I love dictionaries! In grade school, we had a dark wooden lectern at the front of our classrooms with an enormously thick tome laying open; an invitation to the curious to come up to be educated. One teacher, her name, Mrs. Hazel Carnahan, was thrilled when one of her students asked the definition of a word. She would abandon her normal, steely-eyed, ever-disapproving, ever-intimidating scowl and light up with undisguised pleasure and invite us up to discover the answer for ourselves. It soon became our practice to simply ask if we could consult (her preferred ask) the dictionary, as, of course, in days of yore, none would dare speak aloud or rise from their desk sans permission! We fourth-grade students, in brilliant ten-year-old wisdom, surmised that Mrs. Carnahan was gruff because she had what we imagined was a wooden leg that gave her a distinctive limp-walk – not that we really knew that or would ever in a million years have inquired! Despite her curt, often dour demeanor, I loved being in her classroom and I loved her for inspiring me to investigate word meanings and origins and usages and pronunciations; something that continues these many years later.
Sometimes words are conceptual rather than material, making their meanings challenging to define succinctly. ‘Love,’ for example, has so many descriptors that one is left wondering if anyone knows the precise answer. It strikes me as humorous to see a company name using ‘Quality’ as in Quality Chocolate; to me, it seems an entire spectrum, from atrocious to excellent, is implied and maybe a word nerd (like me!) could have helped in the naming. Other words are most-easily defined by their opposite: faithfulness, for example. We know what unfaithfulness is and looks like and how it feels to experience it (or what havoc it creates in us when we are guilty). Nearly every genre of music laments the pain and devastation of an unfaithful lover. Many have lived the betrayal/deep disappointment of a relationship, whether in family or friendship or business or tragically, church, where expectations were cruelly crushed, faith was shattered, lives were upended, followed by tearing loss and grief. But God! All through Scripture, soaring expressions of adulation and facedown, speechless awe of God confirm the divine quality of His faithfulness. Narratives of total hopelessness are re-written by God’s faithful interventions, then as now! We’re instructed to be still in order to know, to be quiet in order to listen, to seek in order to find; and there’s the glowing promise, “’I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:14 Can’t wait to see y’all tomorrow at 10 AM. PD