Many years ago, I thought that if I ever wrote a book, I’d title it “Butterfly Wings.” Everyone would think (or so I imagine) that I had given it that name because butterflies are beautiful. Only I would know that I had named my book “Butterfly Wings” because butterflies are so very beautiful when they are fluttering around freely, but if you try to capture them their fragile wings get ripped and torn, and all you end up with is a lifeless butterfly with mangled wings. I feel like my thoughts are like that. They are bigger and more beautiful on the inside but when I try to capture my thoughts on paper they become mangled and lifeless words. My thoughts are never as alive on paper as they are in my head.
Whenever I write about a topic such as suffering, as I did the other day, I always end up feeling frustrated afterwards and I’m tempted to go back and erase it because whenever I try to write my thoughts–especially about God–it doesn’t matter how hard I try, I can’t ever adequately put into words what I am really thinking. There is so much vastness to everything that involves God, and everything is so connected and interconnected, and every topic branches off into other topics and subtopics in my head, that there is no way to really understand or write about all the facets of it. In writing about one facet, other equally important facets are not written about so it all ends up sounding one-dimensional and shallow. As soon as I describe one thought, I realize that an opposite thought can also be true, or that there are essential related topics that I couldn’t bring in, or there were nuances of it that I totally missed. And sometimes I discuss these things with others who bring in thoughts I never considered–or that I considered, but didn’t focus on. And then there are statements that are true, but people misunderstood or misused them so they end up hurting people. As a result, the statements trigger pain in those hurting people whenever they hear them, even if a person is not misusing them. I also realize that whenever I state “this is the way” to do something, like comfort others, I often violate my own beliefs even if what I said was true.
Take the topic of suffering, for example. Suffering is connected to God’s love, wisdom, sovereignty, the purposes of suffering, good and evil, faith, and healing, among many others. Each of these can branch off into other topics which branch off into others. For example, a subtopic of suffering is God’s love, which branches off into subsubtopics of His mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness. Forgiveness is connected to evil, repentance, reconciliation, sin, judgment, and loops back to love. Forgiveness also branches off into misconceptions of forgiveness, and what forgiveness really is and isn’t. The subtopic of healing includes whether or not God heals everyone and why and why not, which touches on the purposes of suffering and sovereignty and loops back to love. Healing also can include discussions about grief, insensitive statements to those who are suffering, and what to do or not do to comfort the hurting. The topic of faith can include discussions of what faith is or isn’t and connects with every other topic. Focusing on any one of these topics means that all related topics are not touched on, which can lead to cloudy understanding or misunderstanding. If each topic connected to suffering was written on a post-it-note, I’d have post-it-notes three feet deep stretching to the moon and back twice. And that’s only ONE main topic. It’s impossible to adequately write about God because He is so BIG and DEEP and VAST that thoughts and words can’t really ever capture or contain Him.
I made a very simplified chart to illustrate how my brain sort of works. You can click on the picture to make it bigger. I used the subject of suffering as an illustration because I tried to write about it so recently, but my brain works like this no matter what the topic. Sometimes I get a headache and wish I could turn off the thoughts like a faucet. However, I can’t turn them off, and actually, most of the time, I am glad that my brain ponders.
Sometimes I wonder why I ever try to explain my thoughts when I do it so inadequately. But occasionally I try to put my thoughts into words because I think that if we never tried to think or write or talk about God, we wouldn’t be able to learn or grow or connect to or comfort others. Sometimes I write my thoughts because I get so filled up with thoughts that I have to write them down so that my head doesn’t overload and explode.
My brain has been filling up with thoughts because of things I have observed and conversations I have heard lately. I tried to write about some of the ponderings, but the words wouldn’t come out right.
My thoughts are bigger on the inside.
When I try to capture them in writing, they get ripped and torn and lifeless.
Sometimes I become very frustrated by the limitations of communication.