My acquisition of the Italian language really doesn’t reflect the amazing teacher I had in Florence, Italy, or the excellence of her skills. Like Michaelangelo she chipped away, always confident that deep within me something stunningly amazing would come forth.
I did stun quite often actually, like whenever I opened my mouth. The amazing part was trying to get my foot back out.
She didn’t speak English. I didn’t speak Italian. She was a gifted teacher, brilliant and patient. I came with few references and little ability.
While I ascended into Italian sophistication, still sporting my Little House on the Prairie print dress from Walmart, she introduced me to things like Versace and Gucci.
Her apartment was filled with intriguing treasures. Original art works. Oriental rugs. For my lesson she cleared Venetian glass ornaments and intricate porcelain vases from a gracefully carved wooden table where I deposited my grammar books.
I built an imaginary safe space cubicle around myself and there I’d be careful to stay while I inched off my coat, then carefully slide into her antique chair.
Italian antique and American old is a cultural chasm. They live centuries apart, as in before Columbus set sail different.
I learned to see a glimpse of Italian life from her eyes as I observed this regular routine. I saw quality, beauty and value within an Italian context.
We often began by reading a Bible verse together, me with my halting pronunciation of indecipherable words, and her with her beautiful rolling r’s.
One day our lesson found a much broader mark on my missionary heart than figuring out how to buy beef at the butcher shop.
The love I went to Italy with had developed a thin veneer.
Language didn’t come easily. People thought and acted in ways I didn’t comprehend. Feeling isolated, stupid and inept wasn’t exactly fun and games. I was so over and done with it.
You may be feeling like that about the place you are today.
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” 1 Peter 1:22 (NIV)
In her patient way, we attempted conversation revolving around the passage. The process was a painful demonstration of the tower of Babel within an elegant setting.
As she peeled away the etymology of the Italian word “sincere,” it revealed some imperfections. Little had I reckoned with the layers of origin coming together with modern translation to reach within my heart an untutored spot.
“Sincera” in Italian.
Sine is a Latin prefix meaning without. Cera, in Italian means wax. Coupled sincera, the Italian for sincere, means without wax.
The term reflected on ancient merchants who dishonestly covered up their wares with clear wax to hide flaws. Broken, cracked or rough products smoothed and filled looked whole and smooth. But it was pretense. Underneath flawless perfection lay shoddy product.
And there I sat, surrounded by beautiful sculptures and valuable paintings, uncovered by God’s word, hiding under fake wax.
Deep crevices of hypocrisy tarnished my love for those I felt called to serve.
When Peter wrote those words, he addressed the struggles and suffering of a body of believers caught in the crossfires of diverse nationality, race, gender and culture. He pointed them back to the source of pure love and pulled them from pretense. And he challenged them to build upon a foundation of genuine love.
This is a good time in our history to check for wax in the cracks. With long seasons of dry difficult testing, falsity springs with deceitful stealth and cunning.
Past months have worn into our beings. Our lack of accountable fellowship with one another in the body of Christ has made us open to chips and crevices.
But, how much is just wax?
Love with a thin veneer is quite easily passable as the real thing, but very far from it.
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth”
–Confession is good for the soul, truly. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s conviction for sin. Then ask forgiveness.
–God’s Word is the mirror of our souls. It reveals not just the imperfections, but also real answers, not just the waxy coverups, but Christ’s perfection with which He robes us. It brings hope. Spend time in it.
–Worship. Affirm the character of God. Read His Word back to Him in praise. Sing. Share it.
“so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”
Jesus’ perfect love calls me from my fixed and fake smile and actions, from a heart full of hidden craters, unkempt and glossy. He knows the real me.
He bids me to care deeply enough to shake off hypocrisy, check up on others and see how they are…honestly.
That we may live out His love. Without wax.
Wonderful. I had no idea about the root of sincere. Great lesson!
Thanks Linda! It’s always changed my picture of what it means.
Sylvia, once again you’ve brought a deep message with vulnerability and an endearing story. Thank you for helping us examine our hearts for wax!
Thank you Jeannie! I appreciate your encouragement!
Wow! Yet again, you astound me by revealing yet another layer of your heart for God my friend. Thank you so much for this post. Much to love about it. God’s blessings ma’am.
Thanks J.D. Been praying for you and Diane these days.
Nancy E Head
I love this beautiful word picture!
Thank you Nancy! I am grateful you enjoyed it!
This post warmed my heart. My Dad and I sat at our kitchen table and he taught me Italian, but I didn’t know about the cracks and wax. Thank you for an excellent object lesson.
What? You know Italian? Oh my, we must meet face to face someday. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate it always.
Thank you once again Sylvia for an incredible picture of your experience, plus this picture you paint here for us your readers, I can identify on a few levels and I love this on many different levels! thank you for sharing your gift with us, love you beautiful friend:)
Thanks Maria. Love you back. It is such an encouragement to hear your response. I’ll just bet you could tell some stories as well!! Blessings to you.
Thanks, Sylvia. I know about that Italian language learning experience. Learning for me maybe just hyperbole! More like Rocky against Mr. T! know doubt who was who. spent much time getting up.
Ha! You did just fine. God was gracious to give us that humbling experience! Thanks Andy.
What a beautiful post about the root meaning of sincere and how we can use that to really examine our hearts
Thank you Kathy. I still have a lot to learn in that area. Appreciate so much you reading it and responding.