Being Careful with Words

Creation started with words – Let there be light (Genesis 1:3) – and by the God who has been called the Word (John 1:1). So why have we as a culture become so lax with them? We use them all the time as a necessary and mundane tool to get through the day to order coffee, share news, or present an idea.  But they are also so much more.

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre provides beautiful reflections on words in her work, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies.  In this book of twelve reflections she encourages readers to take time to honor words and more clearly examine how we use them.  Through these reflections she encourages us to play, pray, converse, practice poetry, read well, share stories, and more.  Ultimately hers is a vision of stewardship of words.

I’m familiar with stewarding money and time, but words?  Why not?  They are a part of our lives that word shape us for good or ill.  I’ve never liked the kid’s rhyme sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.  In my experience, words can hurt immensely no matter what some well-meaning teacher may say about ignoring them.  Yes, we can decide how to respond to the words around us.  However, I’m not sure if we have complete control over words’ ultimate affects as they come at us from all directions.

With this in mind, I welcomed this book as a way to slow down and consider how I use words and the delight that they can be.  Here are just a few ideas that struck my imagination:

  • That the role of the writer may at times be analogous to that of priest as we take seriously the authority writing can imply 65
  • That guides are needed to open up the spaces in story where author and reader meet 78
  • That good conversation is life-giving as it inspires and invigorates 90
  • That play comes from loving life and play with words comes from loving language 191
  • That our work in prayer is to make our words an offering and let God make them worthy 222
  • That we need times of silence where we lay down our pens and swords and take our rest 234

As I finish this post I again find myself fighting to find words to say and frustrated that they are not readily available.  But I’m also eager to see what new conversations may come from these words.  Furthermore, I’m reminded that they are a precious resource to share with others – even in quick e-mails.  Who knows what new creations will come from the words I hear and share in the coming days and weeks?

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