Not All Words Are Created Equal

Twice in the last few weeks something happened that got me thinking about how very careful we need to be when revising, either our own work or someone else’s. First, during a worship team practice, the leader changed the words of a song from “You give and take away,” referring to God, to “You give me all I need.” When I asked why she’d changed the words, she remarked that she didn’t like the idea that God takes anything away. When I pointed out that the words are from Scripture, she just shrugged and said she liked it her way better.

This may not seem like a big deal, but for me, it was. Because her way denied a reality of God’s authority and power. Not only that, but the song is about proclaiming God’s name as blessed, regardless of what happens in our lives, good or bad. And the leader’s “minor” change took away the power of saying, “Lord, I will bless Your name, even when You take away things I want or love.” The song is about recognizing that God is God, and we are His followers. Her change made it a song that says, basically, I’ll bless you because you give me what I need. Entirely different.

Then, last week, while visiting a different church, we sang the wonderful hymn, Blessed Assurance. But when we came to the line, “…perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blessed,” the words on the screen were “…perfect obedience,” not “perfect submission.” I sang the words on the screen, but it troubled me. When I sat down, I tried to figure out why. Submission and obedience are certainly both a part of the Christian life. But the more I thought about it, the more I understood. Obedience and submission are NOT synonyms. Submission, as used in this hymn, refers to the willful choice to accept God as king and master. You surrender “kingship” over your life and submit to God’s authority. And, as the hymn says, you can rest in Him and His authority. But obedience is simply following orders, which you can do without submitting to someone’s authority.

There’s an old joke about a little boy who kept standing up in the back seat of the car. His mother told him over and over to sit down, and he wouldn’t. Not until she barked, “SIT DOWN!” did he plop his fanny down on the seat. But he sat there with his arms crossed and his bottom lip sticking out, until he finally muttered, “I may be sitting on the outside, but I’m standing on the inside.” He obeyed, but he was far from submission.

So next time you settle in for revisions, whether on your own work or on someone else’s, think hard before changing key words or phrases. And should you decide to do so, be careful to choose words and phrases that say what you really mean to say. Because writing about truth and God and faith demands that kind of care.


Leave a Comment

The Power of a Single Word

According to various sources there are about one million words in the English language. Approximately 750,000 of them are technical or scientific. That leaves us with 250,000 words with which to communicate. But the Oxford English Dictionary Unabridged has only 170,000 words in it. And I doubt any of us …

Read More

The How-To of Legacy

Wonderful thoughts last week.  Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, honesty, and wisdom. Just one of the many reasons I so admire you folks. So here are my thoughts on this topic. As Connie Almony wrote, it’s not about the big things we do, it’s the small, everyday things. …

Read More

The Accidental Theologian

I’m stepping far outside my theological pay grade today so you will need to test and weigh the words of this post. After forty years of knowing Jesus, I find myself challenging my assumptions about many things on a regular basis, attempting to see myself as God sees me. What …

Read More

An Amazing Legacy

I just visited my younger brother and his family. Kirk and his wife, Lyn,  both went to Seattle Pacific University, so it was no surprise when Kirk shared a video made to honor Paul Lee, an SPU student killed in the campus shooting last year. What did surprise me was …

Read More

The Myth of God’s Goodness

I’m in the process of developing a program with a friend to minister to writers who are in deep places in their lives. I’ve been asking God to show me how to encourage and share His truth with those who feel lost, abandoned, worthless, like they’ve wasted their gifts…those who …

Read More

I Was Wrong

“I was wrong.” Three words that are really hard to say…especially in public. In the business community and the marketplace it takes courage to admit mistakes. A Famous “Oops” One of the most famous business mistakes came when Coca-Cola tried to retire the “old Coke” and release a “new Coke” …

Read More

Add Something Good for Lent

We are nearing the end of the annual season of Lent, a time from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, set aside to prepare and focus believer’s hearts and minds on the death and wonderful resurrection of Jesus. Some use this as a time to forego chocolate or some other pleasure, a sort of fasting …

Read More

Tools from the Front Lines of Life: Authenticity

Some things have happened in my life in the last few months that, were I to put them in a novel, readers would say, “That’s just not believable. No way all that happens to one person!” Yeah. Wouldn’t that be nice? But here’s the thing: Hard times, good times…struggles, peace…abundance, …

Read More

The Trajectory Principle

American culture sends mixed messages. On one hand it tells us that we can be “anything we want to be,” but then if we don’t rise to the top of whatever we pursue it tells us we are failures or at best we should be disappointed in ourselves. There are …

Read More