I agree with the social critics who have said that those of us in America live in a culture that devalues the word. It's not that we have lost all sense of what words mean to us, rather it is that we have allowed the visual image to supplant the word as the primary way we find expression.
If it is true that communication creates our interpretation of reality, then the amount of images we take in daily plays a tremendous role with how we perceive our lives. Basically, images shape us more than we realize. And as we are moving, as a culture, to a more image-saturated culture through the mediums of cell-phones, television, and computers, we are losing our ability to communicate through the word.
Words requires our minds and imaginations to form a picture from within, while an image requires no imagination to understand. Both words and images are incredibly powerful forms of communication, but we've let images carry us too far and have thus become word-weary and word-wimpy people.
Some examples, you ask. Certainly. How about our ability to listen to speeches, or in a context that hits closer to home, how about our ability to listen to sermons? It's one thing for a 5 year-old to get fidgety after 10 minutes, but it's another thing altogether when the entire congregation can't make it past 15 minutes. Or what about our ability to sit and focus on reading a book? I often find it extremely difficult to focus for the first 20 or 30 minutes I sit down to read, because my mind has been traveling so fast and needs time to acclimate to a slower pace.
If our imaginations were athletes, they'd be out-of-shape. But not dead. Not dead. We still have the ability to recapture a truer sense of imagination even though we are surrounded by a culture that is doing everything it can to force-feed us pre-processed images. We can do our best to re-acclimate ourselves to the written word, tearing ourselves away from the televisions, computers, and cell-phones in our lives that keep us away from face-to-face interaction. We can do our best to re-learn the importance of reading good books, the kind that stimulate us to think and imagine the world in different ways.
And ultimately we can re-learn the significance of the word in our lives by digging into the Scriptures and communicating with God through prayer. By reading His Word to us and learning to communicate with him through prayer we will be enrolling ourselves in the greatest class of all time, where the teacher is God himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit. In this classroom we will learn how to be shaped and moved by the Living Word, and we will see the beauty of worshipping through the spoken and sung word.
God is at the center of this endeavor as Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. By focusing in on, and communing with the Trinity, we will come to the fullest understanding possible of the power of the word for our lives. The Scriptures are our playground in all of this--the best possible place for our imaginations to reside.
Let the word come alive!