Measuring My Days

March 2007
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“In the beginning was the Word, “ John writes, and perhaps part of what that means is that until there is a word, there can be no beginning…. life itself is a kind of traveling, of seeing the sights.  And the more sights you see, the more feelings and thoughts those sights call up in you, the more alive you become to what is going on in the world both around you and inside you, then the more profoundly you need to put a word to it.   And beyond that there is something else which it seems to me lies very close to the heart of the matter, and that is that in some important sense the thing you are seeing or feeling doesn’t even fully exist for you until you have given a word to it….for whatever it’s worth, it seems to me that language originates ultimately from humanity’s profound sense of inner solitude and isolation out of which words rise up as expressions of profoundest need, which is the need for community, the need to know and be known, the need to share our lives with one another. 

Frederick Buechner in A Room Called Remember


Now and then I’m given to pondering why the need to record my thoughts in these journals.  Reading Buechner’s essay about The Speaking and Writing of Words gave me some insight into this compelling need.  This lifetime habit has been somewhat condensed into three books, all of which, looking back, still seem merely sophomoric sketches.  The truth is that until now I have simply lacked the vocabulary to express thoughts so deeply felt…or more simply put -- to express the inexpressible.  Here and there are pages with some clarity, but on the whole they say little of all that I have seen and felt.  In my reveries, I relive my life’s work and travels and realize how blessed I have been to see so much of our world, to meet so many people of so many differing cultures, and to find that life has confronted me, as one dear friend, Elaine Bean, would put it, “like a supermarket” of so many opportunities and interests.  Recently, I learned that Elaine had passed away on Christmas day and I thought of her securely arriving in heaven and being  “confronted” there with all the gifts promised in the Word. 

            Job in poetic lines shares wisdom emanating from a life richly lived in the aftermath of struggles few men have been called upon to endure:  [From the New Geneva Study Bible, Job 12:7-10]

            But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you

            And the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

            Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you;

            And the fish of the sea will explain to you.

            Who among all these does not know

            That the hand of the Lord has done this,

            In whose hand is the life of every living thing,

            And the breath of all mankind?”

Oswald Chambers, in his enduring classic My Utmost for His Highest, may well have taken his inspiration from Job:

“If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in nature and will realize that {nature] is holy and sacred.  We will see God reaching out to us in every wind that blows, every sunrise and sunset, every cloud in the sky, every flower that blooms, and every leaf that fades….When you have thoughts and ideas that are worthy of credit to God, learn to compare and associate them with all that happens in nature  -- the rising and the setting of the sun, the shining of the moon and the stars, and the changing of the seasons.”  



            That I have not been able to find words to express all I’ve seen and felt is not a lament.    With gratitude, I have the deep satisfaction of knowing that I shall have all eternity to examine the glory of God’s creation, to edit all my manuscripts and to write a proper autobiography.