From the archives: Here’s the post that started the whole “Shimmersome” thing. Read how my fascination with words is informed by my faith. Originally published here on reviveourhearts.com.
Call me a glitter-phile. (Is that a thing?) A sparkle addict. A shine-aholic. Call me what you will, but if it’s an item that inspires a response of “Oooooh, that’s so pretty” from my seven-year-old daughter, I’m probably going to want one. Or twelve. And let me tell you, the season of Christmas puts my sense of sparkle into overdrive—twinkling lights, flickering candles, sequins, gemstones, and glitter galore—these are the things that make it possible to survive December in Minnesota where it gets dark at 4:30 p.m.
As it happens, I’m also a collector of words. If you are a word-lover, you know that there are some words that strike you as so lovely, so exquisite, so perfectly apt that you’re just dying for an opportunity to scroll one across a page or fling it off the tip of your tongue at just the right moment.
About a month ago, I heard a journalist use that word in a radio interview. I must tell you that I’ve been scheming to find an opportunity to put it in print ever since! (Insert happy sigh.) Apparently, the human propensity to be enamored with words begins in childhood. Poet Elizabeth Alexander remarked that children “are drawn toward language that shimmers, [individual] words with power. They will stop you and ask you to repeat a shimmering word if they’re hearing it for the first time. You can see it in their faces.”
Emily Dickinson had a favorite word. “PHOSPHORESCENCE,” she said. “Now there’s a word to lift your hat to . . . to find that phosphorescence, that light within, that’s the genius behind poetry.”
Author Lauren Oliver wrote of her character Liesl, “She liked the word ineffable because it meant a feeling so big or vast that it could not be expressed in words. And yet, because it could not be expressed in words, people had invented a word to express it, and that made Liesl feel hopeful, somehow.”
Finally, from Jennifer Donnelly’s A Northern Light: “A new word. Bright with possibilities. A flawless pearl to turn over and over in my hand, then put away for safekeeping.”
In a Word, the Word
For Christians, isn’t it amazing that our gracious God chose something as powerful as words to communicate to us His glorious truth? Everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). What a gift! What a treasure! Collectors of words take heart:
As believers, we have exclusive access to the most exhaustive collection of shimmering words in the universe: the very words of God Himself.
He could have chosen any medium in the universe with which to tell His story. But He chose words, and beautiful, creative, meaningful words at that! I mean, imagine if the Word of God was written like the instructions to your Black and Decker toaster?
- I created the universe and all that is in it.
- You sinned.
- You deserve death.
- I have made a way.
- The way is Jesus.
- He died and rose again.
- He is coming again.
- Go and tell.
Mind you, He is holy, and we are not. Mind you, if He had left us a set of Black and Decker instructions, it would be enough and more than we deserve. But in His goodness, in His infinite creativity, He left us the greatest work of literature of all time. It is:
- Lovely and diverse in form.
- Dynamic and expressive in content.
- Personal and far-reaching in message.
God used a variety of handpicked human authors, each infused with his own personality, creativity, and set of life experiences, in crafting a Message breathed by God Himself (2 Tim. 3:16).
His Word is exactly enough and exactly what we need. It is, in fact, what fallen men have been thirsting for since the beginning of time. Henry David Thoreau recognized, “A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips; not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of life itself.” Thoreau knew the wonder and the power of words. What he missed was the wonder and power—the shimmer, if you will—of God’s Word.
What Gives God’s Word Its Sparkle?
So what is it, exactly, that makes God’s Word so exquisite? What is it that gives it such matchless beauty? What causes it to be “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12)?
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are three attributes for your consideration of what gives God’s words their shimmer:
- Their intrinsic value. Think of things in the physical realm that we say have “intrinsic value.” Diamonds, for instance, are said to have this quality. Yet if there is no market for sale of the world’s most sought-after gems, what value do they have? What value do the words of the world’s greatest author have if there is no one to read them? But it’s not so with God’s Word. It has intrinsic value in the true sense of the word: value for its own sake.In other words, separated from their Author, the words of the prophets and disciples have no value. But breathed by Him, they are perfect and powerful. “The words of the LORD are pure words,” we read in Psalm 12:6, “like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” As David concluded, they are “more to be desired. . . than gold, even much fine gold” (Ps. 19:10).
- Their authority. The intrinsic value of God’s Word also gives His words authority in their own right. John 10:35 tells us that “Scripture cannot be broken,” and indeed it cannot. “For truly, I say to you,” we read in Matthew 5:18, “until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
- Their relevancy. The Word of God transcends all barriers of time, geography, language, culture, ethnicity, polity, status—those things which cause our nations to reel. Wherever we are, whomever we are, if our eyes by His Spirit are opened, His Words are precious and apt.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).
Shine, Jesus, Shine
I began this post by talking about some pretty fabulous words. Think for a moment about the words in Scripture you consider most beautiful:
Beautiful they are—the way they roll off your tongue, bind wounds in your heart, and call you to reconciliation. Now think of this: They are just as lovely in every tribe and tongue and nation in the kingdom of God. He is so good, our God of wonder, our God of words.
“What is wonderful about great literature,” wrote novelist E.M. Forster, “is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote.” As we read the shimmering words of the greatest work of literature of all time, may that be our aim and our unalterable outcome: To become like Him—our Author, our Savior, our God.
How are the words of your Lord and Savior changing you as you read? What passages shimmer and draw you to His glory? Are you becoming more like the Author as you read His Words today?