At some point we all get wise to the innate naiveté of the childish adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It occurs somewhere between the crude goofiness of grade school name calling, and the exquisite cruelty of passive aggressive disparagement, capable of marginalizing its victim without even a trace of evidence that a slight was intended. You learned that the bruises left by sticks and stones eventually heal – but the battered psyche shamed beneath the merciless tyranny of abusive words often becomes a dark hole that can take a life time to climb out of . . . especially if those words were spoken by someone close to you.
Even the words of a stranger can alter the course of your day. A kind and encouraging word lifting your gaze and lightening your load . . . or a discouraging and belittling word, like gravity holding sway – keeps you pinned down . . . and in your place. And the closer to home those words get, the more impactful they become. This is because language conveys far more than idle propositions meant for cognitive consumption, as it is able to speak to the heart as well as the mind. In this way, language has an inextricable intimacy, capable of disarming the pretense of the conscious mind — in order to speak directly to the subconscious.
This is part of the seduction of poetry and literature, and every other form of narrative, carefully choosing words so as to pull you in closer — until you’ve become so invested in what is being said it subconsciously becomes a part of your own narrative. This is because language is essential to our epistemology (how we know what we know) – both cognitively and pre-cognitively. This is how nomenclature is accepted, how cultural idioms take shape, and how our understanding of everything is contextualized.
In many ways language stitches together the very fabric of our context – sustaining each of our relationships in real time. Like when I stand in the kitchen, with a swaying embrace, I whisper “I love you” into my wife’s ear. Or when I invite my grandkids, arriving or departing, to “come give your Gramcracker a smooch and a squinch”. And why over the years, I’ve cultivated a specific and unique rapport with each one of my children, speaking a language that follows the inescapable dynamic of each one of them becoming an adult. These are the words we speak to one another, rehearsing aloud our longing and love, our hope and fear – gifting an essential aspect of who we are in uniquely packaged ways to everyone in our life. How could this not be intimate?
So when I read John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Not only does it reverberate with the nascent beauty of Genesis 1:1, it seems to reveal Jesus as the very Word that spoke creation into being – especially when you consider verses 2-4 “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
Therefore, Jesus is the sacred word by which all things were made and are held together – so is it any wonder that communication would be so essential to how every relationship is held together? And is it any wonder that the confession that “Jesus is Lord” is so profoundly ontological, or that we were created to hear his voice? So may this be your prayer – “O, God that speaks the universe into existence, call my name so that I might declare your glory, and let your word penetrate deeply into my heart.”
. . . remember, Jesus speaks your native tongue