Communicating through protective masks is something our culture is trying to get used to. I don’t know about you, but I have a terrible time being understood through a face mask. Whether I’m sitting in my car at the local Starbucks drive-through, or trying to exchange greetings with someone in the grocery aisle, somehow, my words and my mask just don’t get along. I have a terrible time being understood.
All of us struggle at times, I think, with the challenge of being understood, even when we’re not wearing a face mask. Maybe it’s because we don’t value the potential of our words to begin with.
A few months ago, I decided to challenge myself with the task of writing something creative or useful every day for thirty days in a row. I didn’t give myself a word limit. Some days, I wrote perhaps 400 words. Other days, I was somewhat frugal with my writing. But the discipline of trying to have something worthwhile to write down — something worthwhile to say — was a growing experience for me.
Thirty consecutive days is a long time, when you’re trying to say something meaningful. In fact, it was only a few days into my self-imposed challenge that I discovered that it was more difficult than I imagined. You might say, trying to say something impactful for thirty days in a row was easier said than done. And as if the writing wasn’t hard enough, an obstacle I hadn’t counted on showed up; I discovered after a couple of weeks of writing that I hadn’t actually saved the words I had written. I lost a lot of words because I had saved them to a thumb drive, and then … lost the thumb drive.
I searched everywhere. Under the couch. In my car. My words weren’t in my computer bag. They weren’t in any of my desk drawers. And they weren’t in my head anymore, either. I couldn’t remember what I had written. Gone. Two weeks of words, and thinking, and writing, and life were gone, and no matter how hard I looked, I never did find the “legacy” of my written words on that lost thumb drive. After I discovered my loss, I became extra careful how I saved my writing, and where I stored my words.
As you might guess, my mood was greatly impacted by my inability to find my written words. But I wonder? Yes, I wonder how my life would be different if I was as grieved by my inability to retrieve the words that come out of my mouth — filtered through a mask of my own making — that reflect attitudes that might not be like Jesus at all?
C.S. Lewis was certainly right, when he wrote in ‘Till We Have Faces,’
“Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it,
nothing more or less or other than what you really mean;
that’s the whole art and joy of words.”
Interesting phrase, isn’t it? ‘The whole art and joy of words.’
“Saved” words can be redemptive and restorative to others, and bring encouragement, peace and yes, joy. I wonder how successful I would be if I determined to speak words of encouragement for thirty days in a row? But I’d need God to help me with some kind of protective mask over my brain, because all too often, my words aren’t ‘saved’ words that produce encouragement and life in others. There are moments when words stumble out of my mouth like they’ve tripped over my tongue, and no matter how desperately I wish it weren’t so, I will never retrieve the words that are gone, the opportunities that were … lost.
“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” (James 3:2)