with just a word

I spent a night in silent retreat at Sacred Heart in November to process the loss of my Mother. While meeting with my spiritual director for the weekend, I remember vividly her advice “to speak aloud my desires.” This resonated deep within me then, and still does, since I spend so much time in my own head. Often what it is there (besides cobwebs and “that’s what she said jokes”) are negative words built on fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Speaking aloud what I want, rather than dodging what I don’t, gives power to the positive promise rather than the annoying avoidance.

This brings me to a song a dear friend introduced me to by Ben Howard, entitled “The Fear.”

I been worrying that my time is a little unclear

I been worrying that I’m losing the ones I hold dear

I been worrying that we all live our lives in the confines of fear…

I will become what I deserve

(Funny story about this song: until I looked up the lyrics, I thought it said “I will become what I desire.” Either way, it still applies.)

I do live my life in the confines of fear: a narrow box of vacillating boundaries, which provides me the illusion of safety and control. In my continuing effort to surrender and live a spacious life, I am trying to let go of those fears. Or at least to not let them define and oppress me. This effort brings me back to the power of words: I will become those desires I speak, say aloud, pronounce with words.

Words hold within them a butterfly’s beauty and an earthquake’s enormity to move the world. The wind carries the whisper of this wondrous truth everywhere.

I hear it whispered in feather-light pages of the Bible, where God “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4). How did He do this?

Mere. Words. Throughout Genesis 1’s creation story, the phrases “And God said” and “And God called” thread in and out each time something new is formed. Through spoken word, pronounced desire, and expressed language, what was not once [not ever!], now was. Now is.

In fact, the word is so powerfully portrayed in the Bible, it is even revealed as the Divine personified:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (emphasis mine, John 1).

I hear it whispered in my career. I teach high school English to empower my students with the language–with the power of the spoken word–they long for to criticize their current situation and delineate a different future. It is my students’ understanding and application of language that will allow them the choice and access to upward mobility. I recognize that literacy authorizes my students to question their current status, as well as to eloquently envision a future that is earned by them, rather than predetermined for them. A word can change their lives.

I hear it whispered through experiences I offer: I gave a student of mine a journal to process the loss of a close relative. I encouraged him to write as a way of therapy and discovery. He did. He came in the following week with a renewed light in his eyes. He shyly stayed after class to tell me of his experience writing and speaking the words in which he found healing.

I hear it whispered from experiences I receive: this past week, I ran into a colleague before work at the nearby coffee shop. While genuinely embracing me, she shared the most profound words that spoke to my heart, that broke my barriers, that offered a touch of healing balm for my soul.

What a beautiful and bountiful world of whispers.

Since the word is so powerful, as a way of professing them, allow me to write my desires. And may you do the same. And may the Word whisper strength to you, in you, and through you.

I desire to live a life in love, not fear.

I desire the spaciousness of grace.

I desire a deep connection with God.

I desire for mental and emotional healing, so that my body may be healed.

I desire to accept my brokenness.

I desire the unclenching that comes with faith, trust, surrender.


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