Unbound: Thoughts on The Power of Written Words to Speak over Time

Have you ever come across something in a book written years ago and connected with it? I recently experienced this when I skimmed through The Journals of Jim Elliot. On page 364, Jim wrote,

“Overnight on the hook off San José, Guatemala…If I ever travel here I must make sure to see Antigua, the third largest city, thrice destroyed by the volcán ‘fire and water.’ It is Spanish colonial….” [1]

That paragraph caught my eye because I know that place. While, I think Jim Elliot never did get to Antigua, Guatemala, knowing that he was so close and wanted to go there gave me a connection to the man who wrote these words more than half a century ago.

That’s the beauty of books, isn’t it? They – especially the great ones – are unbound by the shackles of time. Long after mouths are voiceless, words written may still touch the lives of thousands or hundreds of thousands or even millions. 

On the one hand, that’s a huge blessing. We can reap such encouragement from reading the wise words of those who have gone before us, who faced what we face, who learned the lessons and are willing to help us escape needless pain, who recorded the faithfulness of God and so remind us that He was and is still working. Much of The Journals of Jim Elliot could be described by those statements.

On the other hand, the reality of this power of written words could give us pause before we pen our thoughts. Of course, it’s fine to ink ideas that are not meant to be shared, but what if your journal were unbound to the reading world like Jim’s? What would the words you – or I – wrote in our reflections say? If someone read them, to what (or whom) would they say you or I was most connected? And to what/whom are we linking our readers? 

[1] The Journals of Jim Elliotedited by Elisabeth Elliot, (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1978), 364. 

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