Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Barriers to Communication

It was a typical Sunday in the Papua New Guinean church. People had been gathering for over an hour; the rough wooden benches were slowly filling up. Murray had preached here many times so he knew to be patient and he knew to be prepared for distractions. Children of all ages wandered at will, as did a few chickens and the odd small dog. There were no walls to the church, other than a bamboo screen nailed to the posts behind a low table where Murray would stand to preach, so birds flew in and out, some of them squawking as they settled into the grass roof.  

When most of the benches were full the man who had been strumming a battered guitar nodded and Murray took his place. He spoke slowly in Pidgin, the trade language in the country, and waited for the man beside him to translate his words into the “Tok Ples” or village language. They hadn’t gotten very far into the sermon when Murray noticed everyone staring at a spot over his left shoulder. He wondered what might be happening behind him, but continued bravely until four young men stood up and made their way to that corner of the church. All eyes followed them. 

Realizing there was no sense in continuing, Murray turned just in time to see one of the men wrap a large banana leaf around the head of a boa constrictor that had begun to slither through the bamboo screen. As the huge snake went limp one of the other men grabbed it and pulled it through the wall. The other two stepped up to take the rest of the weight of the snake’s huge body.

Murray turned back to his congregation. He knew everyone was now thinking about how good that snake was going to taste. He said a brief closing prayer and sat down.

Sometimes the distractions need to be dealt with before any kind of communication can move forward. It’s true in our spiritual lives, as is illustrated in the book of Matthew where we are told, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23,24). 

There have been times when I’ve been blocked as a writer because of things in my life that needed to be resolved. God cannot speak through me when my mind, heart and spirit are distracted with unsettled and unsettling sin. They are barriers to communication, both between me and the Father, and me and my audience.

But there is good news ... “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Is there a snake making its way through the wall in your life? Don’t let it become a barrier to the words God has for you to write.

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone and also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. Marcia's second novel, A Tumbled Stone was recently short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards. Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here. Visit Marcia's website


  1. Great analogy, Marcia. We've had a large huntsman spider during service and that was enough of a distraction for this person.

  2. Marcia, great post! It's interesting how the snake was a kind of welcome distraction (potential food source) rather than bringing fear and panic to the congregation.