Borrowed Words

Marcia Lee Laycock won the Best New Canadian Christian Author award in 2006 for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Her poem, Dying to Live has been short-listed in this year’s Word Guild contest. Winner will be announced in June at the Awards Gala in Mississauga Ontario, Canada.

“When you were out in the workforce, where did your paycheck come from?”
I frowned at the teacher and immediately thought of my previous employer. As a first year student in Bible College, and a brand new Christian, I thought it was a ridiculous question, not the stuff to stimulate deep spiritual thought.
The professor gave us a moment, then said, “If you’re thinking of an employer, you’re wrong. Your paychecks came from God and they belong to God.”

I was stunned. Of course he was absolutely right. That point marked a dramatic shift in how I thought about everything I considered “mine.”

Too often I think of the words I tap out on my computer as mine, especially when I have worked hard for them, when I’ve re-written and edited and re-edited until I’m absolutely certain it’s right. I claim it for my own. But it all belongs to God – every word.

There is a wonderful old hymn about Christ’s suffering and death, called O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. It is often sung during the Easter season, and I’ve often been moved by it, but singing it once in the company of a group of writers gave the last verse new meaning for me, especially these words – “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend, for this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?”

When I sang those words the reality of God’s gift to us amazed me. Our very language is borrowed from God! He gave it to us that we might use it to glorify Him. As I sang the words of that hymn, it struck me again, what an awesome responsibility we have as the stewards of language and of words. We are the borrowers, the users, but not the owners.

If we are true to that stewardship, we must acknowledge the struggle of life and of faith by using words we have struggled with, to convey it. I have become aware of this in my own writing in the past while, especially in my poetry. I’ve always put poetry in a ‘second class citizen’ category. Poetry has been something I’ve done when the mood strikes me, something I did not take very seriously. But God has impressed on me that I have no right to relegate any words to a second class level. They are God’s gift. I am in grave error if I treat them as anything less. We borrow language, words, images, the stuff of writing. It is up to us to acknowledge the original owner, to offer back to Him what we have done with what we have borrowed, and glorify the One who spoke the first word into existence.

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” 1Corinthians 4:2