The Weight of Descriptive Words
by Maxine Marsolini, OCW President
Living in the Pacific Northwest means befriending the rain. Many mornings, before heading out the door for a walk, I pull on rain pants, a waterproof jacket, and shoes meant to stay dry when the weather isn’t.
I have no problem at all relating to Moses in Deuteronomy 32, where he uses rain as a focal point of a prayer conversation with God, prior to addressing the assembly of Israelites who would soon enter the long-awaited Promised Land. Moses knew how important it was to talk with God first. Notice the use of several well-chosen similes: “Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass. For I proclaim the name of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 32:2–3 nkjv).
Soon my thoughts sped off to my own writing and to the words any writer would pen for publication or platform presence. Are we, like Moses, careful to ask God to have a say in our words? Do our word pictures build sweetly one upon the other? Before a single sentence is on the page, do we invite God’s blessings to infuse the information flow?
Consider the target audience. Moses called his listeners “tender herbs.” What a gentle posture he longed to bestow upon the people while also maintaining the ability to deliver a message that would thoroughly soak into them at a deep heart level. We know that rain is usually widespread, but it also falls in differing intensities. Notice the use of raindrops, morning dew, and showers to specifically frame his words. Each description purposely produces a specific mind picture in a simple, sequential pattern.
As writers, we work hard to pull out the best descriptive words, to skim off the dross, and clear unnecessary clutter from the pages. Expressive words take time. They are the tools of our trade. It seems a good idea to imitate crafting our words as Moses did so long ago. Before tapping into our creativity and search for effective dialogue, it might be a more productive choice to take those first few moments and invite God into our fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord” (Psalm 19:14 nkjv).