In a few weeks, I will be making my fourth trip to Italy. This and the previous trip have been especially emotional for me since my entire reason for going is to visit my father. For those who don’t know, I was adopted when I was two days old. Last year I found and met my birth mom and two sisters in Florida. Then, a few months ago I found my birth father and brother. In Italy.
Each trip I make there, I grow more fond of the culture and food (and wine). But especially, the people. I have found that there are several ways that Italy has transformed how I see people… and my own faith. Of course one might think of Rome and how much influence the Vatican has on Italy’s culture. But other things impacted me on a more personal level during my stays in Italy.
How can you think of Italy and not think of food, right? Every time my wife and I visit Italy, we make it a point to enjoy the flavors that are brought alive in Italian meals. Strolling down the evening streets of Parma, just off the river that winds through downtown, brings to mind some wonderful flavors that one just doesn’t find in the States. Some people prefer pasta or lamb.
It also reminds me that each person has different appeals in life. They will react differently towards different parts of the gospel. Some will respond to a more emotional appeal, and others to Luke’s logical appeal. John’s gospel speaks to me deeply, for example. Others are in full rebellion, as I was years ago.
But while there are different styles and different stories that comprise it, the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks a universal truth that we crave. Like our bodies craving food for nourishment, we crave spiritual nourishment from the gospel because we are all broken and are in need of Christ’s forgiveness. Many may reject good nourishment for junk food, but even as one may eat sugary junk foods we know it isn’t good for us. The bible gives us a full, nourishing spiritual diet for us.
Probably the most interesting thing about spending time in Italy is adjusting to their timing. We found it much harder to just grab a bite to eat during parts of the afternoon. Most every place closes. And dinner. Yeah. Prepare to spend a few hours eating. We also found ourselves talking with people when we normally wouldn’t be doing so back home since we had slowed down so much. We simply noticed more.
Sometimes it is good for us to stop our fast paced lifestyle and sit back to look around just a bit. There may be someone who needs to hear some reassuring news. There may be someone going through a very difficult time in their life. Or, conversely, you may be the one who needs some one to talk to. By taking my time, I am much more prepared and aware of those around me and who may be in need.
Each time I visit Italy, I speak the language a little better. I am able to communicate “more better” than the trip before. Knowing that there are nuances in each language that can capture subtleties, I am reminded how important it is for us to stop for a minute and think about each person’s past and how their past shapes their perception of different words. Speaking in their language means less is lost in translation.
Several years ago, I learned ancient Greek to study the New Testament in the original language. I did this to better understand those nuances. But it was when I found my father in Italy that the importance of language really hit home. If I wanted to communicate better with my father, I should know Italian better. I have a long way to go, but learning Italian is already bringing us closer and giving me a chance to have a better relationship him.
Martin Luther said language is the sheath that contains the sword of the spirit. Knowing our Father God’s language can help us appreciate and know him much more just like learning Italian is bringing me closer to my own father. Even if we don’t speak Greek, referencing several translations can help us better grasp what the authors were communicating, and allow us to spread that message more accurately.
For forty four years I never knew my biological father. But just because I didn’t know him, think about him, or search for him for most of my life doesn’t mean he didn’t exist. Quite the opposite. He was there. He was real. And today, he is VERY real because I found him. Many times we push something into the back of our mind and it stops being “real” because it is out of sight and out of mind. But that doesn’t actually stop it from being real. God exists whether we think about him or not. God exists whether we believe in him or not.
For years, I didn’t believe in God. But the bible tells us in Romans 1 that we all know he exists because God has written it on our hearts. He is telling us that deep down, we all know his truth, even if we suppress it. My own father wasn’t real to me for years. But once I pursued him, and even found photos of him and then met him, I understood who he was and realized how much I had been craving that relationship. God has given us his word in the bible. He speaks to us through the bible. There’s a reason he tells us in Psalm 1 that a blessed man is one who mediates and thinks of God’s word all day long. Imagine not knowing your father and then finding him. Now think about all those who don’t know God yet. Imagine the joy they will know once they find God’s love. Wouldn’t you want to introduce them to his love? Help them discover their father, your father. Our father. God. It’s hard, and we’ll fail often. But think of the reward you’ll be giving them!
Hi. I'm Scott Sullivan, a slave of Christ and husband to my awesome wife Angie. I'm an artist and writer,
living in the beautiful countryside of Lancaster, Pa.