I was born to a father who told Bible stories dramatically, mimicking the straining arms of fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, dragging in nets suddenly overflowing with fish. I was born to a mother who read aloud for hours on end, “doing” the voices, composing her own tunes — which are now my tunes — to the songs in Winnie the Pooh. I was born into a world of stories, stories crafted of words and requiring no illustrations because the words themselves held enough to help me see.
Words to help me see.
Do you prickle with a bit of a thrill at that idea? We live in a world where words layer on words and meanings layer on meanings, in an atmosphere reverberating with echoes from the beginning until now, and words to help me see slide into the Word who helps me see. The Word sent “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18). In the beginning was the Word.
I don’t claim that words are the gospel. But the gospel is framed in words, about the Word through whom all things were made and without whom was nothing made that was made. And this place where words meet Word and we find them running parallel: this is what makes me excited; this fills me with wonder.
In a literature survey I taught last spring a student wished there were movies for all of the stories so that he “would know what to picture” when he read, and I wince at the tragedy of students who don’t know how to use words as the windows which they are. It is little wonder, I suppose, in our world in which even the butchered language of the text message begins to give way to technologies which allow us to send photos with instant ease, that we grow clumsy about words.
And yet, to the depths of my word-wrapped soul, I am certain that this is no mere matter of preferences, no inconsequential cultural change. The thundering God of Sinai forbade His people images, forbade them to look at Him, but He sent words down the mountain to them, books of words which He required they keep and learn and love.
And wouldn’t it have been easier if He had just engraved a picture of Himself on Moses’ tablets, or flashed Himself before their eyes so that they would know, to a certainty, who and what He was? But He didn’t. He piled words upon words, prophesies upon prophesies, so that even at last when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, we recognized Him through the words: the words that pointed to His arrival, the words that marked Him as one having authority, the words of life which He alone possessed.
Words are important. They fill me with wonder. Not just the sacred words, the gospel words, but words in general are precious and powerful things.
This month, I’m joining many other bloggers and taking a challenge to write every day for thirty-one days on one topic. When I began to consider taking the challenge, I asked myself what topic I could write. And I almost immediately answered myself, “Word-Wonder.” I’ve written at and all around about this topic often — as you know if you read here regularly — and I am excited, and frightened, to work at it consistently. Currently, I plan to build on it week by week: this first week’s general topic is “Words,” week two will focus on “Sentences,” week 3 on “Stories,” week 4 on “Songs,” and, for now, I’m calling the last few days “Wonder.” I don’t yet know exactly what I will write, but I hope you’ll join me on the journey to find out.
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©2013 by Stacy Nott