Borrowing Words

I thought it was a book only nerds would ever use. I’m not certain I have ever bought a copy of my own to this day.

Lamar Junior High School. That’s where I first saw a copy of this mysterious book. Usually, it was a small paperback, stacked on top of whatever miscellaneous textbooks the brainiacs were carrying, clamped tightly under the arm and against the body as they scooted down the drafty hallways.

I wasn’t a brainiac.

Roget’s Thesaurus.

Oh. A foreign language book. I was already enrolled in a Spanish class and had no interest in taking up an additional language.

Except it wasn’t. A foreign language book. Still, it would take an awfully long time for me to care about what it really was.

And then, it would be years before I felt the need to consult such a volume. Years before I actually understood the importance of what lay in the pages of the little publication.

It was all I could do to learn the English language. Why would I need a book which gave me alternatives to perfectly good words?

My native language was quite difficult enough, thank you. But then I think back. I did learn another language. Many of my friends were fluent in it long before I began to pick it up.

It wasn’t spoken in my home. How would I have come by it naturally?

I call the language crudish. Today, I do. Back then, I called it cool. I do also seem to remember a friend who called it cursive, a term that some might think cute, but mostly, it’s just sad.

I know many who practice the language today. Its usage is on the rise, even among the very young. When I operated a music store, we would frequently have folks come in who spoke little else. It’s popular nowadays on the street and in the department stores.

Some languages give you an air of mystery; some are romantic. Some can make us sound more intelligent than we are; others seem almost comedic.

Crudish is one of those languages which seems to deduct points from the speaker’s intelligence quotient right in front of our eyes. Or ears — whichever.

Regardless, during the years when I spoke that demeaning language, I found one very curious thing.

There were no words in that vocabulary with which I could describe my faith — my Savior — my God.

No words.

Some things are simply too high, too precious, for gutter language to even make a start in describing them.

Growing in my faith, the realization took root that crudish would never be a language I could use on my journey to becoming the man God needed me to be.

There are scriptures which could be quoted in support of my assumption. Somehow though, we know without being told that some language is inappropriate to use as we come before the King of all that is.

I know many who are followers of Christ, as I am, yet still retain much of that language. They respond differently when the words slip into conversation, from embarrassment to defiance. I have no judgment to offer, simply my perspective.

I want to communicate clearly to the world around me. I want there to be no uncertainty about what drives me and Who I follow.

That crude language has no words to explain those things. None.

But, there is more. Again and again, I find the words I have in my limited vocabulary to be inadequate to the task, as well.

So, I use a thesaurus. Really, I do. Nearly every day.

I constantly seek new ways to express ancient truths.

If all of life is not a chasing after God, attempting to know Him better, we’ve squandered the days.

If each day is not spent in learning how to give a clear reason to those not yet in the chase, we’ve wasted the hours and minutes. (1 Peter 3:15)

There’s a quotation attributed (erroneously) to Francis of Assisi that tells us to preach the Gospel and if necessary, to use words. It’s not a bad thing to make the point that we should live out our faith. Not a bad thing at all.

However, words are how we communicate truth. King David, a man never at loss for innovative ways to communicate the truth of God’s love and power — and glory — was clear in his prayer: I want the words coming out of my mouth, and even the feelings in my heart to be acceptable to You, God. (Psalm 19:14)

It’s not enough to feel it; the words must be said.

Yes, I use that nerd book. Well, it’s not actually Mr. Roget’s thesaurus I use. There are tools at our disposal today that junior high school kid I used to be never could have dreamed of. But, just because I never dreamed of them back then doesn’t mean I can’t avail myself of them now.

I want to use whatever language communicates in no uncertain terms the hope, the anticipation, the joy that lie ahead. Like young Timothy, I want to study, so I can gain my Creator’s approval.

In the process, I can’t help but become more like him. The progress is slow, painfully so, but certain.

Daily, He shows us in new and varied ways His love for us.

How could we do any less, as we reflect His light to a world desperate for its brilliance?

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
 For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
 O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
 Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
 (from O Sacred Head, Now Wounded ~ Bernard of Clairvaux ~ French monk/theologian ~ 1090–1153)

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
 (2 Timothy 2:15 ~ KJV)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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