Wondering about Wordless Books

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Too often, we want to (or do) live in the world of words. Words that describe. Words that command. Words that invite. Words that dismiss. We live in a world of words…even when pictures might have more power.

The Grand Rapids Art Museum is opening an exhibit of original prints from David Wiesner’s wordless story books. The exhibit is called: David Wiesner & The Art of Wordless Storytelling. Since 1937, The Randolph Caldecott Medal has annually recognized the preceding year’s “most distinguished American picture book for children.” Wiesner is the only living author with not one, but three, Caldecott Medals. All of them for wordless stories.

Why, you ask, am I bringing this to our attention? Because far too often, I wonder if we reduce God’s teachings to words and by doing that, we miss the picture. The picture of God’s love is reduced to a three word phrase. God is love rather than drawing us into all the ways God loves us in the moments of our lives. The picture of Jesus compassion is reduced to words in a children’s song, Jesus loves me, rather than drawing us into the many pictures of a compassionate savior entering the lives of the individuals he met. The intricate picture of the church as a body is reduced to one word, body, instead of drawing us into the wonder of how intricately our bodies are designed.

Instead of conjuring up wonder through wordlessness and pictures, words can often limit our imagination.

I wonder if we all might be helped if we spent some time this week in reflecting on wordless artistic expression. It could be God’s direct artistry – after all it is fall and the temps are dropping a bit. Or, we might do well to take in God’s artistry thought the gifts of God’s children like David Wiesner. It might do all of us “wordsmiths” to spend some time in the wordless story that God has for us. We just discover a new picture of God we’ve been missing.

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