Words are never enough, but they are all I have.
Everything I am, everything I feel, everything I dream — need, crave, see, experience — it’s all locked inside this consciousness which I know as myself. You can’t force my heart open to see inside, just as I can’t see into your heart or soul or whatever makes you a unique human being.
You can come inside my heart — and I can come inside your heart — but only when we invite each other. Only when we open the door from the inside. Only when we use words to say, “This is who I am. This is why I need you. Come touch my heart and experience my love for you.”
Words are powerful, but they are also weak. Words are a paradox. I can stand outside your heart for years and knock — speaking words of love and wisdom and caring — and have them roll right off you as though they were gibberish.
But when your heart is ready to hear — when it is ready to open — a word or two is enough to convey what thousands of words couldn’t properly express before.
The right words mean everything. The words we don’t want to hear have no more power than the crunching of leaves under our feet. The words which I need to speak matter, but without the ears of the one who needs to hear those words, they’re like the noisy clanging of a bell which signifies nothing.
In a song called “The Unattainable Earth,” songwriter Terry Scott Taylor dealt with this paradox in a line which says, “Language is weak, but I keep on speaking.”
My words have no power, no magic, no vitality. I keep speaking from a point of longing and need and confusion and weakness. There are powerful emotions and needs and dreams and hopes which swirl inside me, like a ball of abstract, complex spiritual energy. This powerful force lives only inside my heart. Nobody can see it from the outside. I can’t take it outside myself, either.
All I can do it gaze on this swirl of powerful energy and describe its effect on me with words which can never be enough. And I can hope the right word will cause the right person to want to come inside and share this experience — which can be life-changing together.
A gorilla named Koko famously learned to communicate with researchers through sign language. It was fairly easy for her to explain some of the mundane things around her, but when she experienced an earthquake, she had no language for it. She couldn’t understand what it was and she had no words.
Koko struggled to communicate what this powerful experience had been and she finally explained it as, “darn floor, big bite.”
Writing for the rock band called Daniel Amos, Terry Scott Taylor built an entire album around that phrase. He was trying to show how we humans can experience bits and pieces of God, but we can never adequately say what he is or what we experience when we touch the Divine.
We have the same problem whenever we try to communicate anything truly complex and holy that is inside of us. We can agree on what a cup is or what a salt shaker might look like or what sorts of things chairs might be. We have simple words for those. They’re easy.
But we struggle with words to convey the power of love.
Some experiences defy easy description. A gorgeous sunset. The embrace of a loving child. The spiritual touch of something which we call God. And that mysterious holy thing which we call love.
We try our best to communicate these experiences, but the words we speak are never enough to allow someone to feel what it’s like to be inside us and have that experience. Our thoughts and feelings are our private sanctuary, but they are also our private prison — unless we can find the right person to come inside and share the reality of life with us.
And that’s where we started.
I keep speaking. My words are metaphors in a spiritual toolbox which seems so empty. My words are weak, but they are all I have, so I keep speaking. I know I am like the clanging of a noisy bell. I know that you can’t see inside of what I’m trying to describe.
So I keep trying. I keep approaching it in a different way. I keep looking for a new way to describe something which is infinitely powerful here on the inside.
I send my words into the world. I open the door to my heart. I try to let you see what is inside, at least in some faint way.
And I have faith the day will come when those words will fall on the right ears, the right mind, the right loving and hurting heart. And when that happens, it won’t take a million words from a clanging bell.
Because the right someone will recognize the balm of love and will find that love powerful enough to come inside and share what can’t be experienced in any other way.