What’s in a word?

Have you noticed words become trendy in our vocabulary, sometimes to the point that personally, I go out of my way not to use them. For example, “navigate” is such a great word. Yet several years back so many people were navigating around so many different types of situations, that I forced myself to think of other ways to express this thought – “work through”, “deal with”, “handle”. Granted, at the time, none of those alternatives seemed as good a choice on the merits. Yet I found myself relieved to have found a way to avoid saying the overly popularized word “navigate”.

Similarly, the latest additions to my list of words I’m trying to avoid include “pivot”, “narrative” and “conversation around”. Unfortunately, for this week’s message I couldn’t think of a better word than the latter to make the point, so here goes . . .

In our life experiences we unavoidably, and thankfully, become part of the lives of those around us. The most intimate of these interactions often relate to times with close friends and family. Depending on the circumstances, we can find ourselves inextricably part of (here it is) the narrative of a loved one. We may find ourselves a major player, a requested observer, or an advisor in the life journey of another. Sometimes the story becomes even more complicated when the individuals involved know each other, or further, are part of each other’s story, and you are part of all of their . . . narratives.

I recently was on a jog, my time with HaShem, and “coincidentally” encountered in that short time three people in my life who are currently in challenging places personally and/or relationally with each other. On this day they were not together, but rather, I ran into them at different times on my route so they never even saw each other. For some time now, I have been deeply part of each of their lives. During the times when I would be deep in the trenches discussing issues with them individually, sometimes it would seem there were no good answers for resolving some of the situations. In talking with them my loved ones’ lives were seemingly defined by their all consuming problems and misperceptions involving themselves and others in their lives.

And yet, here they were individually – one walking a dog, another taking a walk alone, the third taking a jog – putting in perspective for me the wholeness of their lives beyond the focus of their self expressions of their situations, their “narratives”. As I passed each on his or her way, rather than just the views skewed through so much conversation, I could see the bigger pictures, the more complete realities of their lives, so grand and yet so intricate that they are more like voluminous expositions rather than simple linear tales.

From that place of peace with HaShem, as I was able to see each of them outside of the usual context, I was reminded of the infinite possibilities we have been given in life for creating a reality that springs from a place of peace and wellness. Of course we need to process issues and problems, and having others to do so with us is critically important. Yet of equal, perhaps more importance, is to remember to center ourselves through the quiet times, often outdoors, those being the times we can feel closest to HaShem as we experience the healing beauty of His created universe, His quiet omnipresence.

As I grow my list of overused words to avoid, I plan to expand my dislike of the word “narrative” to recognize that not only is it used too often, but it also defines us inappropriately by one simple, self limiting word. A story may have a narrative, but people don’t. The plot line of each of our lives is not so easily summarized. How we interact with each other can create drama, or joy, or sadness, or anger. Joining another’s path to help process life’s experiences has great value. Yet the time we spend alone, with our Abba, creates experiences that can’t be summarized in words, let alone a word – healing, loving, awe-inspiring, intimate, comforting, overwhelming, intricate, perfectly timed, mysterious, beyond understanding. Endless words are needed.

No sound bites for these lives we have been given! Live deeply in Him.

Shabbat shalom.

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