05 December 2011

"Nap tann ou, Jezi."

My friend M called to see if we had Bible study a few weeks ago.

I said yes, that I was just leaving my house and would be on the road soon. And although we were speaking English, she ended with a common Kreyol phrase: "Nap tann ou." (Pronunciation help: Nap rhymes with "mop," tann rhymes with "yawn," and oo is just like the sound you make when someone gives you a bar of dark chocolate. Well, I do, anyway. It also rhymes with "you.")

The phrase "nap tann ou" has bothered me for some time. Literally translated, it means, "We're waiting for you." To my American ears, it had always meant, "you will undoubtedly be late, and we'll be forced to delay until you arrive." But knowing M's good will, and that she would be glad to see me (whenever I arrived), I suddenly realized that that wasn't what she meant at all.

I realized that she meant that they'd be expecting me, that her waiting would be one of anticipation, not frustration. That to her, "nap tann ou" was an expression of love.

That she meant we're waiting for you, as a child waits for Christmas morning, as a bride waits for her wedding day, as a family waits to be reunited with a soldier finally coming home.

And in the same moment, it occurred to me that this might be what Jesus meant, too, when he said for us to wait for his return. Do I expect that? I mean, do I really expect it? Or will I be caught off guard?

Looking around at the world we live in, you'd think it would be on my mind constantly...but it's not. Maybe I'm afraid of seeming, well, fanatical. (No prompting from the studio audience, please.) From the outside, I can see how it looks. This guy, whom most of the world believes has decomposed a long time ago--we think he's coming back. That's unusual. And some of us have really gone pretty overboard about it, too, based on how I woke up this morning...to a man with a megaphone, using the acoustics of the ravine to his advantage. He was shouting the Gospel. That's not love, dude. Not at 5:30 AM or any other time of day.

And then there's those who get so excited that they start to predict silly things...I'm thinking of someone in particular. I don't want to give it away, but he's an old white guy whose last name rhymes with "stamping." That's no good, either...and frankly, sort of misses the point. In my humble opinion, it's not about when Christ comes back, it's about why, and it's about how we've spent our days and hours and minutes and seconds since then.

So here's my benediction: may our lives convey a patient excitement, a quietly strange expectation, a holy yet unobnoxious longing, a sense that we are redeemed souls who say, "Whenever you're ready...we're waiting for you. Nap tann ou, Jezi."


  1. I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about why,after 2,000 years, He has not come back. I have come to the conclusion that, after He spent 4,000 years teaching the Hebrews that they could not obey the law, He needs some time to teach us that we can't either. He wants to populate heaven with those who truly "get" the grace thing and have learnedly something about trust and obedience. Nap tann ou, Jezi!!