“Why do you write?” someone recently asked me. I confess I was a little taken aback by the question. My initial thought was to respond, “Why not write?!” but thankfully I held my tongue. Instead I began to ponder the question, which came from someone who struggles with words. It was earnest and sincere and borne out of much frustration, so I wanted to consider him, and his questions, carefully.
Why should we wrestle with words which feel sometimes as if they are a hungry lion wanting to eat us instead of submit to our will? Why wade through the torrential downpours of tornadic thoughts to create order out of paragraphs, sentences, words? Why pick through the rubble of thousands of choices that don’t quite fit in order to find the gem that works perfectly?
Because words matter. Words connect us as we link them together in strands of meaning and these strands, these fragile, tenuous strands are some of the main things that hold all of our relationships together. Words are beauty and pain shared. Words are the expression of human experience that generates “with-ness.” Words are how we declare to the world around us who we really are and what is important to us, and how we learn that about others. Through words we disclose the essence of what it means to be human to one another. And that is a beautiful thing.
Words are the bridge to hearts and minds
Have you ever considered that words are the only way to precisely get a thought or idea from your own mind into another’s? They are the bridge we build to gain access to the hearts and minds of others, and that because of this, we can be with one another in a supremely unique way. It’s true. We’re doing it now – you and I. It happens so often – it is so utterly common and ordinary – that we easily forget how glorious it is. As I write, I’m thinking about you, dear reader. I’m wondering how you’ll receive these thoughts being refined into words which flow from my mind to yours. I’m considering how to articulate and express things for your benefit and I’m wondering if I’m being clear enough – precise enough – to have you cross over into my world and see things from my perspective. I may not know you – I may never meet you. But the simple logic of you reading this means you and I must each exist and therefore we are experiencing a “with” one another that is only achieved through words.
It’s amazing! Language is a gift bestowed uniquely to humanity. Oh, I know, the dogs in my neighborhood can all start barking at one time if a fox or a thief wanders through and the bees in my beehives “told” each other where the best nectar was. But no animal can express a thought or idea to another. They can warn, they can alert, some argue they can do a bit more, but none of them considers beauty and discusses it. None of them laments tragedy or injustice. None of them can debate about the truth of a matter or the seriousness of it – they can’t even chat about the hum-drum of their days! No, only humans can do that, and humans can only do that through words.
Words hold power
It is no surprise, therefore, that words have incredible and distinct power and influence. In the biggest “with us” humanity has ever known, God himself became The Word, and The Word used words to communicate truth to us. He spoke creation into existence using the unimaginable power of his words. He gave instruction through words to reveal more of himself and his desired relationship with his people. But in becoming Word, God gave us his fullest expression of himself. God’s Word, articulated in human form demonstrated the very essence of who he is so we could begin to comprehend his heart, his character, his will, and his love. He communicated himself to us by being The Word with us.
Words are important to God. Words are what God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. He could have just wired everyone’s mind to already know him – like the instincts that animals possess to build nests or swim up the coast of California each year. But he didn’t. He used words and he calls us to do the same. This is why language is stunning and beautiful and staggering all at the same time. This is why we write and speak. It is not solely to communicate information – it is in order to be with another soul and communicate the most important things in all the world! Words create the opportunity to connect the core of who we are to the core of another in a way that absolutely nothing else can. We can know a lot about another person – what they look like, where they live, what they do, etc. But we can’t really know another person without words.
Caring for souls matters
Once in a while I wonder if my words really have any impact. Does what I observe or think about the world around me help anyone? Impact anyone? Change anyone? Does what I write do any good? But often after those thoughts arise someone says something like, “Hey, thanks for what you wrote. I shared it with my friends at Bible study because I found it so helpful,” or “I sent your piece to my Dad and he told me later it changed his life.” I don’t know those people, but wow! I have been able to be with them in a way that only words can provide, in the same way that I can be with you even now. What a huge and humbling privilege to be invited into hearts and minds to consider important thoughts together!
Words matter because people matter. It matters how we treat one another and how we speak, dialog, and entreat one another. Caring for eternal souls matters. Wrestling through the work of stringing words together matters because when someone declares through their words, “I am here!” our thoughtful response declares, “yes, you are – and you matter.” Jesus declared, “I am” when he was here, and the best human response is, “YES! You are! And that matters more than anything else in the world!” Words are the way we help other souls do that.
I am praying that you are lifted to think higher thoughts about God and life and love and loss through my words. I know that I am challenged and inspired through yours.