I’ve always been a man of words. Writing is the way I spell out the wonder of God to a broken world. It is my refuge, my anchor, my strength…and praise God, my weakness! By weakness I don’t mean I’m a poor writer, but rather that when I write I expose the deepest and most vulnerable parts of myself. It’s an awesome adventure and an incredible responsibility to use words to speak truth and healing to a weary world.
Words are powerful. They can cut and they can cure; they can hurt and they can heal. How we use our words as writers is crucial to giving true meaning to our lives. Words that tear down and destroy others, that spread lies and seek to build ourselves up leave us empty in the end. Words that build others up and restore their souls help to set us on the path to perfection and a deeper sense of who we truly are.
The Path of Our Words
Discovering the true path to sharing words authentically was a long and difficult process. Growing up without a father around, I spent a lot of time looking for security and affirmation in seeking success and cultivating friendships. Sometimes I used my writing to do this, though I think my words were less transparent and often too accommodating to other people’s ideas. I found trying to please people with my writing to be emotionally and spiritually draining, and I knew it was only a facade. I was a man walking around wearing a mask, staring at a crowd of people all wearing masks, clamoring to climb their little ladders of success, living fearful and false lives.
But when I started working with young people, everything changed. It was hard to pretend around them. They could always tell right away when an adult was insincere, and they had no trouble letting that person know they could see it. Their world wasn’t so black and white, either – and their pain was not something I could easily woo with words. In youth ministry I found a new way to use my writing: to help teens recognize their worth and shine in the world. Paul spelled out this principle in his letter to the Philippians:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain (Philippians 2:12-16, RSV2)
Words that Shine
The wonderful truth is that we were made to shine – shine like stars! The only fear we need to have in life is the holy, reverent fear that comes when we realize we stand spiritually naked and completely vulnerable before the God of the whole universe. But it is this same God who works in us so we can become who we were meant to be – stars! But we are not stars who shine our own dim light; no, we have the awesome privilege of shining the light of heaven upon a weary world. When our words reflect this wonderful truth, our lives light up the darkness hidden in hurting hearts. The message is simple: We are meant for beauty, peace and joy; and it is only in the Jesus that we find our rest. The words of a believer should always in some way point to Him.
Putting Our Words into Action…
So how do we live out our calling to use our words to shine for Christ? Here are a few suggestions:
1) Understand that God is both the source and the direction of all our words. He gives us the words we need to speak healing and hope to those who are broken and lost and He is the One to whom all our words should point.
2) Practice using your speech and your writing to bring glory to God and speak only truth and love to others. Remember James 3:9-10: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
3) Fill your mind and heart every day with God’s Word, and trust that the Holy Spirit will give you the right words to speak at just the right time they need to be spoken (Luke 12:12).
4) Don’t be afraid to be open and vulnerable with others, to share the truth that you are a saint who sins, that you struggle on this side of heaven and that you need a healing word just as they do.
5) Finally, hold firm to this great truth: that you are loved and that you were made to shine like stars in the universe! Work out your journey to heaven with holy fear and joy so great that it makes you tremble inside and out!