Monday, September 5, 2011

Maybe I’m just culturally handicapped

A small word with so many connotations, which can be steered by culture, attitude, health, or misapprehension of intent.
Random House Websters College Dictionary defines the word “sigh” as “to let out one's breath audibly, as from sorrow, weariness, or relief; to yearn or long; to pine; to lament.

Princeton WordNet is much simpler in its definition: an utterance made by exhaling audibly; a sound like a person sighing,"she heard the sigh of the wind in the trees";to heave or utter a sigh; breathe deeply and heavily,"She sighed sadly"; utter with a sigh.

Kennerman Learner’s English Dictionary defines the word “sigh” as: to breathe out noisily when you are sad, tired, bored, relieved, etc. “He sighed in frustration.”

Webster’s Dictionary says the word means:  to inhale a larger quantity of air than usual, and immediately expel it; to make a deep single audible respiration, especially as the result or involuntary expression of fatigue, exhaustion, grief, sorrow, or the like, to lament; to grieve, or mourn over, a deep and prolonged audible inspiration or respiration of air, as when fatigued or grieved; the act of sighing

It’s obvious that we can normally sigh if we are either frustrated, can't do something or are bored.  I’ve been known to sigh if when I’m trying to explain something to someone but cannot get the message across. I know that people sigh they are sad or happy or tired.

As a matter of fact, people sigh as a result of feeling most emotions, it just depends what context the sigh is in to determine why the person is sighing.

In 1858, James Smith wrote about the last days of a believer: “Death-beds differ, even the death-beds of true believers. Some are filled with joy, others are only hopeful. Some glide away smoothly and softly — while others have much hard fighting at the last. Some have no doubts or fears — while others are very much tried with them. Some shout victory — others can only say, "I have a good hope." Some speak much to those about them — others say but very little. This was the case with the good man I was reading of, his whole dying experience was comprehended in one sentence, "I am sighing for Jesus!"

He did not sigh for life, nor for ease — but he was sighing for Jesus. I cannot help observing, how much of my experience now, is expressed in those words, "I am sighing for Jesus." Yes, yes, I can do without riches, or fame, or the honor which man confers. I am pretty well content with what providence sends me — and yet I often sigh, and sigh deeply too. Some would think me unhappy — but I am not. Some may conclude I am discontented with my situation in life — but I am not. Yet I sigh — I often sigh.”

Having ministered in some very sad situations over the years, especially at funerals, sighing was rather common. I’m discovering that this little action of sighing can be interpreted negatively or positively according to cultural mores, or maybe whim, often without reference to context, or explanation from the one who sighed. That's certainly true in my household. My wife sighs quite often, and for a multitude of reasons. I used to think they wee sighs with a negative content. They weren't, I'm pleased to say.

I don’t think  Eric’s small contribution was negative, especially in the light of His writing about the unity of Christians, wherever they come from, and previous words such as he penned, “I'm reminded once again that Christ and His gospel are of first importance. Church practice, while critical in the life of the Christian, is secondary. Our oneness in Christ binds us together. Because of this, we can and should strive to remain as one even if what we think about church differs significantly.”

Maybe I’m just culturally challenged, and understand words differently ! After all, we are upside down here!


Eric said...

Thank you John.

My guess is that this young couple that plans to plant a church near Savannah has very good intentions. Their beliefs seem sound. I hope they zealously proclaim the gospel and that many are saved.

My sigh, as I'm sure you understand, is directed at their methods. Many of these types of church plants fail because the planters have deviated so much from scripture. My guess is that they would have much more success in reaching people if they would follow Paul's model from Acts.

Thanks again.

Aussie John said...


We can develop a spiritual myopia when discussing matters such as this.

It has been my lot to minister to many who have been damaged by thinking what they have responded to was the Holy Spirit moving in their lives, when, in fact, as they later realized,it was their emotional response to the methods used.

I am uneasy about similar issues in those groups who would see themselves as orthodox evangelicals as well as people, visually and verbally have their emotions manipulated into "service" in some form or other.

My wife and I know what we are speaking about regarding the latter.
We were fortunate that we had much persuasion by the Holy Spirit, prior to that experience.

I am aware of several sincere young, but vulnerable, Christian singles and couples, who had their lives messed up by mistaking an emotional response at a missionary or Theological College/Seminary focused meeting for genuine call to ministry on their lives.

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