’m not. But my mother was. She taught languages.”
There was a stirring in my spirit. It was a holy moment.
Love looks like something. Like caring for strangers. Working and walking alongside someone. Pushing your tongue back and forth, making exaggerated sounds and facial expressions. Love looks like welcoming interruptions. Slowing your pace to make sure that others can keep up. Like making a fool of yourself for the benefit of someone else.
Love looks like picking up a mother’s legacy and welcoming a refugee.
That’s Kingdom. Kingdom culture doesn’t take place mainly in church. We carry our royal mandate wherever we go. Co-workers should encounter the goodness of God where we work. Strangers should be ravished by the presence of the Lord when we enter the bus or step into a grocery store. Immigrants should be welcomed into a family when introduced to the friends of Jesus.
That’s the normal. Anything else is a distortion of the Kingdom.
There should be clicking of tongues, exaggerated facial expressions, and bold body language as we go out of our way to make people feel welcome.
If we are not fools for Christ, whose fools are we?
Is serving others beneath you?
Don’t let anyone deceive himself. If any one of you thinks he is wise in matters pertaining to this world, he is going to be really disappointed. In fact, one must be deemed a fool by worldly standards in order to become truly wise.
1 Cor 3:18, VOICE
It is by how we receive the stranger, the fallen, the poor, that we serve our Risen King.
Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
Matt 25:40, MSG
By throwing down our crowns we receive His.
Just as the manager took up his mother’s legacy, I am inspired, intrigued, and somewhat overwhelmed by the legacies that I get to step into. What is your inheritance – what do you step into, and what will you leave behind?