“Can you read my heart?”

There is a lady in our church choir who is originally from Japan. She is a joy to have in the choir; always smiling, always thinking of others. She always makes a point to ask about Kelly if she didn’t make it to choir that day. English is not her first language; in fact, one of the reasons that she joined the choir was to help broaden her understanding of the language. Conversations with her are always friendly, but understandably she sometimes pauses to consider what word or phrase fits the thought she is trying to express.

Last night, after choir, she and I were talking about her impending visit to her native country. She mentioned how she felt sad in a way because she was going to miss her family here – her church family. The conversation eventually moved to her telling me a little bit about her time growing up in Japan, and she mentioned that she had a Bible – one of the few in Japan who did, even though she was not a Christian at the time. She felt that it was – something – that she had that Bible. She thought and thought, but the word wasn’t coming, so she pulled out her phone and looked for the English synonym for the Japanese word she had in her mind. I saw the translated answer – “destiny”.

As I sometimes need to do in conversations (not just ones with her), I asked if I could make sure I understood what she was saying. My understanding was that she believed that God put that Bible in her life at that time – even though she wasn’t yet a believer, even in a country where few keep Bibles – for a reason; somehow, it was part of His greater plan preparing her for what and where she was now.

She looked directly at me. I noticed the beginnings of tears forming in her eyes. She put a hand to her chest, and asked me, “can you read my heart?”

I found this turn of phrase, spoken by someone who speaks English as a secondary language, to have incredible weight and poignancy. I found myself almost speechless in reply; I think I tried to respond that I just thought I understood what she was talking about once I saw the word on the screen that she had been trying to find. We finished the conversation and went our separate ways, but that simple yet awesome question – “Can you read my heart?” – embedded itself in my mind as I drove home. It hasn’t left me yet.

We are called to be patient with each other (Ephesians 4:2), to be kind and compassionate to each other (Ephesians 4:32), to encourage each other (I Thessalonians 5:11, among others), to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), to be devoted to each other (Romans 12:10), to be united in mind and thought (I Corinthians 1:10), and to live in harmony with each other (I Peter 3:8). If we do that in the love of Christ – really, truly – one to another, maybe we really can read each other’s hearts.