I feel as though I can think much more clearly when I am running. I don’t know why that is true, but when I’m out on the open road I feel as though I can finally find some solitude and rest for my soul. I know it doesn’t make sense, and I know that most people hate running, but I don’t at all. Running, if you can understand it, is a sanctuary to me.
My friend Tony and I were running one day and both of us were feeling a bit sluggish, which usually doesn’t lead to much conversation. After a time of silence Tony broke in by saying, “You know what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately?”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“The power of words. Have you thought much about that?”
“A little, I suppose. Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“OK,” Tony said, huffing breaths in and out. “It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now, so I asked God to give me some revelation regarding the power of words. It’s just that it amazes me how much effect a simple word can have, because really all a word is, in essence, is a sound that you make with your vocal cords. That’s it. Or it’s some ink on a page, but that’s all, right? A word on its own, or words on their own, have no meaning in and of themselves. They get their meaning because we give them meaning, emotion, depth. Does that makes sense?”
“Yes,” I said between breaths. “I’ve thought about the same thing in the past about my writing, but even more so when it comes to girls. It’s amazing how words, essentially noises that we make with our throats, have the ability to navigate the heart of a woman. Simple words can stir emotions that can effect a woman for days and even their entire lifetime. It’s incredible when you think about it. I’m not even in a relationship, so I haven’t come close to scratching the surface on that topic, but I’m sure you’ve found it to be true with you and Hannah.” (You should know that Tony recently was married to my incredible friend Hannah. They’re great together. I was in the wedding. I look awkward in a tuxedo.)
“Exactly. Words are so incredibly powerful. And what do you think it means in regards to the Bible … the Word of God?” Tony asked.
“Yes, yes, yes,” I said. Things were starting to become clear to me. “They are just words on a page, right? But they are so much more than that. It’s always been so strange to me that ink on a page can have such a deep impact on my life. It’s not the physical words, but rather the meaning behind each word. Somehow the words are alive. And isn’t it fascinating that the Bible isn’t just a list things to do and not to do, but a book full of narrative and brilliant poetry that stirs the heart? Jesus Himself didn’t go around just saying, ‘Do this …’ and ‘Don’t do this …’, but rather he communicated to people using stories and metaphors. Jesus is a master when it comes to communication.”
“And think about this,” Tony continued. “You know how the Bible says that the tongue is a fire or that it’s like a small rudder that steers a large ship? I think that it’s true. Words that come from the mouth can give life and they can give death. This one time I was riding in the car while my brother was driving along a mountain pass outside Santa Barbara, California. As we were driving we saw a really small fire in the grass, comparable to a little campfire, on the side of the road. I didn’t think it was much at all, but my brother started freaking out. He immediately called 911 after he pulled to the side of the road. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but by the time the fire department got there the fire had spread all the way up the mountain. They had to close down the entire pass for over a day … all because of a really small fire.”
This is how it usually goes with Tony and me. He’ll have an incredible insight into something, and then he’ll be patient with me while I talk too much. Tony is one of the most intelligent people I know.
This whole conversation got me thinking a lot about what I say and the weight it can have on other people. What I say and what you say matters. A lot. Think of your friends that give you life, that make you feel so alive when you are simply around them. I would presume that they speak with love and truth and purity. I know that this is true for me, and I know that I want to be one of those people to others. I want to pour out life in what I say and what I write.
Naturally I am a cynic and very critical of a lot in life. I hate that about myself. I go to see a film with the assumption that I’m not going to like it. It’s awful, and I’m working on it. I don’t want to let that critical nature in me to come out to others when I speak. I want to be someone who gives life, love, truth. These are the things I long for.
Here’s what I’m trying to say: you and I can change the world. What if we started to speak in love to everyone? Don’t you think that would change things? I know that when someone is loving and encouraging to me, it affects the rest of my day and week. You and I can be that to others. And getting back to what Tony was saying, that’s what God is to us with His Word. I’ll conclude with a few examples of the written word that I hope will give you more clarity for what I’m trying to get at.
There is a passage in the Song of Solomon that moves me every time I pass my eyes across it. It says, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy as unyielding the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” There is depth in those words that I have not yet come close to understanding.
Secondly, one of my favorite poets is Pablo Neruda. He wrote with emotion and passion that comes through vividly in his poetry. My favorite selection of his is Sonnet 17, which I encourage you to memorize.
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz, or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off. I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms, but carries itself in the light of hidden flowers; thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance, risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I know no other way than this: where I does not exist, nor you, so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.