A few weeks ago I was given a vintage typewriter as a gift. It’s been something that I’ve wanted for quite a while and to finally have it sitting so nice and pretty on my desk is a sight that just never gets old. I love the idea of how much history might be buried beneath its keys. When I first sat down at it, I just stopped and let my mind wander to imagine the possible life or lives that— just like me— sat down before it with eager expectations. Maybe it was a young woman who wrote her heart out to the man she loved. Maybe it was a businessman who typed up important letters to clients. Maybe it was a dreamer who saved up their money to buy it with the hope of becoming a writer. No matter who it was, we have one thing in common; we long to communicate.
Since using it, I have been reminded of something that seems to have been lost in life. If you’re not familiar with a typewriter, then you should know one thing first; there’s no ‘delete’ button. More than that, there’s no autocorrect. There’s nothing that lets you erase a mistake and begin again from where you started. There isn’t a button that gives you other options. Many scratched out typos and crumpled up drafts later, I finally learned this lesson. If there is one thing this beloved clunk of machinery has helped me to remember (in the most frustrating of ways) it’s that I’ve got to choose my words thoughtfully. Once that key lever goes up and that ink hits the page, it’s there, whether you wanted it to be or not. And this got me thinking… In our over-opinionated, social-media obsessed, and divisive-prone culture, why don’t we choose our words more carefully?
Something that I admire about my generation is how passionate we are. No matter who I come across, I have yet to meet a single millennial whose heart doesn’t burn for something. We’re a generation that has such a fiery desire to stand out and to stand up for the things we believe in, regardless if our opinions clash or offend. It’s both a blessing and curse. But so many of us often find that we get tired of actually listening to each other. We snap at one another in comment sections. We intentionally degrade one another with snide retorts and assumption-driven judgements. And we don’t know when to stop. In the end, we block or unfollow the person we were quarreling with altogether with the confidence of knowing that we won’t be inconvenienced by their opinions again— that is to say, if we even knew them prior to that at all. The problem? That power that we have from our burning and passionate hearts is diluted when we consciously separate ourselves from one another with hateful rhetoric.
Solomon, in Proverbs 18:21, gives us some insight; “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit— you choose.” (MSG)
Our words build worlds. They built the world we grew up in, they are building the world we live in, and they build the world our children will grow up in. And as thankful and proud as I may be to be a part of a generation that is so zealous, willing, and able to say the words we want, I am disheartened that we have lost sight of which words are cultivating life and growing fruit and which ones are spewing death and poisoning us. The potential of our generation lies not in having hearts that burn for something more, but that we now have the platforms (i.e. social media) to spread the fire. However, sometimes we venture so close to the flames that we can’t even see that our fires are destroying instead of bringing warmth and light.
I’ve heard before that “at the typewriter you find out who you are.” As compared to our easy “erase and repeat” lifestyle of today, at the typewriter you must chose the words that mean the most to you, and you must choose them wisely.
You have to quiet yourself and decide whether you will bombastically tap out whatever you want without thinking or whether, with a reflective spirit, humbled heart, and discerning mind, you will choose your words with wisdom and with guidance from The One who perfected that quiet, humble, and kingdom minded way of living when He walked on earth.
It’s my prayer and my wish that for 2017, we would learn to funnel our passions and sift our words; only leaving room for what is life-giving and fruit-bearing. This way, instead of being big talkers, we will become big listeners. We will bridge the gap we’ve created between one another, so that after we’re gone, some new, young dreamer can sit down at the same typewriter with plenty of eager expectations and can continue to refine, in their lifetime, the world we aimed to ameliorate with our words.
Walk through today, tomorrow, the next day, and all the days that follow with the knowledge that your words create worlds. It’s just that some words create different worlds than others. You get to choose.