Where words come from
John Woolman, an influential abolitionist, also had a heart for the plight of Native Americans. On June 18, 1763, while visiting a tribe in Wyoming, he felt moved to speak of the gospel in their assembly. The interpreters struggled to translate his words into the short sentences of the tribal tongue. So, at the close of the meeting John asked them to cease translating as he prayed.
After the meeting, an elder of the tribe, Papunehang, reflected on John’s prayer through an interpreter: “I love to feel where words come from.”
Words come from my soul. Eyes may be windows into my soul, but words are its breath and life. The Indian elder could only feel the depth of John's words because he couldn’t understand. But to the one who is able to understand, words can reveal a person’s true self, their deepest longings and darkest intentions.
Listening is a holy act. When I listen with humility, wonder, and care, I create a holy space where another soul can be known, and grow to know itself.
“To listen another's soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another. Over the shoulder of every human listener is the silent presence of the Eternal Listener, the living God. There is indeed a thin filament between the act of humans listening openly to each other and God intently listening to each and every soul.” (Adapted and paraphrased from Douglas V. Steere, Gleanings)
Woolman story from A Journal of the Life, Gospel labours and Christian experiences of John Woolman. By John Woolman