For many years, I have never been known as a person of few words. As you know, I grew up in the South where even short words have many syllables. I witnessed this art of communication in stories told by members of my family, especially by one of my late aunts. In my minds’ eye, I can see the expressions of family members anxiously waiting for me to get to the point while sharing a story. Any of you who have listened to me preach or speak in a meeting might also share this experience.
In the same way that wood and nails are the elements which create and sustain a structure, words are the elements which permit us to share ideas, opinions and beliefs. They enable us to share important stories, to learn of the commonalities we hold with one another and to make distinctions where we disagree. It was in seminary that I learned the history of words as they relate to our expression of theology. Then and now, there is the thought if God could be described in words, that God is being contained by them and thus, not omnipotent or all powerful. I lean in this direction myself.
Another important seminary learning was that of conversation partners. Conversation partners are those with whom we tend to agree. They are the individuals whose publications we cite at the bottom of a written page or whose names we share from a podium or pulpit. It is their perspectives that give weight to our own thoughts and opinions. Having a conversation partner who shares a viewpoint informs us that we are not alone in our thought or perspective.
I am writing about words and conversation partners today because I have been blessed with wonderful mentors in my life, people from whom I have learned so much. Conversations with these mentors are especially important when I am uncovering new wisdom or “running low” on my own supply of words. I benefit by their conversations with me and am able to share their wisdom with others as a result.
I will close this reflection with words from one of my mentors, the Rev. Dr. Grace Renshaw:
“The Great Pause holds a couple “bigger picture” possibilities. One is hospicing the old way of being, and the other is midwifing the new. Both are important, both require a particular kind of compassion. Both call us to be part of the bigger picture. When we get the call, let’s be brave and say yes.”
It is my prayer that your conversations with God and others will remind you of your connectedness, the importance of your beliefs and that the combination of these elements will inform your contribution to this world.
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