Being a writer, it’s safe to say that I appreciate the power of words.
Not only do words have the power to communicate facts, but they can be used to convey emotion or opinion and they can be the very basis for rational thinking. Words can make a depressed man smile and they can make an angel cry, they can serve as the greatest medicine to a broken spirit and they can be the most painful weapon in the field of battle. My opinion put aside, let’s address something that is undisputedly factual: Words are powerful.
It is for this very reason that I love what has become known as “spoken word.” Poetry, to me, is one of the most powerful ways in which one can use their words – it has the power to contain a thousand stories in but a single line – so couple that with the expressive and raw emotion of a performer at a mic and you can guarantee I’m down for a listen. Spoken word has the power to dig into your gut and leave your mind blown to smithereens as you consider everything you just heard, and it is for this reason that I often find myself listening to the stuff on YouTube while I sit at home busting out some homework. I’m a fan of art in almost every sense of the word, and spoken word just so happens to be one of the truly amazing artistic styles on the rise.
Just a few nights ago, I found myself listening to some spoken word not on YouTube but in person, at some art show I went to in Bryan with a group of friends. I don’t know what the guy’s name was and I honestly can’t tell you what the remainder of his performance was about, but one line in particular stuck out to me; strangely enough, it has to do with the power of words:
“Every hello can be the first brushstroke on a canvas called ‘Forever.’”
Just think about that for a second. Soak it in. One of my favorite things about poetry – especially spoken word – is that lines like that can be read of spoken as if they were throwaway lines, with the artist continuing onwards without hesitation as if the words that just came from his mouth were no big deal, yet another vibration of sound lost to the wind. But to he who listens closely, a sentence like this leaves a person lost in thought, their minds trying to decipher the sentence and pull out its true, deeper meaning.
And especially for me – a person who absolutely loves metaphors – my mind became flooded with imagery.
Now I’m not what anybody would call a painter, but I’ve done enough painting to know that the first brushstroke on a canvas can make or break the entire piece. Depending on the type of pain you use, you might or might not be able to fix or paint over the stroke if you make a mistake, and if you make the mark to thick and let that dry, your ability to fix the mistake severely diminishes. No matter what, that first stroke plays a hand in establishing the “feel” of the remainder of the canvas, setting in motion that which is to come. The stroke itself is not impressive in the least, but without making that first little brush, you would be incapable of creating the rest. You see, every great painting begins with a single, unimpressive brushstroke.
Isn’t that crazy? If words have limitless amounts of power, than surely “Hello” is the most powerful of these, because no relationship can begin without some sort of greeting. (Even “love” cannot be more powerful, because how do you reach love if you have not yet met each other?) Perhaps you are Clark Kent greeting Lex Luthor, sure, but then again perhaps you are greeting Lois Lane – you never know if you don’t put forth the greeting. When you meet a person for the first time, you have no idea what the canvas of your relationship could look like; perhaps it will be a few sloppy brushstrokes leading to an abandoned piece of art, but then again you might have just begun the next Mona Lisa without even realizing it. When Michelangelo first took to the chisel, he didn’t know he’d produce something as magnificent as the David; when Solomon placed his pen to the paper – as he would do thousands of other times – he didn’t know he would produce the song of all songs; when Bruce Lee first clenched his fist, he didn’t know of the legacy he would leave behind. Every piece of art has its beginning, and relationships are perhaps the greatest canvas we can create while here on earth.
This makes me think of God (but then again, what doesn’t?). You see, if the Bible is God’s Word, than surely Creation must be His “Hello,” for the Bible both begins with His creation of the universe (Genesis 1) and ends with His promise of a new creation (Revelation 21-22), reminding us that even when most people would say “Goodbye,” He never will; instead, He merely says “Hi” to us again and leads us back into the canvas called “Forever.”
And how magnificent is His hello? Though it is but a greeting meant to kick off our desire for our relationship with Him, God speaks loudly and clearly with His hello, with Creation itself being more beautiful than any canvas man could ever produce. Have you ever listened to the songs of the birds or watched the sunset while the clouds are like brushstrokes across the sky or felt the wind press against your face as you look out at the ocean with the horizon reminding you of endless possibilities? This is God’s hello to us, the very first word He spoke in order to ignite the eternal relationship He desires to share with us. And what a beautiful, beautiful story it is. Talk about a first impression.
I could go on about this forever – how great is our God! – but this is not the main point I seek to address today. NOW LET’S BE HONEST…we don’t put nearly as much thought into our first brushstroke. We place our brush against the canvas and rely on the fact that we can likely repair any mistake we make, but if God found it so important to make a good first impression with us, don’t we owe the same respect to one another? God didn’t need to make a good first impression – He could have given us a disgusting and horrible world to live in – but He went out of His way to do so. Shouldn’t we do the same?
I think of what Lewis said in The Weight of Glory when he remarks, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” Often when we engage one another in conversation – or when we meet a new person – we are so side-tracked by our own selfish ambitions that we forget how important that first impression is. We think of ourselves as the pinnacle of the universe, and everybody else as side characters who contribute to the goings-on of our own particular life. But truly consider those words – “You have never talked to a mere mortal.” Meditate on that for a moment. When you meet your roommate for the first time…when that pretty girl sits next to you in class and sparks a conversation…when you meet a new professor or accidentally bump into someone at the grocery store…how are you to know whether or not the brushstroke you are making will be the first on a canvas called forever? Perhaps you are meeting a new best friend or perhaps your future wife or perhaps a mentor or a bitter enemy or a future employer of a future student… you can’t know and you never will know unless you say that first hello. What you can know is this: God saw fit to go out of His way to design that person – to mold them in His own two hands and breathe life into them, and therefore making them part of Creation – so the way you treat and speak to them is in fact you deciding how to respond to God’s initial hello through creation. God has been severely kind in His greeting, so will you respond accordingly by loving His Creation and accepting it as a gift? Will you say hello back or will you turn away without even bothering to acknowledge Him? The Lord has created each and every person for a purpose, so I urge you to treat every single person you encounter as something more than a mere side character in the story of you; treat them as a new canvas, and let your first brushstroke be one that has for itself the high intentions of one day contributing to the collection of beautiful canvases in God’s gallery.
That is my challenge to you today. Remember the power of words and then remember how gracious God was in the way He greeted us, and then combine those two factors together and implement them into each relationship you forge, every encounter that you share.
One small word can change your entire life.For all you know, your hello could be the first brushstroke on a canvas called forever.