Period (.) End of sentence. Factual. True. When God speaks, it’s usually a simple, declarative sentence. Go. Stop. Trust. Follow me. Our culture has tried to make us believe that our faith isn’t strong enough unless we reside in a place of certainty. And sure, that’s a great place to be. Sometimes our beliefs are absolute and sure, and we’re strongly rooted in our faith. We simply know what we know. But do you know what else I know? It’s OK to not remain here all the time.
Exclamation point (!) Wow! God is amazing! I see Him! I want you to know Him! The best way to approach God is with thanksgiving—by noticing all that He does, all that He is, and letting ourselves feel the awe and wonder He inspires. And the best way to get someone else excited is to express yourself genuinely and enthusiastically. It’s hard to maintain this level of excitement over the long term, though—we get tired, other worries crowd their way in, and so on. It takes sustained effort to remain here and it’s a wonderful place to be, but I spend more time with the next one…
The question mark (?) When Jesus asked questions, He was trying to help people uncover truths: Who do YOU say that I am? Questions aren’t bad, even in our faith. It really all comes down to intent. Are you asking questions in the hopes of arriving at a stronger, more accurate belief of who God is? Or are you looking for excuses not to commit to Him? Think of Thomas—he may have been labeled a doubter, but isn’t he the only one who got to touch the resurrected Jesus? His questions demanded a direct, tangible answer. Do yours? If you’re hungry for more of God, if you want to find more and go deeper, please—ask away!
The ellipsis (…) This mark indicates when something is missing, showing a place where words or thoughts have been removed. It also shows where a conversation fades to nothingness. I think, if we’re honest, we can all see a few of these ellipses over the course of our faith—someone hurt you, or God didn’t answer your prayer as you’d expected. Maybe you simply stopped seeing God and wandered away unintentionally. Those dots are a normal part of our stories. If you find yourself here, take heart—for something to be missing in the middle, there has to be something both before and after the gap. Keep looking for God, and before long, you’ll find yourself on the other side of the dots.
Quotation marks (“ ”) Most of what I know about God I’ve learned from others—pastors and teachers, yes, but also friends, acquaintances, writers, musicians, and celebrities. (Occasionally, we learn the most from seeing what we don’t want to do.) When we get excited about something, it’s natural to share it--she said this, he taught me that. This is where quotation marks come in handy. Don’t just mimic what you hear, though. Evaluate it, use wisdom, and verify its accuracy. And remember that you don’t always have to look far away—trust in the truth of your own experiences, too. They often make the most moving testimonies.
The comma (,) This is a good place to be—in the middle. Seeing all the things God is doing. Collecting lessons and gathering knowledge. Experiencing the different names and faces of our God, one after another. Understanding that even when one thing happens (good or bad), it’s followed almost immediately by something else. The good news that commas bring is the fact that your story isn’t over yet.
All of these marks are useful and necessary. No value judgment is implied in any of them—they’re part of your own personal story, your natural expression of God’s involvement in your life. So will you take a minute and think about your faith life? Which punctuation mark is your default? Is your life expressing what you want to say? Don’t feel bad if you’re not there yet (or ever). As any English teacher will tell you, it’s important to vary sentence structure. Straightforward sentences are fine. But not if there are no other kinds. And other times, don’t you think questions are best? Some days, all we can do is exclaim about the goodness of God! On others, we may sit in silence, reveling in His mercy and His grace, His kindness, His gentleness, His variety, and His great love for us. Through it all, though, we can know one thing. However we express ourselves, we can rest assured that God will lead us through all of these different phases. And oh, what a story we will have to tell!
Period (.) Here is a little bit about my story. I got married and came to Korea in 1998. I have taught many university students, but I did teach some talented high school girls at Ewha Foreign Language High School. My teaching has expanded because I now have a family I adore.
Exclamation point (!) God has been very good to me over these seventeen years in Korea! I have a beautiful family, including three boys that are slowly turning into godly men, a loving husband, a nice home, and a teaching position I enjoy. I also enjoy writing and teaching for KNU International English Church and the Christian Teachers Special Interest Group (CT-SIG).
The question mark (?) My most growth filled times are filled with questions. How do I connect my faith to my teaching? How do I connect my faith with daily interactions with my children? Why are art projects, plants, and books so good for my soul?
The ellipsis (...) My life continues to have its challenges ... raising children in a Confucianist culture ... understanding my Korean husband when I really don't understand ... trying to understand administrative decisions at my job ... There is a lot to living cross-culturally that I do not understand ... I need to listen deeply, pray, and collaborate with others in the confusion.
Quotations marks (" ") Quotes from so many people have informed my faith. This one from the book of John has kept going and pondering for years. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) Jesus, Paul, Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day, Derek Liebenberg, Brian Roller, Ann Voskamp, Corrie ten Boom, Beth Moore, Max Lucado, and so many others.
The comma (,) This is a good place to be - in the middle. Seeing all that God is doing, collecting lessons and gathering knowledge. Experiencing the different names and faces of God one after another. Understanding that even when one thing happens (good or bad), it is followed almost immediately by something else. The good news that commas bring is the fact that your story isn't over yet.
The question mark (?) Aren't you excited that your story isn't over yet?
Dear Lord, speak to us in sentences we can understand. Help us express our love and gratitude, build a deeper trust in You, and never run out of words to say. You have so much to offer us… whether we’re asking, quoting, listing your traits or hungering for more. Put Your mark in our lives, never to be removed, never to be erased. Amen.