By Davalynn Spencer
When I landed in the newsroom as a crime-beat reporter, the editor gave me a printout stressing the importance of tight writing.
“The Lord’s prayer has 66 words,” the memo said. “The Gettysburg address, 286.”
His point: less is more.
His example: “Mother’s dead.”
Of course journalism is not fiction. At least it’s not supposed to be. But in the pursuit of tight writing, authors—like journalists—spend quite a bit of time searching for just the right words.
Ever since my editor’s comment about the Lord’s Prayer, I’ve noticed how concise the scriptures are while brimming with metaphor, simile, and story.
Each word matters. No deadwood floats upon the waters of wisdom. No fluff fills the pages. Each word is specifically and carefully chosen, as in, “Let there be light.”
God started the whole shebang with four syllables.
Apparently, communication is a big deal to God and He notices how we participate, whether we grumble like the Israelites inside their tent flaps or weep like the childless Hannah and repentant tax collector.
When the Word became flesh, people began to understand more about the Creator who spoke light from darkness. But when a missive to the Hebrews characterized Jesus as the author of our faith, writers everywhere stood up and cheered. Okay, that’s speculation on my part, but I know this writer did.
I strive every day to say the right thing the right way, and often it’s that very striving that straps me to a literary treadmill. Lots of work, lots of words, no forward movement.
Therefore, in the quiet hours of most mornings, before the world crashes in, I take time apart, often penning my prayers in a small journal. Recently I asked for direction regarding a current work in progress and I wrote, “Show me, Jesus.”
Pausing, I looked at the sentence, then copied it again without the comma.
“Show me Jesus.”
The absence of that little squiggle made a big difference.
All of us in this organization know the power of punctuation, and much can be said for the comma. But does God notice?
I believe He does. For something even as small as a comma can refine my focus and show me the true desire of my heart.
In my zeal for higher word-count, snappier marketing content, and plots, plans, and diagrams for the next book in a series, I can lose my focus.
That morning, sitting in the pre-dawn stillness, a comma got my attention and created questions in my mind.
Which of my two written requests was more important? Which did I need above the other?
The answers were defining.
Rather than mere direction, I needed the Director.
Rather than answers to the next storyline, I needed the Answer.
When I set aside myself and sought the peace of His presence, my ears opened, my mind cleared, and my eyes saw. All because of three words: “Show me Jesus.”
An old gospel spiritual, said to have originated during the dark days of open slavery in this country, presents several stanzas that are answered by a simple three-word chorus: “Give me Jesus.”
The singers of this song could have cried out, “Give me, Jesus.” Give me freedom. Give me liberty. Give me the help I so desperately need. But they sang that line without a comma, asking for the source of comfort Himself.
Today I hope to make my similar three-word prayer the song of my heart. For I know if I choose that concise and pointed phrase over all others, everything else will fall in line.
Davalynn Spencer writes heart-tugging, cowboy romance set along the Front Range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. She is the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters and an award-winning rodeo journalist and former crime-beat reporter who caters to Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Connect at www.davalynnspencer.com.