Our theme for February is actually a challenge: write a piece without using personal pronouns (I, we, me, etc.).

Go ahead, pick each sentence apart like taking petals from a flower, but you must know that once those petals float into the air they can never return to you. Not naturally, anyways.

You say them aloud and see what they do, whether they even sound like words. They might sound like words, or they might sound like a mouth full of pea soup trying to blow air. Or they might sound like an axe grabbing onto wood, grooved so deep that it won’t release. Or they might sound like nothing, and as soon as you say them, they’re gone and no one has heard a single word. They might not make a sound. They might be heard, but they might not make a sound, a difference.

Keep talking. Eventually, you assume, something will make sense. Pieces and parts of pieces will be put together, and the sense-making that has happened in your head will become public knowledge. Those listening will share your thoughts. They will borrow your paradigms (which were given to you) and understand your motivations. They will make eye contact and nod along. They will hear that mixture of air and muscle movement in your mouth that some call words and absorb them. Soak them in. Invite them into their world and let them bounce around for a while, colliding with other things and sparking a sense of wonder. Life will be real to them. God will be real to them.

But, crap, there’s a yawn. And there’s a conversation. About what? About you? About what you have said? What have you said? There is that feeling again: a very clear feeling of flower petals floating to the ground but never landing. The ground is there and you can see it, but the petals hover over the ground and never make contact and then a wind comes and carries them away.

“Just reach out and grab one!” you yell at them in your head. But just as you think that, something ridiculous slips into your mind, and it’s this: you are still talking. More petals are being thrown into the air, more words that are hopefully signifying something are escaping out of you. And you reach out to grab them, to take them back in and inspect them and make sure they are right. Too late. They have caught onto the wind and you are helpless. They have been “said.”

You realize this and cracks of lightning shatter your consciousness. No. No. No. I’ve said them. Made them and said them and then put them out there. For a second, you pause and look down at them again—those words you have pieced together—and still, you are speaking out loud. This will not do. This cannot last. And the inside of you begins to sweat and feel hot. Your feet twist unnaturally, or at least you feel they do. Still, you are forming words with your mouth and putting them into the world. Are they right or true or faithful? Who does this?

“God,” you hope, “God.” Out loud and in secret, your deepest fear—it might be you—crawls out through your skin and makes you shiver. “God,” you hope, “God.”

And then it’s over and done. This time. At that moment exactly, something in you wants to scream with joy and frustration and fear all at once. Instead, you shake hands.

Brad Zwiers

Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.

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