What words shall we choose to tell our stories? As our team prepares to make our way to Rwanda and Kenya, we’ll be spending a good portion of the next 45 days thinking about words.
In our everyday lives, the grand majority of our words flow easily. We don’t really have to think about what we say. We open our mouths and thoughts flow. Admittedly, many of us have times when it would have been better if the flow had been slowed to a trickle. Then, perhaps, we could think a bit about what we were about to say and the effect our words might have.
Last Saturday, as Allison and I were discussing our topic for the training, “Spiritual Insights,” we were looking at some lessons I had put together for other gatherings. As I told her about one particular lesson, I was feeling a little proud about just how good it was. As I made point after point, I felt a knot come up in my stomach. This wasn’t going to work for our audience in Rwanda. These words were all wrong. Finally, I stopped talking. And fortunately, Allison began sharing. As she expressed things from her heart, I could tell that these words would connect.
As we’ve worked in the last few days to commit words to paper for the training manual that will be given to the participants, I think I’ve used the “delete” key more than usual. Thinking about the right words. Searching for the right words. Writing the right words.
While some of our audience will understand our English, many will be listening in their native tongue through an interpreter. To be effective, we must trust that the words from our mouths carry enough meaning — enough heart — that they speak in any language and take shape in proper form through the massaging and molding of translation and culture.
I can’t speak for the whole team, but that frightens me a little. Being able to communicate fully and completely brings a certain energy to a relationship. Those who communicate well have a power that gives them some control. But on this trip, much of what I communicate will be subject to the power of others to listen and to transform my words into something meaningful.
While that is a little scary, it also is empowering. I’ll do my best to choose my words. Yet, there is a greater plane of understanding that’s beyond my ability. It happens when people come together to listen and to wrestle with the thoughts of others and seek to understand them as fellow travelers in this life’s journey. Our team will have a front row seat to see that happening.
Words simply can’t express.