That paragraph—the one I have just written—is pristine. Perfect. Pedantically precise even. Or so I thought. My computer program disagrees, emphasizing its point of view with a bright, green underline. I right-click the mouse. The computer’s angst shouts at me, declaring in no uncertain terms that my carefully chosen words are but a mere
FRAGMENT! (consider revising).
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating with the exclamation mark. It exists only in my imagination—something my computer lacks. I don’t blame the computer. It is locked into a particular set of parameters. It obeys the rules of grammar, or rather, the rules of its programming. It cannot interpret the context. It cannot see the big picture; the one where I, the author, have chosen to shorten the sentence to a fragment.
A computer’s expertise extends to punctuation, not creativity. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a die-hard fan of perfect punctuation. It is the body language of the written page. What’s more, punctuation’s power to prevent cannibalism is unrivalled. For example:
‘Shall we eat Grandma?’
‘Shall we eat, Grandma?’
Pixabay Image by Sarah Richter Art
Here are a few punctuation marks I placed in a document this morning:
Let’s see my computer dispute that creation according to its programmed punctuation rules!
As I ponder the power of punctuation to clarify meaning or to create nuances that improve the way a story unfolds, I realize something: Our Creator punctuates our personal progress according to His intentional, creative plan. And,
The divine Author of Life punctuates perfectly.
I, on the other hand, am inclined to operate like my unimaginative computer, getting frustrated when God shortens my plans with a divine ‘full-stop’.
I can be impatient with His semicolons too. I don’t want to look or wait for additional information. I want to know it all now! As for colons … oh boy! When faced with a list of several things He wants to complete in me before we move forward, I’d rather skip a few in my eagerness to embrace an exciting new ‘sentence’. I want a green light so I can race ahead. I’m all too inclined to frustrate my Author by flagging a green underline and whinging, ‘fragment (consider revising)’.
But here’s the thing. We don’t get to do life over. No edits. No second or third or sixteenth drafts. Our life stories sit on the universal page, the book of life, exactly as we throw them down. Which could mean absolute disaster if they were ‘published’ as they stand. How could my life story possibly bring honour and glory to the Author of Life? Or reveal His good news story as is?
Praise God! Hindsight reveals He has been actively editing my life’s story all along, adding essential punctuation marks to slow me down, make me pause, emphasize the important things, stop me blundering on into danger, extend me, talk to me, shout a warning, cause me to question my actions and ideas, make me ponder… and His grace has coerced and confined my foolish detours into parentheses, rendering them irrelevant. What a relief!
My mother told the story of a letter she had written to my father when they were courting. At the end, she had added a postscript which contained a row of punctuation marks and the words, ‘I’m not sure where the punctuation marks should go, so I’ve put them all here. You can put them in the right places for me.’
I think I’ll take a leaf out of her book and trust God to punctuate my life according to His big picture. How about you?
This blog (with comments) was originally published on Christian Writers Downunder, February 2015.