Guest / Limited Access /
Knowing God Means More than Describing Him
iStock

I tackled my first English essay in college with enthusiasm, a thesaurus, and a naive disregard for page limits. The paper came back with the following comment: "Carolyn, you've made some fine points, but unfortunately they are lost in a sea of circumlocutious wordiness."

I've always loved words. A well-turned phrase can replace chaos with cosmos. Solomon likened words aptly spoken to apples of gold in frames of silver (Prov. 25:11). When a preacher parses some Greek or Hebrew, I'm astonished at the vistas of meaning that hide within a bit of syntax. Words are teachers, Swiss Army knives, and painters' palettes. Given the right choreographer, they dance.

Yet, for all my love of language, I've been troubled by a growing sense that I need to pay more attention to wordless things. I don't mean simply that "actions speak louder than words"—although they often do, and we should all be required to balance each use of "compassion" with at least ten compassionate acts. Lately I've been wondering: Have I reduced the scope of what I can know to what I can articulate?

Occasionally, something—a strain of music, a friend's touch, a sunset, or simply a sudden sense of Presence—will "speak" to me. When that occurs, I have an overwhelming urge to put whatever's happening into language. Otherwise, it doesn't seem real. This impulse is particularly noticeable in my devotional life. Give me a prayer list or a passage to study, and I'm there. But ask me to sit silently in God's presence, and I get anxious.

Ronald Rolheiser, a Catholic writer, distinguishes between meditative and contemplative prayer. In the former, he argues, we ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Wrestling with Angels
Carolyn Arends
Singer/songwriter and author Carolyn Arends has written and released 9 albums and penned 2 books, including Wrestling With Angels (Harvest House/Conversantlife.com). A list of her blogs can be found at CarolynArends.com. Her bimonthly "Wrestling With Angels" column has appeared in Christianity Today since 2008.
Previous Wrestling with Angels Columns:
Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueSurprised by N.T. Wright
Subscriber Access Only Surprised by N.T. Wright
The Bible scholar's goal is to massively revise the way we talk about the Christian faith. By many accounts, he's already succeeded.
RecommendedHow Gratitude Made Ann Voskamp an Activist
Subscriber Access Only How Gratitude Made Ann Voskamp an Activist
Ann Voskamp’s rural Canadian life may seem picture perfect. But with her new book, the intensely shy writer could spark a social movement among North American Christians.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickA Journey as Old as Humanity Itself
A Journey as Old as Humanity Itself
What’s behind our timeless fascination with religious pilgrimage?
Christianity Today
Knowing God Means More than Describing Him
hide thisApril April

In the Magazine

April 2014

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.