I love words. They help me so much. I can delight in discussions about their meaning, quibble about them when they are used incorrectly, laugh hilariously at some turn of phrase and some second meanings that touch me somewhere deep within. They are a special language for me with certain friends. They are one of my love languages. I delight to use them to bless others, and to receive them in a similar way. And they are also a great source of hurt to me by their lack when I need them, and by their deliberate use in a negative way.
And they are one of God’s love languages to me. To all of us, of course, in His WORD, but especially to me in a variety of ways. Special words from scripture and words from songs and poems have lit up my path. Prophetic words have blown me away. However they come from God, they speak deeply within me, to His spirit alive in the depths of my being.
They especially help when life is a struggle, when I feel like there is such a gap between God’s promise to me and the reality of my life. Since that has been more of a constant than any other state in my life, they are really a lifeline to give me hope and a future. I imagine that may be truer for most people than they might like to admit. Words were all I had to give to a strange young man sitting in church this past Sunday. During communion time, I heard him say out loud “I’m not real”. As I came back to my seat after communion, I touched him on the shoulder and said “You ARE real. And Jesus is real.” He looked me in the eye and gave me the sign of peace.
Last week, as I tried to figure something out about a job others urged me to apply for, God spoke to my heart as I was waking after a troubled sleep. He said, “Make straight paths for your feet. Take only ways that are firm.” I have considered these life verses, knew they were from Proverbs, but hadn’t checked out their exact wording. When I did, I found three similar verses:
Proverbs 3:6 “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 4: 11 “I guide you in the way of wisdom, and lead you along straight paths.”
And the closest one:
Proverbs 4: 26 “Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.”
I pondered the exchange between level and straight, and then ruminated upon my preference for level in the context I struggle with now. I remembered the many lovely paths I have walked on, and how much I dislike straight ones. It is the winding roads that appeal to me, the winding staircases, the bends in the paths in the woods. Our lovely new steps down to the river wind around. From across the river they look beautiful, almost like a spiral staircase. They fit the terrain, and connect with the natural beauty they wander through. I look forward to walking up and down them because of their delightful direction and shape. They are not “straight”, but they are appropriate, and they are LEVEL. Therefore when anyone walks on them, their feet are safe, and their steps are sure, and their way is firm and solid.
In the midst of my ruminations last week I read S.D. Gordon in Streams in the Desert:
“When we learn to wait for our Lord’s lead in everything, we shall know the strength that finds its climax in an even, steady walk. Many of us are lacking in the strength we so covet. But God gives full power for every task He appoints. Waiting, holding oneself true to His lead – this is the secret of strength. “
“An even, steady walk…is the secret of strength.” Yes, certainly that was part of what God meant with the words to me to take straight paths and firm ways. He wants to keep me steadily moving in the direction which He has already set me on. He wants me to be level and steady, for steady is one of the dictionary meanings of level. And this reading helps me to recognize that I will grow stronger as I walk in this even steady way. Just as we all find that when we do our physical walking. Even if we are tired when we start out, we are refreshed and rejuvenated, strengthened in our bodies, hearts and minds, after our walks.
But when God spoke this last time He said “straight”. He misquoted His own words from scripture! In so doing He drew attention to the other source of strength – in those other verses - acknowledging Him, and trusting His lead. Of course I found that level is another meaning for straight in the dictionary. But it also first means without deviation. Even if my path curves to fit the landscape of my life, it can still not deviate from His plans for me, His way of wisdom.
And just as I can intuitively know the meanings that apply to my story as I read God’s word in Scripture and the words in the dictionary, so I can know the ways that are the firm and steady ones that follow His leading.
May it continue to be so for each of us this week. And for those of us who are waiting, may His words give us strength.