Monday, January 19, 2015

In lieu of words

I hold these words in sacred space today as I pore over them, slow and hungry. And I cringe on my insides, because I know they're not more sacred today than they were yesterday or will be tomorrow, and yet this is the first day in years since I've cracked open this book. In light of remembering the life and sacrifice behind these words and the power of the words themselves, and even more, in light of what is still painfully relevant in them, I return. 

I return to listen. I return to make room for them in my heart once more. I return to be changed.

And I resist the urge to mark them in highlighter or underline with pen strokes. For it's too easy, all these years later, to let them sound too beautiful in my ears. To let my eyes fall upon them for superficial comfort - the comfort of recognizing truth in them, radical and holy, only for it to penetrate deeply enough to nod my head, yes, and feel I've been touched enough by their message without requiring much from me.

The temptation to let them be only a colorful mural painted on the wall of the high school football field down the street. Eloquent words framed by Pinterest on my wall.  A facebook status.  

Aesthetics. I want to weep at this realization, as I stare at Martin Luther King Jr's face on the cover of this book and remember his dream was not to be encased on a shelf as inspirational quotes but to spread like wild seeds throughout this country, this world, taking root and changing the landscape from hatred to love, injustice to justice, war to peace.

To remember him as an icon, a symbol, a quotable orator, and not as the complex man fleshing out the nuances - the blood, sweat and tears behind the words of this book - is to reduce him to his words. But he lived and died by these words, to leave behind a legacy, a dream, a vision, for others to pick up and spread.

And I find this, too, is one of several reasons I struggle to return often to Jesus' words, to read them as letters on a page, so familiar, so beautiful, so enigmatic. When in truth, they are disturbing, the sharp side of a nonviolent coin, cutting flesh until it bleeds life. And isn't that both the danger and the power of words? That they can make us feel moved enough that we believe we are changed - or they can actually move us to change. I cannot read too much of Jesus' words, either, for fear they will become little more than quotes highlighted and underlined on a page, framed on my wall, when the real wonder and glory of these words is seeing them come to life outside the pages, not inside them - both inside and outside of me.  

The word made flesh.

Inside this house, inside of me. Outside these walls, inside of you. Across this city, this country, around the world. To read these words in living color, to feel them stirring me to life and dwelling with us, this is the wonder I seek. 

Joining Kelly (and Kelli) in this change of hands from Unforced Rhythms to Small Wonder.


  1. Wow Amber!! Causes one to pause and be still to think and ponder.

  2. I love your reminder that some words are meant to be lived out. :-) Thank you for sharing your heart in this post.

  3. Wow, wow. You capture so much here, Amber. Not wanting to highlight the words, not wanting to box in the symbols, etc. The word made flesh. Yes!

    I'm coming back from a weekend of silent retreat, and I'm continuing to learn how much more I need to live outside of words....

  4. Beautiful are your thoughts and words here, Amber!

  5. I love the distinction here, Amber, and the honoring of intent. I read a collection of Howard Thurman's writings last year and found them deeply moving. I have to confess to never having read Dr. King's work.