God in the Words

hlayer_breeden-u3492A Guest Post by Andrew Breeden

If you ask someone who writes and does it well, they will tell you it’s the hardest work a person will ever do. I am inclined to agree. I have dug a ditch on more than one occasion. Digging a ditch is hard work; writing is harder work.

Sometimes — more often than I would like to admit — I wonder why I keep at it. I have a drawer full of manuscripts that no one is likely to ever set eyes on — my rejects, as it were, that would probably be best used to start a fire. I sit before a blank sheet of paper feeling tired before the task has even begun, and I think to myself, Ok, this is it. I’m hanging up my hat. This time I am done. But somehow I always manage to keep going. I always do it one more time.

Occasionally I write something decent, something I think may be worth a second glance or another pair of eyes. At other times I read what I have written and throw it out the window. Whatever the result, good or bad and for better or worse, I keep writing.

I suspect I keep writing because my closest encounter with God occurs through words on a page. It is in language — whether my own or others’ — that I am most aware of God’s presence and most confident that God is there.

In the short stories of Flannery O’Connor, the essays of Wendell Berry, the poems of Billy Collins, and the novels of Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner, I meet God in the words, sentences, and paragraphs that express the complexity, strangeness, and beauty of human life. I encounter God in the mystery and depth of a good story and in the intelligence and creativity of a clever poem. I encounter God in the rhymes of an old hymn, in a well-written sermon, and, of course, in scripture itself.

My relationship with God begins in language. I was not there to witness the events I read about in Scripture and which give meaning to all that I do. I can only enter those events through language — the exceptional prose of the Book of Ruth, the speeches of Job and his friends, the proclamations and oracles of the prophets, Jesus’ parables, Paul’s letters. All words.

More times than I would like to admit, I have doubted God’s presence in my own circumstances or the circumstances of others. “Where are you, God?” I ask. “You may be somewhere, but I don’t see you here.”

In these moments of doubt, I turn to Scripture. I turn to the narratives and metaphors and characters that have endured for thousands of years. And I am reminded that God was there when the words were written and that God is still in them now.

As Christians, language links us together. And I suppose that when it comes down to it this is what keeps me writing — the hope that one day someone else might read what I have written; and in a time of confusion or doubt, confidence or certainty, find God’s presence there.

upper-room-logoMeet Andrew

Andrew Breeden is associate and acquisitions editor of the Upper Room Magazine in Nashville, TN. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University Divinity School, and he lives in Charlotte, Tennessee.

Andrew’s Workshop

Writing Devotionals for The Upper Room Magazine

Participants will learn how to write devotions for The Upper Room Magazine. Through group discussion and instruction from an Upper Room editor, the session will explore what makes a strong devotion, how to connect personal experience with scripture, setting pen to paper, and the unique global ministry of the The Upper Room. Our writer’s guidelines can be found at http://devotional.upperroom.org/how-to-write.


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