Eating Words

I’m like a coconut. Outward presentation is a bit tough, abrasive and scratchy. But inside there’s a tender sweetness that can be quite refreshing. Really. I do have a soft side. I’ve been working hard at thinning my husk and growing tastier fruit. My wife, Katrina, is very patient as she waits for more of my inner coconut. I’m thankful she tolerates my rough edges and clumsy attempts at romantic expression.

While courting, one way Katrina and I expressed our thoughts to each other was through letter writing. Separated by 500 miles, we exchanged many, many letters as I finished my electrical engineering degree. Some letters were short. Many long. Some light-hearted. Some tense. Most were giddy. A few expressed pain and frustration. All were tinged with longing. Each letter, no matter the content, is a treasure.

I still have every one of those letters. Katrina does too. Tucked away in old shoe boxes, they are irreplaceable pieces of our relationship. They capture and archive significant moments of growing closer. They’ve been read and re-read. Laughed and cried over. Stuck in Bibles. Pinned on walls. Carried in coat pockets. Folded and unfolded. Cherished and preserved.

When thinking about words and letters, this verse comes to mind: “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.” (Jeremiah 15:16) The metaphor of eating words speaks deeply to me. First, I love to eat. Second, I love words, and books and writing. Eating words is a common, but negative euphemism. A forced humiliation. But in Scripture, eating words has profoundly different implications. We’re asked to ingest an offering from our Creator. To take-in the gift of divine expression. A gift of words that nourishes, strengthens and satisfies – just like food. Words that express hope, joy, pain and desire. Words that capture stories of real events and real people. Words that span the past, present and the not yet. Words that are eternal. Words we must read, and re-read. Carry in coat pockets. Laugh over. Cry over. Cherish. Revere. God’s expressions of truth and love. His letter to us.

So what am I doing with God’s words? Am I eating? Do I have a fondness for words from God like I did, and do, for Katrina’s words to me? In those college days I could hardly wait to receive another letter. The mailbox was my best friend. The course of my day was set by the receipt and reading of her words. Which begs the question: Are the course of my days presently set by God’s words?

That question blind-sided me last week as I viewed a short video about the Kimyal Tribe in Indonesia. The Kimyals are a people hungry – even ravenous – for God’s Word. Until last year, the Kimyals didn’t have God’s Word in their language. The video shows how they received the first ever complete New Testament in their language. It is amazing. The Kimyals helped me realize how the ubiquity of Bibles in our culture can numb us to the potency, value and power of the Word of God.

As a family, we watched this video – over a stack of 30 Bibles we collected from around the house. We are humbled, saddened, and challenged. Most of all we are grateful for God’s words to us and the privilege we have to feed freely on it.

I am thankful for the fresh wind that was blown in my personal reverence for God’s Word via the Kimyal people. I want an ever increasing appetite for His words. I want my soul to feast on the truth and love that comes from my Creator. To treasure His words of grace and salvation. To know more of Him through what He has spoken.
Watch the video. Then ask God to grow your appetite for His words.

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