A friend once told me, “The things you write – it’s like you’re writing them to a person instead of people.” I laughed, thinking about something I had just posted on Instagram. Both the image and the caption were indeed directed to someone I knew needed prayer.
“You’re right, you know. I don’t know if I could ever write for a crowd. Is that bad?”
Even when I speak in front of an audience, I find myself seeking connection with individuals. I prefer conversations served up with a good meal any day over standing on a stage. And I honestly feel like my written words are empty unless they are shared with living, breathing, flesh-and-blood people I can hold close in prayer and in thought and in action.
Last year, Lent was a time for me to practice the four spiritual disciplines of taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing. The season focused on the beautiful thin place of divinity, of heaven and earth colliding in the precious presence of Jesus. It was a good season.
Maybe it was preparing me for this season.
This year, it’s no coincidence that Lent begins on the Day of Love (as my friends from Guatemala refer to it). What began with words spoken by the prophets, not to faceless crowds but to every individual within them, continued with words spoken by Jesus the Christ – words of hope and salvation and restoration for people with names and faces and histories and futures. In the final days before His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus would walk into a holy temple and declare it a safe place for all to find refuge and hope. He would speak about sacrifice, and He would speak about love. His words would set His best friend’s heart to beating again, they would heal blind eyes, and they would give a woman courage to be made whole. His words would lament over the condition of His homeland and cry out for justice for the oppressed. His words would speak truth to all with ears to hear. He would gather the ragamuffin crew that had traveled with Him for three years, feed them a good Passover meal, and speak tender truth about bread and wine as symbols of His life broken and poured out for their lives, even as they responded with doubts, fears, and denial.
Jesus lavished but never squandered His words. Rather, every one spoken had a designated home. He loved well with words.
I do love words – I love the shape and sound, the meaning and the motive of them all. And I love to paint stories on pages. But words are far more than craft or vocation. They are ministry. So I pray for words that are effectual, purposeful, meaningful, personal. When I imagine an audience of a million, my heart goes numb. When I think about the one-in-a-million, it dances. Right now, my heart longs to dance again. It feels a little lost and weighted down by words that struggle to find their place – words found in journals, blog posts, Evernote files, book proposals. So, this Lenten season, I will yield those words to the One who knows where each of them belongs. I want to love well with the words I’ve been given.
I’ve got a companion on this journey. Her name is Charlotte. She’s been a hero of mine since childhood, and she continues to teach me. In the past, she’s taught me about friendship and listening and the war that rages within us between good and evil. She’s even made me feel so not alone about being dreadfully near-sighted.
This season, Charlotte is reminding me of the patient purpose of words that love well.
Charlotte knew the power of words, and she used them well. When she spoke, it was with grace and truth. When she wrote, it wasn’t because she believed herself called to be A WRITER. She didn’t write because she wanted to be known or lauded. Writing wasn’t even her vocation, and relative few recognized her talent. Outside of her home town, Charlotte’s words weren’t made famous until after her death. And in that home town, folks didn’t think about Charlotte much – instead, they witnessed her quiet impact on the lives of those around her.
Charlotte’s words were merely an expression of the way she lived. She knew that words offered protection, they had power to ensnare the enemy and affirm the downtrodden. She was certainly an unlikely candidate to change the world, and it was never her intention to do so. You see, Charlotte only wanted to tend well to those on her path, to give words like gifts.
Charlotte gave Wilbur a voice.
Charlotte gave Fern strength.
Charlotte gave hope a fighting chance.
Yes, this Lenten season, I want to be like Charlotte the spider from the children’s book Charlotte’s Web. While I want the words I write to change the stories of those within them and those who read them, I hunger more for those words to honor Jesus by tending to you.
I see you – the way your eyes look when you are contemplating what it might mean to feel the great love you’ve been told is yours without condition, the way your thoughts can become so loud that they push away the still small voice that says, “trust Me.” I see you putting on a brave face and taking a deep breath on the days when the ground feels unstable beneath your feet. I see you wondering if you are the exception, the misfit, the hard-knocks kid who learns only by falling. I see you when you believe you are invincible, and I see you when you forget where your strength lies.
You see, if my words aren’t tending to you – if they are not loving you well, I don’t want to speak or write at all.
In this season, as I’m yielding the words, I want to return to writing for you. Just you. That is a form of worship for me, an offering to the Lord who spoke those words into existence in the first place.
This blog will be a place I’ll do some of that writing. I have precious things to tell you about simplicity and the meaning of the word “why” and something fascinating I’ve learned about dirt (I think you’ll love the story). Gosh, I’ve not even shared my 2018 words with you yet – yes, there are words (really phrases) that are being embossed on every single day of this year. They are challenging, and they are refining me. I want to share them with you because I need your encouragement on the days when I fight against divine growth – and I want to be your encouragement as well.
Instagram is also a place for words in this season. As I read through the book “God for Us,” I’m feeling impressed to write short love notes to you so you’ll not forget who and Whose you are. They’ll be collected in the Lent 2018 highlights on my profile. I’ll see you there, if you’d like to join me.
And if you need a few words to carry with you, send a message my way. I’ll pray for you, gather a few words, and weave them together for you. Like prayer, it’s my joy.
So, where will 40 days of yielding my words lead? As Charlotte says, “That remains to be seen.” Maybe the yielding will lead to new words or new ways of expressing them. Maybe some words yielded will be given up entirely. My hands are open – I’m placing them all in good hands. May the words that remain love well.
Please share with me how you are honoring the Lenten season this year. And again, let me know if you might need a few words to carry you. We’re in this together, and I am for you.