Human Words

I knew a blind man whom a surgeon helped to see.
The doctor never had a lover such as he.
It is in such a way that singers love composers.

–Calvin Miller
The Singer

I could say nearly the same thing about certain writers. Or, at least what they’ve written.

Being a Believer I feel a certain sense of… awkwardness? tentativeness? when I find that I quote human writers as quickly as I quote scripture.

Anyone who pokes around this blog very long knows I enjoy Story, and frequently interpret my experience through that prism.

As I’m sure I’ve said before, I see folktales as the ultimate distillation of human nature– the good and the bad– and am quite willing to use them as examples to make a point.

In Christian circles, however, this seems to be an iffy choice.

Once the topic of a wife’s influence came up, and the analogy of kings and queens. I eagerly added to the conversation that the image of a queen interceding with the king is a common theme in folklore. An older Christian woman seemed bothered by my choice of example.

“But where do you see that in Scripture?” she asked.

“Esther!” I replied after a blink, not sure if she was challenging me or just quizzing me.

I have a memory that seems wired for remembering quotes (or at least their essence) and turns of phrase. I frequently find myself using those words from other people– other writers– when attempting to best express myself.

Sometimes I remember the queen exchange, and I feel like I’m not supposed to be so attached to human words, Scripture being our only/ultimate authority and all that.

But then I figure, I’m human, and no one is expecting my words to be the oracles of God. Why should anyone assume I think another human’s words are?

7 thoughts on “Human Words

  1. yeah, folks get all freaked out. are you familiar with the John and Stasi Eldredge books? they like quoting movies and books, like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, makes a lot of christians crazy. i kind of like it, as i know what they are trying to do: bring the discussion on a level of where the nonbeliever lives. people really need to calm down about that kind of stuff, i think.


  2. Thanks for your comment on my blog and I’m delighted to find yours! I love this post, particularly. Jesus Himself used stories to make points. We just refer to them as “Parables” and not “quotes” or “phrases.” The best stories teach you something and hold moral value. Anyway…preaching to the choir. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I agree that there’s a danger in elevating the words of man above others, but I think it’s God who imparted power to words in the first place. And wasn’t Jesus all about story? I know what you mean though, when you dare to think just a little outside the box and it’s met with that questioning look.

  4. It bothers me when people dismiss every kind of writing except for the Bible as being important enough to quote–like the woman who questioned you. Yes the Bible is supposed to be our ultimate authority, but if we cannot refer to other writers, we’re saying that God no longer inspires people to write things that can be used for edification, teaching, example, etc. Look at Max Lucado or Kay Arthur . . . I refer to their writings often. And in working for the book division of Guideposts, I’m constantly reading things written by “human writers” that have spoken to me more deeply than certain passages of scripture. There have also been works of fiction that have had a profound influence on the way I view the world . . . even though it seems silly to say that a historical romance or a classic of British literature could have that kind of impact on my life.

    Don’t let others make you feel bad for finding inspiration wherever God may lead you to it. He is still working in this world, and he is still inspiring writers to write words that will touch people’s lives for generations to come. Keeping our minds open to find where God might be working, instead of closing down any other avenue but the Bible for him to speak to us, is one of the reasons he gave us imaginations. Henry Blackaby’s *Experiencing God* study talks about this a little bit. But one of the best sources is a book of collected essays about Christianity and writing/art: *The Christian Imagination* edited by Leland Ryken. And if I had it here in front of me, I wouldn’t mind at all quoting from it. :-)

  5. Thanks everyone who responded. You did so well framing my original thoughts.

    I think what it comes down to, for me, is, Since I’m human and you (as in, the broad “you” whether or not “you” agree with my premise) listen to what I say, and allow it to have value and meaning, why should another human’s words have less value?

    As many of you already know I am *really* into precision in words. If someone else has already taken the time and thought to frame it properly, why re-pave the road? (And as my journalism background won’t let me pretend anything not is original, they all have to be quotes…)

  6. Pingback: Untangling Tales » People don’t understand fairy tales anymore

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