Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Redeeming Words

Some time ago a friend bought me a copy of a wonderful antique book, Trench’s Study of Words. It’s a series of lectures delivered by Richard Trench, Archbishop of Dublin, in the early 1800’s. Dr. Trench talks about the fact that words not only are an invention of God, but that they reflect both the most base of human nature and the most divine of God’s. It depends on how they are used. Take, for example, the name of God. Spoken as a curse it is a word that roars with anger, frustration, the pain of this world. Spoken as praise, it is a word that sings with joy, peace, the longing and promise of being fully united with Him.

Not only do words reflect the heart and mind of the writer, they reflect his soul. In his essay titled, On the Morality of Words, Dr. Trench says – “the influence of a Divine faith working in the world ... has ... elevated, purified and ennobled a multitude of words ... until these, which once expressed only an earthly good, express now a heavenly.” Jesus raised the bar on every level. When he redeemed man, he opened the door for man to bring all within his influence into the joy of that redemption.

Words, whether they are wrapped between the covers of a novel, in a tome on counseling methods, or formed into an article or poem in a magazine, can and will direct the course of life, of a culture, of history itself. When those words come from the heart of a believer, when they are wrapped in the covering of the Holy Spirit, they can achieve more than we as writers could imagine.

An amazing story was told at the Festival of Faith and writing in Grand Rapids a few years ago. When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was released from prison some of his friends organized a gathering to celebrate. He was asked to read some of his poetry. These were words written in prison and smuggled out - words that brought courage and hope to those who lived under oppression. He began to recite those words, but, overcome by emotion, he could not go on. When he stopped, the entire audience continued, whispering the words of his poem back to him. There can be no doubt that those words directed the course of the lives of those who read them. We can assume they affected their culture. We can dare to believe they even changed the course of their history.

I believe that is the high calling of every Christian writer, to direct the language he/she uses to that level, to that higher usage. We may not reach the stature of such great writers as Solzhenitsyn, but we can reach the stature God intends for us. There is a way to ensure we reach that goal. That way can be stated in a few simple words, but is perhaps the hardest journey a human being can take. The way to accomplish such greatness is to stay close to Christ. Make sure your relationship with your creator is on solid ground. Keep that channel open and the words will flow from a healthy soul. They will be words of life, words of influence, though they be simple words.

In his essay, Dr. Trench goes on to say – “The Gospel of Christ, as it is the redemption of man, so is it in a multitude of instances the redemption of his word, freeing it from the bondage of corruption, that it should no longer be subject to vanity, nor stand any more in the service of sin or of the world, but in the service of God and of his truth.” (p.81)

The Apostle Paul tells us God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation... And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2Corinthians 5: 18,19) Let us reconcile our plain words, free them from the bondage of corruption, as Trench says, redeem them as Christ has redeemed us. Let all of what we write be in the service of God and of his truth. And let us be that “influence of a Divine faith working in the world.”


Eileen said...


That was beautiful! A cup of cold water in the middle of a dry, dusty journey. You certainly know how to make good use of the words God has given you.

I'm glad you've started this blog and will be checking back, often.

God bless you!


Valerie Comer said...

Thanks for the encouraging, challenging words, Marci!