Words Have a Lifespan Longer Than Our Own
My great grandmother’s final words to her six young children were, “God bless mother’s children.” From her deathbed, she told them to always trust Jesus; to do what he would have them do. She assured them God would take care of them. My own grandmother was a mere seven-years-old when she was orphaned that day, yet her mother’s words guided her life.
And my mother’s.
As I talked with my daughter about fragments of this post, she said, “Our words outlive us.”
I once heard Neil Armstrong say he knew the world would be watching when he landed on the moon. He knew it was his opportunity to inspire. He thought long and hard about what he would say.
“One small step for man. One giant step for mankind.”
My generation remembers those words. We huddled around our black and white televisions, watching and listening intently to the transmission. We put a man on the moon. Surely there was nothing to keep us from realizing our dreams. Anything was possible. Or so it seemed.
The words of George Floyd, “I can’t breathe,” capture for us the weight of systemic racism under which our lives and dreams are crushed. His words, uttered as a plea for help have become a battle cry for social justice. Words paint pictures of not only the way our world is, but also how it can be transformed.
The morning after a tragic accident many years ago, I was asked to offer a public prayer for the faculty, staff, and students at the school where I taught. When I am asked to pray or speak I always ask God to let the listeners hear what he wants them to hear. Even as I prayed aloud to the people gathered that day, I was also praying a silent prayer for God’s words to bring comfort to us all.
This past week I received a message from a friend. He was remembering the words I shared that morning in chapel. We’re talking many years ago. Many. He wanted me to know he shared those words with someone else recently. Someone hurting.
Words of comfort are like that. God gives them to us and they resurface when the hour is darkest.
Quite simply, our words outlive us.
But I would be remiss to leave it there. You see the ultimate source for words of wisdom, inspiration, transformation, and comfort are found in the Bible.
God’s words outlive us all.
In the Gospel of Luke, (chapter 19, verses 47 & 48) Luke writes of Jesus, “Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.”
And they still do.
Note: Some of my readers may look at the Bible and feel a bit overwhelmed by the mere size of it. From beginning to end it is the story of God’s love for us, his creation. If you are not at all familiar with the story, you may want to start small. For example, you can read something like The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Don’t worry because it was written for children. We are, after all, children of God. Get some friends or kids together and get a picture of the “big story.”
Another option is to start with the New Testament. The first four books of the New Testament are called the gospels. It means “good news.” All four recount the story of Jesus as he lived among us on earth. These books were written by different authors for different audiences. Choose the one best suited to you. And then read the Book of Acts, also in the New Testament, to see how the world was transformed. Social justice? Words of inclusion? You’ll find them in the New Testament. Words of love and care and comfort are embedded throughout the text. Words of inspiration? From the beginning to the end.