My friend, Susan, lives in a lovely home in Glouchester County, Virginia. In the days before cars had navigation systems, a visit to Green Mansion by someone who had never been there required rather detailed driving instructions. Before my first visit, I remember listening to Susan’s beautiful Southern accent as she said: “Exit the interstate and turn right. Go South to North and turn at the white Black church.”
Clear as mud as my Dad used to say.
Actually, the directions were perfect—if you knew the territory. North was the village nearest her home, and there were two churches at the crossroads decision point…one white and one brick. The white church had a black congregation….and turning there led to a wonderful afternoon of Earl Gray tea and lemon scones on the Chesapeake Bay. Heaven only knows where turning by the brick church would have taken me.
Susan’s directions came to mind yesterday as I was reading my devotions. Ann Weems’ beautiful book From Advent’s Allelluia to Easter’s Morning Light is filled with poetry that is thought provoking not only because of its message, but because it requires knowledge of the territory you are covering. It was challenging.
Oh, I eventually figured things out, but sometimes the going was slow. “Miriam. Now who is Miriam again? Let’s see. Oh, yeah…she was the sister of Moses. Should have remembered that faster. “ It stopped me in my tracks for a minute and I had to reread the devotion to put Miriam in perspective.
“Deborah. Okay, give me a minute….wasn’t she ….wait, give me another minute…I know. Nope, that’s not her. I’ll look it up.” Frantic thumbing through my concordance. “A prophetess. Oh, of course! How could I not remember that?” But by now, I’ve forgotten why I needed to know about Deborah and had to go back and read the devotion again.
Do you see a pattern? When we’re writing…which is what Pat, Michelle and I are trying to do…we need to remember that even though something is PERFECTLY clear to us, our reader can be stopped in her tracks if we haven’t made things perfectly clear to her. We have to remember never to assume our reader knows what we mean. Always make sure we say what we mean in the clearest, cleanest language possible. No muddy bredkrums to scatter around.
And in this wonderful territory we are exploring, it is imperative to remember that none of this is about us. It is, ultimately, about Him. As Ann Weems says “It’s not about our accomplishments, it’s about His word and our faith.” I like that.