This gift of words that God has bestowed upon me is not something I take lightly. Word have the power to change things, to change people, to influence this world - for the better or for the good, and whenever you choose to use a word, you have to be conscious of that.
I had a class in college in which part of the curriculum was debate. We paired up and took hot topics and debated them against our partner. Mine was a very cute boy whose name I don't even remember who just so happened to have the wrong view on every hot button issue, so it was rather fun to put him in his place. One particular day, we were debating abortion and it hadn't really occurred to me that the whole class had stopped to listen to our little dialogue. The professor was leaning over my shoulder, listening. Then she said, "Ok. Now switch sides." So I debated the other side of this issue with the young man, and the class just sat there watching. Ignoring their own assignments to watch. Afterward in the hallway, a handful of classmates came up to me and said, "You got us. What do you even believe?"
Words have power, and in debate, it is moreso. Because debate has emotion and if you can't keep your head and choose your words, then the emotion takes over and the words hurt and there's no such thing as peace.
I don't know anyone who debates without getting carried away, then walks away into a conundrum. It's a tough moment when you walk out into the hallway after sounding pretty convincing and suddenly find yourself asking, "What do I even believe?"
It happened again last week, as I wrote about the American Story and the election results and our reactions regarding these things. That post, besides being one of my top posts for the month so far, earned praise for its calm, rational, unbiased presentation of truth.
And the truth is...I believe that truth. It wasn't something I spouted because it sounded good, because I thought it could somehow dilute the tense situation I was seeing erupt on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I honestly believe in what I wrote.
But neither was it the first thing I believed. I spent hours on election night wrestling with my own feelings over the situation, knowing there was a world out there that I'd already shut down from for the night, who were rejoicing and crying and mourning and celebrating and excited and confused and optimistic and defeated and basically a mess, and I knew that when I booted back up on Wednesday morning, I was going to run smack into that world. My gift with words was heavy on my heart because it wouldn't do to just add my words to the mix. It doesn't help to add one more voice to a shouting match.
The next morning, I was able to honor my gift by choosing words carefully and coming at the story with grace. By not throwing emotion into the argument but throwing my heart behind my words in such a way that maybe it quieted things down. Because that's what words do. They tell, and they can change, the story. So that maybe we don't have to fight about it so much any more.
I don't take this gift for granted, and that lessens the burden. It means I don't have to spend my time deciding what I really believe. Because I'm choosing the words that I believe in. Sometimes, that means pushing my own emotion aside to get down into the deeper heart, but I don't find that I miss all that emotion. I don't find that the world misses it either.
This is a world looking for grace in story. It's something we all have to take seriously, but especially those of us gifted with words. It's part of the gift. Those of us who have the chance to pen a piece of the story need to labor over that beautiful place of grace. Even when it's not necessarily the first thing we believe.
Because words have power. And at least for me, I am awed at the power of grace and always find that grace is the story I most believe.