(Note: With this post I’m getting back to my previous string of posts about WORDS. Just two more to go!)
At last, we come to the reason for which I first began talking about the importance of words and language: Feelings. Certainly it is important (as I’ve discussed in previous posts) that we look “out” at the world and shape what we see with our words. But it is just as important that every person turn his attention inwards to bring shape to the shimmering chaos that dwells within himself.
One can see nothing in this world if he does not first see himself. John Calvin (famous theologian from Reformation times) said, famously: “Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God. Our wisdom, insofar as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.”
And Jesus himself touted the value of taking an inward look at ourselves: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Mt7:3). Calvin’s quote shows us that a healthy relationship with God is impossible apart from self-knowledge. Jesus illustrates that a healthy relationship with people is impossible without self-knowledge.
If you want to take a hip-hop sidetrack, check out this great song by Black Star about “Knowledge Of Self”: “Life without knowledge is death in disguise.”
Many prefer to focus on helping others rather than dealing first with the chaos within themselves. I think such intentions are noble, but if this is how you have chosen to live, I ask you: Is your preference for helping others driven entirely by compassion? Or is it driven partly by a fear of your own inner chaos?
The truth is, if you have not “named” and dealt with the chaos inside of yourself, you will always be hindered when you encounter the same type of chaos in others. As Jesus says, “If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Mt. 15:14). The gospel makes it clear that we ourselves must come to the well and drink before we can help others who are thirsty.
I have said before that the place in your life where you lose the ability to articulate what is happening is the frontier between light and darkness in your world. This place – usually a place deep inside – is the “well” from which you have not yet learned to drink; the shimmering chaos inside of you that remains unnamed.
So when you experience an emotion, it is not always enough to passively let the feeling roam around inside of you. Articulation is often called for: To find words and images that describe and resonate with the unique shape of the emotions that you are feeling.
And so, we turn to the Mouk tribe. Remember them? This series of posts has been called, “Lessons From Expert Feelers”, and they provide a fine example in the area of articulation. When the tribe came to understand the gospel, they stood up, one after another, giving impassioned testimony (articulation) to their belief. Among other things, the whole crowd repeatedly shouts, “Eetaow!!!”, a joyful expression in their language meaning, “It’s true! It’s good!” (Even the rooster in the background freaked out a little.)
This word, “Eetaow!”, captured the Mouk’s response to the gospel so perfectly that it became the title of this incredible film. And though I first saw it about eight years ago, to this day, that one word calls to mind vivid images of the Mouk people leaping up and down for joy at the beauty of the gospel. This articulation gave shape to the Mouk peoples’ joy and placed it into the world in such a way that it not only led to their own salvation as they joyfully accepted the good news, but also changed the lives of thousands of others who have since heard their story. Wow!
Isn’t articulation awesome?!? Isn’t the expression of emotions awesome?!?