I have been writing, now, for decades. It started back in elementary school, when we were given blank books in second grade, books that were pure white, inside and out. The covers, the pages, the seams of the binding—all of it, whiter than winter clouds. There were no lines, no rules. Just space. For a student who went to school long before photo websites offered personalized books for any and every occasion, a blank book was a mystery and a rarity. It felt like a prize.

And all of these pages were given to me—for filling. I was given empty space and also the opportunity to fill it. It felt, to me, like a great gift.

It also felt like a burden.

All writing is like that for me—a gift and a burden. I am not handed blank books anymore; there is no teacher setting one down on my desk every month. Instead, I open a new screen and seek to fill the space with meaningful words that recall moments and share stories and offer truth. I do this because I have always been drawn to writing, and because have spent the better part of the last ten years studying words, learning how to tie them together with strands so thin they part like fumes in the wake of a whisper. I have spent time with words, learning how to train them like sentinels waiting for the trumpet blow, ready to release the hammering shock of truth to a willing reader. It is a gift to be able to write. It is also a holy burden to seek to do that well, and faithfully. The gift and the burden, bound up together.

I have also had the privilege of teaching others about writing. I haven’t taught them how to write; that is a beautifully complex art form that most of us work out over the course of a lifetime. But just last night, as I talked with a group of writers, I was surprised again at the power of words. These letters, threaded together in lumps and lines, they shape us. They shape how we see ourselves; they shape how we see God. Long after a conversation or interaction, the words we hear from others can sting and wound, or they can bind up and heal. Words reveal our hearts—they point to what’s really there, and they can bubble up from places in our souls deeper than we yet understand.

Perhaps it should not be surprising to us that words hold so much power. God spoke the universe into existence with a word. The first five verses of the book of John remind us of the beautiful and timeless declaration that Jesus is, himself, the Word—and who God is and how He is are bound up in the power of words.

How amazing, then–how surprising and wonder-filled–that we should share in this mighty power of words. How incredible–how difficult to believe–that God would entrust us with words. We are privileged and charged with using these tiny instruments for good. For peace. For encouragement. For hope. For glory–His and not our own. This is the gift and the holy burden twinned. Glory, yes, but never for ourselves.

Words shape who we are, and they shape who we become. At the beginning of time, God used words to shape all of creation into its lovely, spinning presence. And at the end of all days, the Word himself will return and right all things that have gone wrong. I ache for that day. I long for it. And until that great return of the Word turned flesh turned Lamb turned King, I want to seek to use my words to point to him.

These marks on screens and pages, these syllables that bounce out of our mouths and bubble up from our hearts, they matter. They matter deeply. Let us be those who use them to right the wrongs that we can, to love the hearts that need binding up, and to speak to ourselves–and to others–the Truth that came through the Word Himself, Jesus.

Ann Swindell

Ann lives and writes west of Chicago with her husband and daughter, where she teaches college writing courses. She has written for multiple publications and anthologies, including Today’s Christian Woman, (In)courage, Darling Magazine, and Relevant Magazine online. Ann is passionate about seeing others set ablaze with the love of Christ, and she writes and speaks to groups about freedom from comparison, freedom from fear, trusting God enough to rest, trusting God with material possessions, and the power of a Christ-centered marriage. She can be contacted for writing opportunities or speaking engagements through email at Ann.Swindell@gmail.com.
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