The Naming of Things

I do not know many things for certain anymore. Knowing starts with words—speaking the right name for things. If there is anything I know for certain it is this: this world is bigger than I know and my words are small, so small.

My words wither. The life I had shrinks away. I find myself in dreamland, my body a shadow in a land of shadows. The stories I tell are a stranger’s stories.

Most days my time is filled and frantic, too frenzied to notice the tangled mess of words that slip from my mouth. But months have passed and the effect of careless words has seeped into my days like an odorless poison gas—no one notices how it kills. My words have turned sharp and harsh. They reek of falsehood.

What can I say? I am afraid. I am afraid of the way that days stretch on and on. I am afraid that I will be caught in this limbo forever, this inability to know what is hidden in me and to speak it, this persistent state of feeling off-kilter with myself and the outside world.

I am remembering words tongued with fire. Each word a discovery, unknown and unplanned but spoken from my deepest being, ringing with clarity and truth and joy and passion. Words bursting with meaning and hope. Words that spilled forth into love and action. Words of movement. Words birthed from wholeness.

So: what does it mean to be made whole and then to be battered by life again? How do you let these new wounds heal, carry them with grace, attain a new wholeness that holds these new scars? How do you cope when you lose the best part of who you are? What do you do when you discover a dragon awaking from deep sleep inside you, seething, breathing fury and fire? What do you do when words for God, (supposed) timeless truths, and old mantras go stale?

And how can you tell if all this is only God taking you farther and deeper into Himself, into His darkness, so His light can break through, new, clearer, and more wonderful than you could have imagined otherwise? Is He only trying to smash your dependency on anything but Himself? To remind you that He is, after all, the God of the present tense, and what was enough for yesterday—some word, love, or truth—will never be enough for today?

Oh I am learning humility in a hundred ways. I am learning to keep room in my heart for the unknown to come in and take residence. To accept newness from God’s hand without nostalgia for the past or fear for the future.

In the meantime, in ordinary time, in this season that can so easily feel like a passing in-between season, what I try to do is practice naming and grounding myself in the present. Even if I cannot say good or right or true or love or grace, I can say, This is the world. The real world. Here is my body, my hands, my feet. Here I am in my little octagonal bedroom, surrounded by tokens of love from friends in faraway places. Here is my smallest brother, peeking around the door with a deck of cards in his hand.

Here is a pile of dishes in the sink. A pile of laundry to be folded and put away. Mail to sort, bills to pay, forms to complete. Here I am, driving, always driving.  

Here are showers of bougainvillea blooms and pomegranate blossoms. Here is a cherry tree, shining orbs ripe and hidden in leaves; the firm flesh rolls and pops on my tongue. Here is the sunlight coming through the slats, making patterns on the kitchen counter…

This is the world, complicated and complex, simplified. Here is the ground beneath my feet. It is all I have—but it is enough.

One thought on “The Naming of Things

  1. Oh my goodness, I love this! I can totally relate, especially the part that says: “I am afraid that I will be caught in this limbo forever, this inability to know what is hidden in me and to speak it, this persistent state of feeling off-kilter with myself and the outside world.” And the part about “God taking you farther and deeper into Himself, into His darkness, so His light can break through”! Amazing! I love it!

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