Could You Repeat That?

August 1, 2020

by Ken Jones

Communicating through protective masks is something our culture is trying to get used to. Healthcare professionals, of course, have learned to talk through masks as a part of their everyday lives. But sometimes, the challenge isn’t about just being heard. It’s about measuring the weight and value of the words to begin with.

A few months ago, I decided to challenge myself with the task of writing something creative or useful every day for 30 days in a row. A few days into my self-imposed challenge, I discovered that writing something worthwhile every day was more difficult than I imagined. And then, as if the writing wasn’t hard enough, saving the words I had written was particularly challenging. On one of the days, I lost a lot of words, and here’s what I recorded:

You don’t know.
You couldn’t know.

Three times I started.
Three times, I tried to say something worth reading.
I typed,
And read,
And ciphered words.

I promised myself I’d write every day for a month.

And, I have written something every day; I wrote yesterday, and again today.

But those words I so carefully crafted are gone, now.

I clicked the “Save” button after I spent more than an hour crafting words.
I am now bereft to report that “Save” didn’t happen.
Instead, some re-do, or do-over appeared on my screen.
No opportunity for “undo;”
Only an “I wish I hadn’t done whatever it was that I just did”
kind of thought that rained down on my parade of words.

I looked over all my laptop files.

I lost what I had written; gone, and I’ll never get it back.
Not in just that same way.
I wrestled with those words.
I pondered,
And puzzled,
And probably even pontificated a bit, with those words.
I don’t know. I didn’t get a chance to admire them,
Or even finish polishing them.

They were fine words, I think. Perhaps even beautiful.
I say “perhaps” because I couldn’t read over them, or re-think them.
They may not have been that great, now that I think about it.
No matter, now, though.
I tried to save them, but they’re gone, and I’m not gonna get ‘em back.

I ask you: What good is a “Saved” button, if it doesn’t initiate a “saved?”

As you could probably tell, my mood was greatly impacted by my inability to retrieve my words. But I wonder? Am I as grieved by my inability to rewind the words that come out of my mouth—filtered through a mask of my own making—that reflect attitudes that are not like Jesus at all?

C.S. Lewis was certainly right, when he wrote in ‘Till We Have Faces:

“Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it,
nothing more or less or other than what you really mean;
that’s the whole art and joy of words.”

We all want to enjoy the joy of words. “Saved” words are redemptive and restorative to others, and bring peace and, yes, joy. But unjoyful words are the challenge. Even through some protective mask, once the words we speak are gone…they’re gone. They stumble out of our mouths like feathers out of a pillow, and no amount of wishing we could access some “saved” button…is gonna bring ‘em back.

“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2, NKJV).

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