In an image-saturated world, words still matter. In our friendships, marriages, and churches, how we use and misuse words will set the path either for pain or for flourishing. In this series, writer Branson Parler exhorts us to not take our words lightly, because the way we use our words ultimately points to the Word who became matter, became flesh, and dwelt among us.
This Part 1 of a four part series called Words Matter running over the next four weeks. Access the rest of the series here:
In the beginning was the word.
Thirty-seven years ago this past spring, my parents spoke the familiar words, promising to be faithful for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death would part them.
In the beginning was the word.
Those promises of love and faithfulness are the foundation of my very existence. Without them, there is no me.
In the beginning was the Word.
God speaks, and all that is comes into existence. The words of God bring life into what was formless and empty, a world made from love and for love. All things are as they should be: day and night, the waters above and below, the land carved out from among the sea. And those good things are filled: the sun for the day; the moon and stars for the night; the birds for the sky and the swimming creatures for the sea; walking, creeping, and crawling animals for the land. And, to top it all off, humans in God’s image. Humans—who can hear God’s voice, understand God’s call, and speak to God and to one another, making promises to love, care, and keep what God had committed to them. And it was very good.
And then my parents got divorced.
And my world became formless and empty. Just as with Noah’s flood, the promises that gave me life turned back to a watery chaos of faithlessness where the words that brought me into existence were undone. Where the meaning of my very being as a sign and seal of my parents’ love was, apparently, revoked.
We created a no-fault divorce culture, a world where we can promise everything to someone—and then break that promise for no reason in particular. A divorce culture is a world where, from the beginning, words don’t matter. A world where words can be used as tools to manipulate others. A world where the connection between what we say and what we do can be easily severed.
God spoke, and it was so. God’s word creates matter. God’s word creates meaning. I live and move and have my being in the world created by the Word, and so I am called to speak in the matter and meaning of reality in a way that is faithful to the Word that brought me forth.
Our attempts to live as though words don’t matter, as though words don’t really mean anything or as though promises can be easily broken will inevitably lead us to a harsh but gracious reality: our words do matter, so much so that our very lives depend on them. In our friendships, marriages, and churches, how we use words will set the path either for pain or for flourishing.
I survived my parents’ divorce. Out of the watery chaos, God spoke again, reminding me that my existence hangs not on the feeble words of well-intentioned sinners but on the Word who became flesh, the One in whom all things hold together. After a long voyage through the flood of unfaithfulness, this Word is the solid rock on whom I came to rest. And resting makes sense, I think. For when God speaks and brings all things into existence, our call is simply to receive and rest in the Word spoken to us and for us.
This is, in part, why I can’t stop going to church. It is there that we receive the word of God, the word that matters above all—through the reading and preaching of the Bible, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the prayers offered up, times of Bible study, and times of fellowship. When divorce painfully reminds us of our failures and threatens to undo our worlds, the church remains the bride whose husband is faithful and true. This husband is the Word of life who speaks and not only makes all things in the beginning but makes all things new. In my life, it’s hard to think of a word that has mattered more than that.
This Part 1 of a four part series called Words Matter. Access the rest of the series here:
Promises Broken | Words > Image | Tongues of Fire | Speaking of God