Just three verses into the Bible, the Creator shows us the power of words.
“Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)
To equate the influence of anything we say with the authority of God’s voice is a bold overstatement. But right from the beginning, God introduces us to the power of language.
At a friend’s home for dinner recently I witnessed the giving and receiving of a single word…and I recognize it as a Gift.
Kristin, a young mama and friend, told me the morning’s park story with two-year-old Samuel as she chopped the avocados and tomatoes. Samuel had delighted in smashing the sand castles built by his seven-year-old friend. Kristin explained to him that while adults might enjoy that game, he would need to ask permission from a child before destroying his castles.
“Permission?” Samuel queried. Kristin understood his curiosity and newfound love of words. She explained, and Samuel looked for occasions during the day to use the word “permission.”
I listened, intrigued by this little guy’s fascination with a word. Then I witnessed it as the evening progressed. Before we ate, Samuel reminded us to pray and sing. He chose “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, “ and joined his parents in singing as best he could. As we dove into the rice and black beans, Samuel turned to his mama and asked simply, “Uponit?”
“Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.”
Pausing only slightly – perhaps quietly searching for the reference, Kristin smiled and explained the meaning of “upon.”
Later in the evening, Samuel, purposely dressed in only his shirt and shoes, picked up a green, cloth bag full of quarters and notified Dad he was headed to the laundry room (down a flight of stairs in the quaint apartment home). A few minutes later they returned and Samuel plopped down on his mama’s lap with another simple question. “Amused?”
Jon explained to Kristin the context of the new word Samuel had heard. She brushed little Samuel’s blond locks from his eyes as she asked, “Would you like to know the meaning of ‘amused’?
At the time I was intrigued at this gentle giving and receiving of words. The next day sitting quietly in the morning sun, I replayed the encounters, and the Lord spoke significance into the moment for me.
Stillness is the best venue for understanding that a word given and received is a gift.
I had left the home of this precious couple intrigued, awed at the parenting offered this brilliant young boy, stuck by the innate understanding of attentive parents, thanking God for the love and patience that would surround little Samuel as he grew.
But I’d had missed the deeper message for myself if I had not entered into stillness – a place for reflection. It was this quiet place that led to the pondering of a word as a gift.
In Eugene Peterson’s thought-provoking Eat This Book, he writes in part about spiritual reading:
“There is only one way of reading that is congruent with our Holy Scriptures, writing that trusts in the power of words to penetrate our lives and create truth and beauty and goodness, writing that requires a reader who, in the words of Maria Rilke, ‘does not always remain bent over the pages; he often leans back and closes his eyes over a line he has been reading again, and its meaning spreads through his blood.’”
It’s what I call “stillness” – this leaning back and closing of eyes.
I thought about some words that had become gifts in my life: grace, kindness, receiver, with, capture, redeem, obedient-response… words I’ve met in stillness. And I feel an urgency to come again more often to this still place with other holy words that deserve my attention. Words given by a generous God.
I desire the eagerness of little Samuel who finds such delight in the Gift of a Word.
To consider: What word could you take into a lingering stillness today?