The Weight of the Word
By Anthony Casperson
One of my favorite features on YouTube is the ability to watch the video at 2x speed. I can experience twice the video in the same amount of time. The words expressed at a rapid pace. (It helps when you have many interests.)
A person, whose videos I watch so that I can learn how to perform one of my hobbies better, once expressed amazement that there are people who watch his videos at this double speed. He says this because he’s always been accused of speaking too quickly. “Why would anyone want to listen to me speak even faster?” he ponders.
Yet it’s not only at twice the normal speed that I listen to these videos. I play games while listening to them. I make and eat my meals while the words zip past. While I work on certain tasks, like drawing maps and working on my D&D campaign, I have videos running in the background.
About the only things I regularly do without ever having such videos on is researching and writing blogs and sermons, as well as worshiping God with my spiritual life. I require full cognitive functionality for these tasks.
My point in writing this isn’t to brag about my multitasking prowess, but because this past week I came across an interesting set of videos that made my brain hurt trying to listen to them at this rapid pace. And that was with doing absolutely nothing other than listening to them. On occasion, there even arose a need to back up the video to catch the words again.
The videos were recordings of a person reading sections of the works of C. S. Lewis while showing another person doodling little pictures to represent the words. Words on subjects such as morality, sexuality, and the law of human nature, which had long been written down by the Christian thinker. Even a couple were excerpts taken from Lewis’ fictional work, The Screwtape Letters.
The experience of having to take my time with these words, to not just let them flow, reminded me that not all words have equal weight. Some words are meant to capture an imagination, but don’t call the audience to do anything. Others are meant to convey options for a particular skill, but don’t really affect the person in an emotional/spiritual/psychological manner.
However, there are also words meant to spur the audience to deep and radical change. Those emitted from the author in order to provoke critical thinking in the audience that leave them changed for having an experience with the words.
It’s not that the other words are unimportant. Sometimes fluff and entertainment is exactly what a person needs in a given moment. (Perhaps to give them time to think about the deeper words they experienced earlier, but that is not all.) However, the truth remains, not all words are created equal.
The bible speaks of this difference of words as well. In what is often considered one of the most depressing works of the bible, Ecclesiastes gives us a reminder of the weight of words. At the end of the work, the author Solomon (who calls himself “the Preacher”) gives us our example.
Ecclesiastes 12:12 says that there is no end to the books that could be written. Words abound in the world. And lifetimes could be spent wearying ourselves to study each of them. (Even at 2x speed.)
The Preacher, however, preferred to seek words of delight, according to Eccl. 12:10. This word for delight being the same as the word from Solomon’s own father, King David, in Psalm 1:2 where it is said that one who delights in the law of the Lord is blessed. So, it can be seen that such words, those devoted to God, are weightier than others.
However, the subject of the words is not the only reason for weight. Ecclesiastes 12:11 says that the words of the wise are like goads. Sharpened shafts of wood or metal used to prod cattle to go the proper way. Words of weight are those that move the audience into the worship of God. They call us to act in line with God’s holiness.
The words that we experience (including those we speak and write) have a weight to them. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: “Do these words ever call us become more like God? Or have we filled our minds and mouths with fluff at the expense of delight?”
If we can honestly say that the words in our lives rarely, if ever, call us to delight in the truth of God, thus calling us to change in our hearts, attitudes, and actions, then we must be warned, like the Son of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, that the end result will yield nothing but a weariness of the flesh. The weight of the words doesn’t crush us beneath them. Rather, they produce a blessed life devoted to the truth of God.
Spend time with the words that have weight. The rest of the words have a time and a place, but if we don’t concentrate on the weightier words, then that which is meant to move us might just zip past us at double speed.