By Jen Akin
When our son Sam was two years old I took him to the pediatrician for his annual check-up. He had a series of emergencies over the prior year due to significant asthma and allergies; so I entered the office anxious. Beginning with a very routine question, the doctor asked him, “Where is Sam?” He stared blankly at her. She asked again and still, he didn’t respond. Then she inquired, “Can you say Sam?” His dimples in full bloom, he grinned, but I knew immediately he had no idea what she was asking. Shocked, my heart sank as I realized that Sam was facing another hurdle. Sam had a speech disorder. One that impacted what he could communicate and what he could understand.
Over the following year, I recognized that trust and context were paramount to tackling this obstacle together. Often Sam’s sentences were a string of incoherent phrases with one or two identifying words, like “train” or “engine.” Fortunately, having been with him all day, I had context. I knew what story he was trying to share and we could continue the conversation with Sam feeling heard and understood. I spoke his language, and even though he didn’t always fully comprehend what I was saying back, he could trust and move forward, learn and grow.
Two years after this initial doctor’s appointment, Sam’s receptive language was fully restored. His growth had been exponential not just in speech, but in multiple areas of his life because he understood direction and could act upon it. He trusted that his advocates had the best intentions for him and he was open to where they led.
While reflecting on Acts 2:1-41, I considered what it must have meant to the scattered “God-fearing Jews” who no longer needed an interpreter, suddenly able to hear their own language being spoken by the apostles. I imagine their response was shock and awe. Those hearing the apostles’ message would have expected to hear it in Greek, a familiar language to travelers. Instead, the movement of the Holy Spirit, as the ultimate interpreter, brought about the possibility to hear teaching in their native language. These new believers were then better able to share this good news with others, making the spreading of the Gospel possible in a new way. The connection would be stronger, the possibilities greater, and the reach farther.
There was an additional component, however, that needed to be present beyond understanding and speaking the same language: having the same heart. Trust was an issue. This becomes clear as some Jews accuse the apostles of being drunk (v13) instead of sensing the Holy Spirit at work. It is incumbent upon Peter at this point to give them context, to remind them of the prophetic words of Joel and David. He calls them to repentance, baptism, and a renewed trust in the One who had been promised by their ancestors, the One who made a way for them to understand through His Spirit. My relationship with Sam built the trust necessary to overcome the initial shock of the unexpected and move toward growth. In the same way, Peter is challenging the Jews in this passage to do the same so they can grow in relationship with the Lord.
This is our challenge too. As I learned with my son, trust is built in that place where context is shared. When we spend significant time with the Lord, our sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit in our lives increases. The result is spiritual growth that we wouldn’t experience otherwise. He is speaking our language. The question becomes are we spending the time, in a position of openness and trust towards the Lord, to respond to the Holy Spirit?