The language of love

Last night I flew from Auckland to Christchurch. I was exhausted after a long day of running workshops and just wanted to sleep. As a part of the ‘make sure your seatbelts are buckled, your seat upright’ announcement, the crew member accidentally said we were going to Wellington. The woman in the seat next to me made a comment, and this got us started talking.

It turned out she was one of the leading lights in the refugee resettlement programme in NZ. New Zealand is the only country in the world where every single refugee gets met at the airport by volunteers and welcomed into the country. The volunteers go through a very comprehensive training programme to help them understand the cultural differences. Each refugee family is assigned a NZ family who commits to staying in touch with them and actively supporting them for the first six months they are here. Some of the stories she told about the reactions from the refugees to the way they felt about how they are treated in NZ were just inspiring and very moving. Having come from countries where conflict and hatred is rife, to a country where people who are so different from them welcome and love them seems a very powerful thing.

She was also a very committed anglican christian, and spoke about how her faith really made all this possible. A lot of the language she used was very different to that which Quakers use. She talked about how God asked her to do things, about speaking directly with God and asking for clarity or guidance, about God ‘giving her a scripture’, and about praying for people.

It became clear that this was possibly just different language for the same things that I experience. Quakers talk about being led, about waiting in the silence, about a particular piece of ministry (spoken or written) speaking to our condition, and about holding people in the light. I still find the anthropomorphisation of God that is common in a lot of ‘christian speak’ difficult to deal with. Talking with this woman made me more aware of how it’s possible we really are talking about the same thing. We might have different words for it, we might even have quite different pictures in our heads about what God is, and how communication with the divine happens, but at the heart of it, the truth is the truth.

To me it’s like how there are so many different words for love, in so many different languages, but love is still love.

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