The Beauty of Words

I love words. Writing them, reading them, speaking them…. There is just something so gripping to me about the art of words being masterfully assembled so as to perfectly communicate the exact thoughts in the speaker’s mind and to evoke the exact feelings on the speaker’s heart.

The best writers and speakers are those who, through their words and the emotions behind them, draw the reader or the listener in to a place where every word is felt and understood and related to and hung upon. Just my own description of it makes my heart quiver with excitement.

Indeed, I get pretty wrapped up in words–especially written words. I would never be a candidate for speed reading because I can’t help but read to myself at the same deliberate pace I would read aloud, paying each word its due respect and giving each phrase its full resonance. And as I do that, whether reading aloud or to myself, I am able to feel the words for what they are: an expression of the soul.

In our homeschooling I just finished a most wonderful read-aloud with my kids–a book called Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates. The book is a part of our 1st grade curriculum, but I assure you that I enjoyed this 106-page literary masterpiece as much as I would any 12th-grade-reading-level classic. And that must have been evident to my kids as I literally cried my way through half of the last chapter.

Words are truly a very powerful thing. They don’t just have the power to make me cry at a fictional story. They have the power to turn away wrath or to stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1). They have the power to defile and destroy and the power to heal and build up (Proverbs 12:18, Ephesians 4:29). They have the power to justify or to condemn, to preserve or to ruin (Matthew 12:37, Proverbs 13:3). Words are so powerful that, in fact, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21, NASB).

And there’s more. Words do even more than impart information and communicate feelings and produce consequences. Words show us the condition of the heart.

“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart.” (Matthew 15:18, NASB)

Here in this truth lies what I consider to be another of the beautiful qualities of words.

I’m in the book of Matthew in my Bible reading right now; and as I was reading the other day, a particular passage jumped out at me as if the Holy Spirit was giving me the gentle instruction to take notice.

“For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:34b-37)

This is a portion of Scripture with which I am well familiar, and probably even more so because of my blogging. The words I write here or at Des Moines Moms Blog or any other place I may have the privilege of contributing have a further reach than my spoken words are likely to; and because of that I feel an even greater responsibility to be mindful of the words that proceed from my “mouth,” knowing that I will one day be held accountable for them and their impact.

The beauty of the written word is that it isn’t real time. The written words that proceed from my “mouth” can be proofread, reconsidered, and edited to be made perfectly fit for the readers’ eyes. The spoken word, however, doesn’t provide such a grace period. Like an email sent that cannot be recalled, spoken words issue forth and cannot be undone. You can’t say the wrong thing and then go back and delete it. What’s said is said, whether fit for the listeners’ ears or not. The heart has already been revealed.

While this revelation of the heart can be–and often is–a painful thing, it’s also a beautiful thing: an ill-spoken word escaped carelessly from my mouth has the power to show me that my heart is sick. It gives me reason… NEED… to examine myself before God, to repent and be cleansed, and to be reconciled to God and my hearer(s).

I thank God for the power of words–for their power to take me to other places and for their power to show me just where I am. And I thank God for the power of HIS Word. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NASB).