Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lost In Translation

Just the other day, an important friend of mine posted a verse on twitter from the Biblical book of Lamentations. As soon as I saw it I had a memory from about 15 years ago (I know it's going to be distracting to you that I am remembering something from when I was 5 years old, but stay with me). At the time, I was really focused on a specific group of verses in the Bible from the Book of Lamentations, which I felt was a life theme for me. The passage was Lamentations chapter 3, verses 27-31. Here is what it says in the New International Version (NIV):

27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.

29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.

30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever. 

The NIV was the preferred version of the scriptures used by the church I grew up attending. I didn't exactly understand the context of this verse, but for me it meant that I should seek God as a young man and that it is ok if it is difficult. God would meet me in the midst of seeking Him - even through life's confusion. One day, I told the pastor of our church about this verse and how I was latching onto it. I quoted it to him and he said, "Yep, it's good to work hard." I thought to myself, "Is that what these few verses mean?" 
Flash forward to the present. As I was having this memory as a result of my friend's post, I decided to read those verses again. Maybe 15 years of life would give me the experience and perspective to be able to understand them the way the author really meant them to be understood. I hopped over to my YouVersion bible app and found the passage I was looking for. This time, I read it in the paraphrase version of the Bible, The Message. Here is what I found:

27 It’s a good thing when you’re young
to stick it out through the hard times.

 28 When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.

 29 Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.

30 Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The “worst” is never the worst.

31 Why? Because the Master won’t ever
walk out and fail to return.

Wow. This isn't at all the "work as hard as you can" theme that my pastor from 15 years ago communicated. It's more like, well, what I originally thought. It basically says, "Life may be tough, but if you are faithful to sit and wait on God, He'll always show up." Love. It. 
At this point I had a few thoughts. First, I wish that I had been exposed multiple sources and translations or versions of the scriptures so that I could more thoroughly understand the principles being communicated. Second, I wonder at the incredible ways that scripture lives and breathes, allowing us to access deeper and deeper parts of who God is. Third, I am so thankful that I live in a time and place that gives me the chance to find God's grace, mercy, love, leadership, mastery and wisdom in so many different translations and versions. 
When I read these old familiar verses in a new way, I am overwhelmed by the truth of those scriptures. The 15 year old me was finally at peace knowing he understood in his mind what he suspected in his heart.  Back then the true meaning was lost in translation. Now, I understand more and more as I myself become lost in translation. TMF

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this post thoroughly. Wednesday night, I was reading through various translations of the passage that Scot McKnight used at last weekend's gatherings and as I read from the Message, NKJV, TNIV & ESV, I was just incredibly grateful for the opportunity to really dig into the passage and have a variety of perspectives. I think, also, no matter what version we're using, there are times when passages will speak differently to us every time we read them. I've experienced that especially reading through Proverbs each month; I love being taken by surprise by a verse I've already read at least 10 times this year! Thanks for sharing these thoughts!