March 1, 2012
As writers we sometimes forget that the most powerful way to say something is by using the fewest words. Concise writing doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice elegance. Rather, in the right setting a couple of well-chosen words can produce great power.
When I was a child, I often watched my father reading as he sat in his recliner at the end of a long day. He might look at the newspaper for a little while, but invariably he turned to his favorite book, the King James Bible.
Daddy was a self-taught Bible scholar, who read the Christian scriptures front to back many times, making notes in the margin as he went.
I once asked him what his favorite verse was, and he replied, “Jesus wept.” This puzzled me because the Bible to me appeared an endless tome of begats, a chronicle of long-forgotten battles, a compendium of ancient codes. When he picked that simple two-word verse from the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, he confounded me.
It wasn’t until much later in my life that I realized the pathos in that scripture, how it showed us something about Jesus that all the sermons I have ever heard couldn’t touch. “Jesus wept” conveys the heart ache and psychological inner workings of the man Jesus as no long-winded speech can. What goes unsaid, what is left to our imaginations about that scene at the grave of Jesus’ friend Lazarus, is the precious pearl of the Gospel of John.
So, it was an amazing thing to me yesterday when I received via email a Lenten Meditation from my friend Danny Potts, a neurologist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Danny and his wife, Ellen Woodward Potts, work with people with dementia. They are compassionate and caring people who have seen their fair share of heart break and come out on the other side changed, but not embittered, by it.
I asked Danny if I could share his beautiful words in a blog, and he graciously consented. Here they are:
(John 11: 1-44)
I see him…
dancing on the Holy Hills.
he sings the soul song,
a ballad with the meter of His heart.
He is whole,
and the wholeness of him
prays and sings
and dances on the Hills,
with mansions and palaces in view.
And I feel the Peace;
surpassing, enwrapping all that is, eternally.
I feel it with him, in unity complete;
My Father at the joining point of souls,
the place where we are knit,
drawn together in the Truth, in the Life
that is All in All forever.
This is what I left.
This is why I came:
my brothers’, sisters’ union
with the Father’s heart.
The linking of all
in Love Divine.
So why must it be?
why must he be wrapped again
in rags that wreak of death?
Not My will, but Thine.
for glory given up.
Lazarus, come forth!
Magnificent, isn’t it? A meditation inspired by those two simple words, “Jesus wept.” Now that I have seen Danny’s response to those words, I have gained a deeper appreciation of why my father made his selection.
So, fellow writers, the challenge for us is to attempt to do likewise, to convey what is deepest in our hearts, not by a flood of words, but by a drop or two sprinkled with the greatest of care.
Thanks, Danny, for this beautiful example of human expression in its purist form.