Where Words Fail

IMG_20160510_140838709I write like I breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Pull thoughts into the core of me, let them saturate, then push them out as words. It’s less a pastime and more a necessary function of life.

Sometimes, though, the thoughts and emotions flow wild and the framework of words doesn’t hold them. They pour out like water, bursting through the cracks and splashing over the sides, and I sit drenched and wide awake in the stream. Some experiences are too big to be tied to time and space. They overlap into eternity, and if we pay attention, we can catch glimpses through the veil.

These moments are big enough that they vibrate the air around them, they resonate like music in the bones. They leave us gasping, pulling for air like a fresh born baby before its first cry.

Three weeks ago, I ran through the hardest rain storm Chiang Mai has seen in months. It was the kind of rain that hits you sideways and upside down and makes you laugh, and I ran not because I didn’t want to get wet, but because of the reason I was in Thailand. My brand new nephew was waiting in a hospital room just a few buildings over and a few floors up. By the time I arrived, I was breathless and alive and soaking in every moment. Well, and just soaking. Dripping, actually. I paused just long enough to pull a dry shirt out of my overnight bag, and then I held him, me still catching my breath and him still learning to breathe. And how do you catch a moment like that and tie it to letters and sounds?

That night I curled around his tiny softness and stroked his fuzzy head so my sister could get an hour of rest, and everything in me wanted to lean between him and the truth that the world can be an awfully dark place.

My nephew’s whole world right now is a swirl of sounds and colors and mama’s voice and milky warmth, but he’s already met pain and fear. Just entering the world is an uncomfortable, scary process. He has no words to express his feelings, and as he grows and his experiences grow with him, he’ll find himself without words many times.

He’ll find joy that fills the chest and stretches the lungs. He’ll feel things he can’t quite name, and if he tries, the words will just dull the shimmer. He’ll have thoughts too big to carry, grief that drives him to silence, and dreams he can’t describe.

And there in that quiet space where words fail, the Spirit of God will lean between him and the dark and speak on his behalf, a spirit-song that comforts and rescues and restores. And, if he pays attention, he’ll catch glimpses through the veil of the God who is too big for words.

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” ~Romans 8:26 (NLT)

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