The End of Words

Quaker theologian Isaac Penington once wrote:

And the end of words is to bring [humanity] to the knowledge of things beyond what words can utter. So, learn of the Lord to make a right use of the Scriptures: which is by esteeming them in their right place, and prizing that above them which is above them.

This is one of the more powerful insights of the Quaker tradition. Our practice and worship are meant to bring us into the reality that lies beyond spoken word. Words can help in this process, they can be our guides, and can help frame what it is that we hear, but they are not the end in this process, only the means. And words can fall far short of the mystery of God as well. Words can harm, restrict, and dupe. Words can create new worlds both false and true. When we begin to explain, we can direct and we can also misguide. But to meet Christ, through however or whomever, is to begin to move beyond our mere utterings and encounter the mystery of God. God is within our words, as God is within our world. But God is also beyond them, and outside them.