Words, Words, Words

Polonius – “What do you read my lord?”

Hamlet – “Words, words, words.” (Hamlet, II.ii.209-10)

Words give shape to our world; they bring our thoughts into existence. Words build patterns that give direction and promise to our life. Perhaps this is what it means to be made in the image of our God, the ability to wield words. In so doing we create as our God created. Not exactly as he did, not creation ex nihilo but we do create, we take the stuff of creation and fashioned it into new things, our things, patterned after our thoughts and desires. But therein lies the problem, our wielding of words is broken and lame, for they flow from thoughts captured by sin. While our attempts at creation can certainly be beautiful and powerful, they can just as easily (and perhaps more often) be monstrous and ugly.

A man tosses and turns at night in his bed. His thoughts are filled with emotions and desires that he himself doesn’t fully understand. All he knows is that they are robbing him of his sleep. The most sensible thing to do, the way to conquer the sleep robbing endless cycle of thoughts is to define them. With words he can shape his thoughts, categorize them, make sense of them, and hopefully deal with them in the most efficient way. His words create. They create a sense of loneliness; they create a feeling of being unwanted and generally unloved. As he continues to wield his words, he creates an image of himself that he doesn’t fully understand, and he certainly doesn’t like. But now that he has created such things with his words what does he do with them? 

Most would encourage him to speak these words out loud, to make them known. Invite others to see what it is he’s created. But how? How does he show his family, his wife, his friends this creation that he’s made? For as soon as they are spoken out loud, the falsehood is revealed. To speak his words is to be met with bewildered faces. He isn’t unloved, he has a family and children that love him. He isn’t unwanted, his wife cherishes their time together. He isn’t alone, his friends look forward to their time together. As his words move from his heart to his mouth, the lie is revealed. His creation with words mustn’t see the light of day, it is better to unplug Frankenstein’s monster before it gets loose, and its ugliness is on full display. Yet it turns out it is far more difficult to tear words apart than to put them together.

Words are not simple things. We throw them around and use them recklessly all the time. We speak them when we should be silent and withhold them when they are needed but they always carry weight. They can make promises and incite violence. They can bring comfort and instill fear. They can proclaim the truth and speak a lie. We constantly create with them and yet our own creations often betray us. So, a man suffers in silence because his creation is so warped and confused it doesn’t make sense to speak it out loud. He searches for better words, perhaps more accurate, more revealing, more truthful. But he seems to always play out the old scenario over and again. A fallen creation by a fallen creator.

Words, words, words; our words lead us around in a damnable circle. The only hope for our spiral, the only break from the ritual, is when creative words are spoken into our lives. Such words would rise above our typical pattern, and if they came from a source of truth and authority those words would provide an anchor to our creations helping them to find direction and meaning. Such words can speak truth to our madness and hope to our despair. Guiding us toward something true. Not just in our heads, but upon our lips and in our lives.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.