The Hundred-and-Thirteenth Letter: Keep Asking Questions

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Dear Daughters,

You ask the best questions.

I’ve written poems composed almost entirely of the questions you have asked me throughout the years.

Recently you asked, “How did Adam and Eve know how to speak if nobody taught them?”

It felt like the question came completely out of the blue: we were sitting down to lunch, I was skittering around as I typically do, getting all the random things to the table for a somewhat-balanced meal alongside our mid-day read aloud books, and out popped your question, before we even prayed.

Mom, how did Adam and Eve know how to speak if nobody taught them?

But then, as I began to unravel an answer for you, I realized the question wasn’t really out of the blue.

Last week, we read a biography of Helen Keller and talked a lot about what it would be like to learn to read or write or speak if you couldn’t see or hear. We talked about how grownups constantly point and name things for babies, and I mentioned how many times a day you ask how to spell something or what a particular word means. Just last week, we witnessed two women talking in ASL during lunch at Evans Orchard while we worked on our blind contour drawings of zinnias. We talked about what it means to be created in the image of God. We talked about John 1:1, that in the beginning was the Word. And that the Word is God.

In our house, girls, we talk about words a lot (like a lot a lot). We talk about the power of words and why words matter.

What I’m saying is, this question shouldn’t have surprised me.

No questions really should surprise me, I guess, but still I am always a little surprised at the connections your sponge-like brains are making between the things you are learning and the things you are doing and the things your dad and I are saying and the books we are reading.

And I was surprised that as we sat down to lunch, you might be wondering about Adam and Eve and how their brains worked.

I hope it is always the case that your dad and I work to cultivate a question-asking environment here in our home. And I hope that when you ask questions, we take them seriously, and we answer them.

So, when you surprised me with your question, I did what I always do. I looked you in the eyes and told you that you asked a great question. And then we dug in.

There are rarely simple, straightforward answers to your questions. Because, let’s face it, there are very rarely simple, straightforward answers to problems. That’s what life in this complicated and beautiful and broken world is. Beautifully complex.

And it’s worthy of questions.

Which is really what I mean, after all of these words. Keep asking, girls. Just keep asking.

We’ll keep answering.

Love,

Your Momma

The Hundred-and-Eighth Letter: In the beginning was the Word

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Dear Daughters,

In the beginning was the Word.

In the beginning, God created.

In the beginning, God spoke words.

We have a small canvas in our dining room that your uncle painted about twenty years ago. It kind of looks like a dark cliff with a reddish brownish sky behind it, and there are words painted across the bottom in such a way that they run off the canvas. It looks like this

In the beginnin—
        God cre—

To be honest, it’s not excellent art. Even your uncle would say so. But it fits well up there among the abstract paintings you’ve both painted over the last few years and some of my early handlettered canvases.

I like it because it lets the creative act be in process—perpetually in process. 

Yes, in the beginning, God created.

But in the now, God is still creating.

And CS Lewis, in Mere Christianity, points to God’s ‘eternal now’ existence to show that our “today” is as present to God as that first day of creation was/is.

So in the beginning, God created.

And right there with God, was the Word.

And the Word was God.

***

We just wrapped up our second year of homeschooling. The year before that, during our foray into this new season, we learned the first seven verses of John 1 in both English and Latin. I can still say them and sing them. Who knows if you can.

Here are verses 1 through 3:

In the beginning was the Word.
And the Word was with God.
And the Word was God.
This was with God in the beginning.
All things were made through Him.
And without Him, nothing was made, that was made.

What does it mean that the Word was God? That the Word was with God? That Jesus is the Word?

Because that’s of course how the church has interpreted these verses, that Jesus is the Word of God. And Jesus is God. And the Trinitarian God is eternal, so from before the beginning.

Goodness, it can hurt your head if you let it, trust me.

But what about this idea that Jesus is the Word?

Well, let’s see. Creation is spoken into existence. (Or sung into existence, if you’re reading The Magician’s Nephew.) And Scripture tells us that all things were created through Jesus. Through the Word.

Without Jesus, nothing was made. Without the Word.

Without words.

***

Now, I get that I’m a writer, and a handletterer to boot, so I have a particularly high view of words. Of the written word, the spoken word, the crafted word.

I love words.

And I’ve been thinking about what difference it makes to my own faith journey and to the Christian church as a whole that we attest to Jesus being called the Word of God.

I’m teaching a weeklong class this summer on worship and hand-lettering, and I’ve called it “Worship, Welcome, and the Word.”

I chose that title last fall when I decided on the theme for the class, and back then I wrote up a blurb to explain the theme, but it wasn’t until recently that I really sat down and started thinking through and preparing for our class time discussions.

What does it mean to our worship services that Jesus is the Word, and that the Word was with God from the beginning—that the Word was God?

When we talk about churches we attend, Christians in general—or at least evangelical Christians—tend to talk about preaching and about worship style.  Why do we do that? Why do we choose churches based on this criteria? But that’s what we do. Is the preaching good? we ask. What’s the music like? 

I want to move beyond that. And I think we do that by the middle W in my class title—Welcome. 

Thinking about Jesus as the Word, and thinking about worship through the lens of words, can really open up our discussions of worship and the role it plays in welcoming others into the Kingdom.

We are quick to put Jesus at the center of our services—which is, of course, important!—but we tend to focus on Jesus as the way to heaven, or Jesus as teacher, or Jesus as shepherd, or Jesus as the suffering servant. All good things. All important.

But what about Jesus as the Word?

I’m still working out how this matters, because I have this hunch that it does.

Our worship services are full of words, aren’t they? Preaching and praying and singing and making announcements and reading lots of words from the 

Bible, the Word of God, we call it—it’s a very wordy faith. We hang words on our church banners, print them in our bulletins, and post them on our Facebook pages. Words, words, words.

The Gospel message is more than lowercase w words.

It’s about the power of the Word and how that transforms the power of our words.

The words we use when we talk to one another, yes, within the walls of our church, but even more so when we are outside of the church being The Church. Yes, maybe in those moments and conversations and relationships most of all are when the words we use reflect the Word.

Or should reflect The Word.

Words can welcome.

Words can exclude.

Words can wound.

Words can warm.

Words can draw boundaries and lines in the sand. (Jesus literally drew lines in the sand one time—remember what happened next?)

Words can offer safe spaces for vulnerable conversations, me-too words saying you are welcome here in this space, and yes, I know it is hard.

Girls, I really think words matter. How we write them, how we say them, how we feel them deep inside when we’re struggling to pray. All of this. All the words. And they matter because Jesus is the Word.

The Word now. The Word from the beginning.

This matters.

And when there are no words, there is still The Word.

In the beginning.

Now.

Love,

Your Momma