Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message we brought to you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.
1 Thessalonians 2: 13
Paul tells the Thessalonians that the words that he has left with them have a “living power” if they believe in those words. All of us can attest to the power of those words that we believe, a power that often lasts throughout our lifetimes. We carry within us words that were spoken to and about us as children that reverberate deeply in our hearts and in our core beliefs about ourselves and the world. We know that our relationship to other persons is largely influenced and even determined by words they have spoken to us. Likewise, although we tend to be much less aware of this side of things, our words to others have deeply impacted not only their relationship to us but their very sense of themselves and their place in the world.
As the sources of our actions are many and complex, so are the sources of our words. Often we use words to defend ourselves or further our agenda and projects. We use words as the outlets of our frustrations and anger, as a way of getting even with and punishing others. We also use them to manipulate others in such a way as to get from them what we want. At times, they are an unmitigated expression of our wounded eros and self-depreciation. At such times there well may be a fair degree of “collateral damage” to our expression, damage of which we are unaware in our wounded and narcissistic myopia. It is not easy for us to live in enough self-possession to stay in touch with where in us our words are originating.
Yet, we are also a capacity to bear the message of God’s word. At its core, this is not a message of proselytization or some level of spiritual manipulation. It is rather a word from God whose destiny is always unique, a power of love and creativity in the heart and soul of the one for whom it is intended. We know from experience that their are words that we have received and carried that have been lodestars for our life’s unfolding and direction.
“If you make my word your home, you will indeed be my disciple, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8: 31-2) We actually make our home in the words that have formed our lives. We live and grow, we flourish or fade in the words in which we dwell. Each of us is a potency to be a bearer of God’s word to others. Our speech can carry with it God’s power to love and form the uniqueness of the persons we encounter, or it can carry the deformations born of those expressions of our own wounds and sufferings.
What is required of us if our speech is to bear God’s message? In a world without the spaciousness and silence which is required for true self-presence, we need to cultivate that silence. The Word that God would offer to his beloved children actually dwells in us, but in our highly functionalized and noisy world, we are often absent from the depth where that presence abides. So, our words are born not of our dwelling but of our unconscious reactions. It is difficult for us to take the time to consider our words before we utter them. Today, may we slow our pace just a little, so that, with God’s help, at least some of our words may come from the “living power” that resides in our deepest ground.
“I learned that her name was Proverb.”
And the secret names
of all we meet who lead us deeper
into our labyrinth
of valleys and mountains, twisting valleys
and steeper mountains —
their hidden names are always,
like Proverb, promises:
Rune, Omen, fable, Parable,
those we meet for only
one crucial moment, gaze to gaze, or for years know and don’t recognize
but of whom later a word
sings back to us
as if from high among leaves,
still near but beyond sight
drawing us from tree to tree
towards the time and the unknown place
where we shall know
what it is to arrive.