Words. They are our primary means of both communicating and misshaping the truth. We attempt to say something Real the best way we know how– with words– but in doing so, we misrepresent things. Because words cannot fully capture truth, because words are not truth. Jesus is. But we go on writing and speaking and misshaping and misrepresenting. Because right now language is what we have, and we hope that our next misrepresentation may bring us a little closer to the truth than our last misrepresentation.
Sometimes I am like the confused disciples, asking again and again “Rabbi, but what did you mean?” And perhaps it’s helpful to recall how Jesus did NOT respond. Jesus did not ramble on in grandiose philosophical discourses. He did not offer proofs about the existence of God, the purpose of suffering, and the definition of hell. He told symbolic– yet straightforward– stories about Samaritans who cleaned up wounds, fathers who ran wildly to greet their sons, and shepherds who protected their flocks. He spoke primarily in symbols. Maybe because that’s all words will ever be: symbols. Symbols that can point us to the truth, words that can direct us to The Word.
Lately, I have been continually reminded of how important it is for me to listen in silence as opposed to rush to provide supposed “answers” with words. I am no Bible scholar, but I think that the Old Testament’s account of the creation of language is primarily a story of confusion, and maybe even a little terror. Confusion and terror that came as a result of man thinking he could achieve all there was to achieve on his own, apart from God. It was God who authorized the confusion to remind human beings of the essence of their identities. But then later, it was God who sent his son as his Word to live in us so we would no longer be confused, no longer fumbling in the dark, because the Word is the “light [that] shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.”