[hollow words]

[hollow words]

If you know me, you know that English is not my native language. It is more of a chosen language. My native languages are Russian and Ukrainian (living in Kyiv, you get both).

Why have I chosen English as a primary language of writing? Besides the fact that English allows me to create words that I need at the moment (like “sheepolution” – see here for explanation), it also, as odd as it sounds, makes more sense.

The thing that I have noticed – whenever I read in Russian, because the words are all familiar to me, I skip a lot of them or just skim above the surface. When I am reading in any other language, I pay attention to each word (even though English is now becoming too “native” too… I need to learn a new language). So, I almost never read in Russian, not even the Bible (although there’s another reason for that – I do not understand half of the words there since the translation of the standard Russian Bible has been made back in 1876… so the Russian there is kind of like KJV English). And if the Bible doesn’t make sense, there’s no point in reading it.

The reason I have thought of it today was that I once again tried to concentrate on praying while another gal was praying using all the “Christian” words and phrases. Not that I have anything against sanctification or proleptic way, but I think these should be left for the times when we study the Bible, not during the worship time. People need to UNDERSTAND what they are hearing, not just hear fancy words. I think it only leads to memorizing the phrases and then using them to “show off” in a way – or just try to make a statement “Well, I know all these words, therefore I am a good Christian.”

One of my latest personal challenges is trying to stop saying “Lord” all the time in the prayer. I would not like it if someone would be talking to me, repeating my name with the frequency that a comma or period should have. It is like we keep trying to say “Lord, listen here. Lord, I am here. Please pay attention to me, Lord. Hey, Your attention wandered.” He is there with us all the time. He pays more attention to us than we pay Him. It takes time to get rid of that habit (and I still fail miserably often, especially when I am anxious), but it becomes easier.

Every abstract word is hollow until we pour life into it. Honor, glory, sacrifice, loyalty, love, joy, peace, courage and endurance, faith and faithfulness, democracy and brotherhood, justice and mercy – what are these? Words. Abstract words. Hollow words, until we fill them with deeds, with life, and hence the meaning…

The great words of the Christian faith – grace, forgiveness, redemption, faith, hope, and love – are all hollow words until we pour our Christian experience into them.

J. Wesley Ingles, article “Hollow Words,” Christianity Today (Oct. 27, 1958)

The words are only worth what we put into them. We don’t have to impress our fellow brothers and sisters, we cannot impress God with the words we know, and non-believers we chat with won’t understand half of the “Christian vocabulary” anyway. However, they will understand the “non-verbal words” our actions speak of.

What do YOU think?

  • Agree 100% Zee. I try real hard when I preach to not just use christian cliches or words that only Christians would know and understand (and even that is suspect). I too tire of hearing someone repeat "lord" or "God" or "heavenly Father" or something like it over and over as though He does not know His own name. It is so important to"hear" what we are saying.

    • it would be cool to have an opportunity to hear you preach… d'you by chance have podcasts or something? 🙂

      that's one of the things i like about my pastor's preaching (as opposed to mom's) – he uses simple language (mom is more into technical issues – great also, but sometimes a bit TMI :D)

      It is so important to"hear" what we are saying. – so true!

  • You can get them from ovcf.org. Thanks for asking.

    • cool! thanks, i'll definitely check 'em out! 🙂

  • I'm reminded of my daughter… At times, she will go into repetition mode: Dad, dad, dad, I want ask you a question…Dad,dad, dad. Granted, her reason is my lack of attention in those moments. It can still get to be an irritant.

    God is paying attention to us. He knows our very being. He doesn't need us to beg for his attention. He is eagerly awaiting our attention to Him.

    Matthew 6:7-13, The Message "The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply."

    • i can vividly imagine that scene with your daughter 🙂

      I was listening to that passage in Matthew just this morning! 🙂 (got the audio NT set on random in my iPod…)… i love how the Message infuses the meaning into the familiar passages and makes us take a second (or third / fourth / umpteenth) look at those…

      thanks for stopping by, Dusty.

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