Words of Hope: In the Beginning Was the Word

Shann taught poetry at Princeton Theological Seminary’s Center for Contemplative Leadership. He discussed the power of words. How much power does a word hold? The power to silence, to encourage, to destroy, to heal. In Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy, names hold tremendous vulnerability and power. Therefore, you would only give your true name to someone beloved who would never use your name against you. Shann is a brilliant poet who fashions words together with reverence and skill. He asked us, what would you call a creature that can fly 200 miles per hour, with over 440 pounds of pressure per square inch in its talons, who can see a mouse clearly two miles away, who mates for life, and can see its mate from fifty miles away? This creature should capture all our awe and wonder. Instead, we name it an eagle and feel we fully understand what we are saying. The mystery is gone in the naming, the wonder, the awe. I feel this happens in our homes—mother, father, brother, sister. We can lose the wonder of the people we rub shoulders with daily. This person was formed by God, out of the same DNA of the stars, with fingerprints unlike anyone else, with a soul that is eternal. This should cause us all to catch our breath in wonder. Dad lived this way. He valued the spoken word as something sacred. He called people miracles.

“But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1 

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