Poems That Endure; People That Endure
Mojave 3/ Tim O'Reagan: Concert Review

Making New Words For Timeless Truths

Alpha2The language of faith can become dry and lifeless by it's overuse and inattentive use over time.  I suspect that many of the words we take for granted in the vocabulary of faith are like that.  We fail to see their radical import, even their offense; because they have been used so much they have lost their original meaning.  Several years ago I was having a discussion with a friend -- a long, long discussion over many months -- regarding the church as an institution.  I cannot do justice to his concerns or, perhaps, his critique, but I know that part of it was the hypocrisy of church, and a part of that was the words we use so freely.  One day, I said look, if you don't like the words, make some new ones.  Make your own.  I said it like this, a part of a longer prose poem I wrote for my friend and, ultimately, for me:

Yes, yes, I know the words
those people use,
But let's make new words.
Let me do it.
Let me try it.
Let me tell the Story in my words,
in my story.
Let me jot it down,
make a note,
hold it in my memory:
my holy writ,
an alphabet of grace,
my invitation,

to a place called Home,
so familiar
so unknown
the place that scares you deep inside
like new Love.

And that's just a bit of that discussion, but an important piece of it.  That's why today's devotional from Ravi Zacharias Ministries, called "Many, Many Words," by Betsy Childs, resonated with me and brought back a memory of that long conversation.  Childs addresses the growth of euphemisms, which are vague and mild expressions which are substituted over time for ones which seem to be blunt or offensive.  The "euphemism treadmill" is "the process by which, over time, a common euphemism becomes so identified with the word it has replaced that it loses any power to shield from offense."  She says that the problem is that many of our words of faith have become euphemisms and, thus, have lost their rich meaning.  She says that many of the words we employ familiarly in the conversation of our faith actually signify "fearsome, unsettling spiritual realities."  But you'd never know it.

The answer to this treadmill?  I've already said it.  Make new words.  Recast the faith in fresh language that conveys the power of the text and, thus, of the spiritual reality.  And failing that, understand what you are saying when you use a familiar word.  Appreciate the brashness of the language of scripture.  When we sing "our God is an awesome God," let's consider that if we are awed by God we have a healthy fear of Him, because He is fearsome.  He is not just cool (which is how the word is often used nowadays.) 

Listen to what you say.  Find some new words for the alphabet of grace.

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