Before my last visit to New York I arranged to meet with several publishers. I enjoy these visits immensely as I am always transported into a world of books – piles of them, in fact. All publishers – from the startups fashioned of recycled cubicles to the granite-floored palaces of publishing giants like Random House – have one thing in common: they all display books from floor to ceiling and harbor great piles of inventory ready for transport throughout the world.
Sitting in these offices and talking to the editors and agents of the publishing world is a thrilling adventure, but I am also mindful that as the writer of Ecclesiastes once observed: Of the making of many books, there is no end (Ecclesiastes 12:12). In fact, there are currently more than 10 million book titles in print – and this in the U.S. alone. And every year, there is something like 100,000 new titles introduced into the market – including self-published or privately printed. Add digital originals (think Kindle) and other types of print – including magazines and newspapers – and one is quickly overtaken by the sheer volume of the words we produce. Words overwhelm us. No wonder the writer of Ecclesiastes also added: “and much study wearies the body.”
Still, I like books. In fact, I lean heavily toward the words of Erasmus: “Whenever I get money I buy books; and if there is anything left, I buy food.” A book addiction? Perhaps. Or these books may represent a fascination with our human dramas – the desire to tell a story. The truth is stories are the most powerful dramas of all and each of us has a story to tell.
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes may have had it right – that books are just another striving after wind, a meaningless pursuit, and a vanity among vanities. However, as we were reminded at annual conference this year – we all have a story to tell. God’s story is “word” and each of us can tell our story to someone. We don’t have to be experts, but we can all speak to God’s grace, God’s goodness, and God’s blessings. How God in Christ has worked in us and through us is indeed, gospel (which means “the good word”). What makes us human is our ability to speak to each other; our ability to listen. Human beings created in the image of God are storytellers and through word and story, we learn how to love in both word and deed.
So, at the risk of producing even more words … what’s your story? When are you going to share the gospel this week? What’s the good word you have for another person who needs God’s hope, God’s healing or God’s blessings?
Todd Outcalt is the author of more than thirty books including his most recent titles, Common Ground and The Other Jesus. He also writes for many magazines including Preaching, YouthWorker and Midwest Outdoors. He enjoys hiking, kayaking, helping others with their writing projects, and sharing the gospel over donuts and coffee.
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