One night a few years ago, I was at the local YMCA.
There were also three young men working out near me who looked to be about 19, 16, and 12.
This kind of thing happens all the time, and in that particular setting I don’t usually initiate conversation with people I don’t know. I have a task to complete and then I’m done. (Along with my lawn, it’s one thing in life I can control, so the whole deal is a pretty important part of my well being.)
Anyway, as the three young men were adjusting the weight levels in one of the machines, I overhead one of them say — seemingly in reference to where they should put the small peg that sets the resistance — “the height and the depth.”
My ears perked up and my mind went immediately to Ephesians 3:18-19, two of my favorite verses embedded in one of my favorite prayers in the bible:
and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the [b]saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
I thought, “Really? These three don’t LOOK like preachers or even Jesus freaks! Was that on purpose or just a coincidence?”
And two seconds later, one said to the other (mostly in jest): “Vanity, vanity. All of life is just vanity” which comes from the opening words of Ecclesiastes:
“[a]Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
“[b]Vanity of vanities! All is [c]vanity.”
Twice?! By now I knew it wasn’t accidental so I said, “You all are doing some serious bible stuff there. Was that height and depth stuff on purpose?”
“From Ephesians 3” one of them answered. So I replied, “One of my favorites. ‘comprehend together with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth . . . “
So now I was impressed. It turns out the three had grown up going to Christian school and were deeply immersed from a young age in the words of Scripture. What they heard at home and at church they then learned in school.
But you may wonder: how did I feel about overhearing such insider lingo? Did it make me resent the Christian subculture; the kind of thing made fun of on Stuff Christians Like?
Not at all. The young men weren’t being preach-y in the gym, and neither were they trying to draw attention to themselves. I simply overheard their quiet conversation and immediately recognized phrases from Scripture that have implanted themselves in my mind and heart over the years.
So I realized that Scripture has its own language and in a world obsessed with the new and the now, few people know it anymore.
I left the Y grateful that the three young men did not think I was an eavesdropping old man.
And I left it even more glad that the four of us shared a language you can only learn by taking the massively small step of reading and praying over the Scripture every day.
Because more than I realize, that language has shaped who I am and what I have become.