Certain Words Are Edible; They Nourish

December 21, 2012

I remember the first time I heard the date December 21, 2012. I was in my tenth grade world history class. Mr. __________ was the teacher. He was also the soccer coach, both men’s and women’s. He was a man of short stature, red hair, and a red face. Sometimes he would reduce girl soccer players to tears by berating their mistakes during games. He’d yell at them across the field in front of their parents and fans. I didn’t prefer him as a person, but he was a good teacher. He may have been the best teacher I ever had.

One day in his class, while we were learning about the Mayan civilization, he put in a video. Before he pushed play he gave us a disclaimer, “There’s a part about the end of the world, but don’t let it scare you.” It did kind of scare me, though. The narrator’s tone, and the thunder-drumming music didn’t help. Since then, today’s date has always been in the back of my mind. I was never worried, but the thought was always there, “What if?” It was a fun puzzle.

I spent several hours of this faux  apocalypse reading the first 96 pages of Stephen King’s On Writing. I like it. It’s mostly autobiography with tidbits of writing advice. None of the advice is explicit; it’s hidden in the narrative. I think that’s why I like it so much.

He recalls working with his first editor at a small newspaper during high school. It was his first experience having his work marked up with editorial corrections. King didn’t find the meeting disheartening, rather it was a source of revelation for him. He remembers his editor making the remark, “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

Later, King wrote about meeting his wife, Tabitha, in a poetry workshop at college. She read a poem she had written, and it got his attention. He reproduced the poem in the book. I didn’t understand most of it (that’s my fault not hers), but one line stood out to me.

“Certain words are edible; they nourish.”

I know I didn’t understand it the way she meant it, but I was reminded how people in the Bible were able to eat scripture. Ezekiel ate a scroll and it allowed him to prophesy. The Apostle John also ate a small scroll. It tasted sweet, like honey, but it gave him nausea. It also gave him the ability to prophesy, to speak the word of God. Deuteronomy recalls the Israelites’ hunger in the wilderness as they migrated to the Promised Land. God fed them with manna in order to teach them “that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” These same words nourished Jesus during his 40 days of fasting and testing in the wilderness.

 “Certain words are edible; they nourish.”

During another period of Jesus’ life, his disciples urged Jesus to eat something, but he answered them by saying, “I have food that you know nothing about.” This confused the disciples, so Jesus went on to explain, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

Certain words are edible. They’re enough. Maybe not enough to raise your blood sugar and keep your stomach from aching, but there’s another side of people that needs to be fed. I think this part can only be fed by words and ideas. Good words. True words. Whether they’re spoken by God or by someone meaningful to us, this part of us needs to hear good words. A part of us will starve without them.

Discouraging words have a poisonous effect, as any of the girls who played soccer for my history teacher will tell you.

Good words pass through people, nourishing them, without breaking down or decomposing. They stay in tact. They can be passed along. Perhaps the process of nutrition isn’t complete until someone does pass the words along, or until the words digest into acts of kindness, which are also passed to another.

So, what do you think? Leave a comment

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