Once the disciples were asking, “Is it okay to keep my salvation private?” So he told them this story…
There once was a man and woman named Zach and Helen. Zach and Helen had been high school sweethearts. They loved each other so much, and had grown their love together for many years. Zach felt like he was the luckiest guy in the world. Helen was beautiful, and had a huge heart. Helen felt that Zach was a huge gift in her life also. He had loved her, and helped her see that life could be incredibly joyful and creative. Together, they decided to grow a family. After many years, they had a few older children and had become accustomed to the routines of life together. Life wasn’t bad, but it felt like something new was coming.
One day, Helen went to work as normal, and her boss had a surprise announcement. He was relocating her position, and it came with an incredible raise. This would be huge for their family. She’d get paid more, for doing work she enjoyed more. The only downside was they would have to live in a new location. That didn’t seem so horrible though. They’d always talked about wanting more adventure. She came home that day, and told Zach slowly and excitedly, but asking him what he thought. She didn’t want to accept unless he was completely on board as well. He smiled and said, “Of course, this is one more great part of our adventure together!” So they made all the arrangements, packed up their things, and moved to the new location.
Now, this location wasn’t just down the street. In fact, this location was far away in another part of the world. But they’d been told the culture and language were pretty much the same as they were used to. They were told they would fit in just fine. When they arrived, and looked out their windows – it was true. Everything looked just the same. They were excited about this new chapter, and looked forward to setting up their new home.
With Helen’s new income, Zach no longer had to work. So, when they first moved, he was able to spend all day at home with the kids. They hadn’t enrolled in school yet, since it was Springtime, they decided to wait until Fall to do that. Helen felt so excited about this new chapter in the life of her family, kissing her husband goodbye as she left for her first day of work in this new office. As she walked down the sidewalk, she realized since they’d spent all their time setting up the home and unpacking – and had ordered all their groceries and deliveries off the internet – they hadn’t actually left the house since arriving. She was excited to learn more about this new area, and see what coffee shops, stores, and new opportunities this community might have.
So it came as quite a shock when Helen arrived at work that first morning, and couldn’t understand anything that anyone was saying. At first she thought maybe she’d taken the wrong vitamin with her breakfast. Maybe she had something stuck in her ear. But no, it gradually became clear that everyone here spoke a different language. One that she’d never heard, and didn’t understand at all. This was probably some weird initiation game they played with new employees…but it made her tired, pretending to understand, and nodding or making casual noises to participate in conversation when it was needed. She pretty much hid in her office all morning, and burst out onto the street around lunchtime, looking forward to understanding the people around her. Only, to her horror, she couldn’t understand anyone. Not walking down the street, as she listened to those people around her. She couldn’t read the menu at the sandwich café she stopped in for lunch. She couldn’t even understand her waiter. At one point, wondering if the initiation had gone too far – she turned quickly in an opposite direction, and went into a hardware store that no one might have guessed she’d go into. She went straight up to the man at the counter and asked him if he could help her purchase a new hammer. He looked at her confused, and spoke back to her in words that made it obvious – no one was playing a game. This new community spoke a completely different language. Her eyes began to water, as she realized what this might mean for her workload. Then it hit her – her family had no idea. She had just moved her entire family into a community and an existence that spoke a completely new language. Just to live here – they would have to learn a whole new language – and maybe even new customs. They might be mad at her. It would have been easier to stay where they were. They were going to be so upset, and blame her for all the new changes. They wouldn’t understand this opportunity. She felt so guilty and selfish. She felt like a horrible wife, and a thoughtless mother. How could she force this on them?
Then – she made an important decision. She decided – she wouldn’t force this on them. There was no reason for them to change. There was no reason to make them change their ways, change who they were, or learn to speak a new language. On her way back to work, she stopped into a bookstore and bought a book on this new language, and spent the rest of her day flipping through it – trying hard to learn the basics of this new language and even some of the culture while she was at it.
When she came home that day, she was greeted by her kids and husband. They’d spent most of the day arranging the playroom, painting a hallway – and he had even let the kids paint a welcome home message on a giant wall of the living room, knowing they’d paint over it soon anyway. Dinner was almost ready, and she found herself making up stories about how her day had gone. Work was great. She made a few new friends. Her office was nice. Lunch was good. She felt a little guilty, but she told herself it was okay – she was showing love to her family by keeping life as easy as possible.
As the days turned into weeks, she did the best she could to keep them comfortable even while she was learning this new language and culture on her own. Occasionally, she found herself accidentally speaking this other language at home. Or once, one of the kids tried to talk to a neighborhood kid who’d been playing outside nearby. They didn’t understand each other, and she pretended that family was just weird, so her son didn’t worry. She was surprised at how long she was able to keep this up. Her family even left the house sometimes, but they went to places they were familiar with – international restaurants or stores where everyone had a basic understanding of their native language. So, they never even realized as she slowly became incredibly good at existing in both her old language, and switching to the new one without missing a beat.
This continued through the entire summer, until one day her two worlds came crashing down together. Her husband Zach came into the room looking really confused. They’d received what seemed to be an urgent letter from what looked like the local school the kids would go to. It had large red letters on the envelope. It had exclamation marks. But as Zach held out the letter to Helen, he asked,
“What in the world do you think this is?”
Without thinking, Helen read the letter in the new language and explained,
“Oh yeah, I’ve forgotten to register the kids for school, and we need to do it this week. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”
Zach just stared at her, and she realized her mistake. Not just the mistake in that moment, but the mistake she’d been making since they moved. She couldn’t keep up living this way forever. Eventually, the Truth of this new reality would have to be confronted. Her family would have to learn this new language – only now they didn’t have any time. She gathered her husband and kids together – shared the entire truth about what had been happening, and the reality about the world outside their home. She tried to help them see how it was her love that had made her keep them from having to change things. How she’d worked so hard for their sake – to keep their false reality going. But things would never be the same now – she wished she could go back in time…