Every writer dreams of having a readership—better yet a group of fans—among her peers. It’s beyond belief that my thoughts and words might be read and valued in my own time and also remain for proceeding generations. This is the poet or author’s greatest achievement.
I doubt if it ever crossed William Shakespeare’s wildest imagination, concerning his scribblings, that in the year of 2022—and in a foreign country not his own—English speakers would use, recognize, and even treasure his words in everyday dialogue. Astounding! Shakespeare possessed an amazing gift of communication and the ability to string perfect words together to capture concepts with precision clarity. Although I find his brand of Old English hard to plow through at times, (I still do it because the endeavor remains fruitful.), I admire old Will for that ability. Maybe I’m even a little jealous. Undoubtedly he was one of the most effective English writers of all time. Shakespeare became relevant to his countrymen and peers and beyond the sphere of influence of his day.
When I can’t craft my own thoughts with perfect words, Will’s words do me good. What a relief it is to find expression. “Fight fire with fire” or “set your teeth on edge” are just the expressions I might need in the moment. Thank you, Will, for that! An even greater relief is to be heard and echoed centuries later. Who knew?
That is relevancy.
It is to be specific—worldly relevancy— perfect for our time in space in history.
Growing older, I grapple with the idea of remaining relevant. Our culture tells me that relevancy is found in the voice and expression of youthfulness. The younger generation pops up with great energy, verve, and the desire for a new perspective representing old and future things.
King Solomon, of biblical fame, tells us there is nothing new under the sun. And indeed there is not. I would guess that 95% of the time when I am considering a book or essay title, I google it only to discover that someone else thought of it before me. I also google some of the phrases that I come up with just to see if my mind is playing tricks on me. Perhaps the sentence in question is something I’ve already heard, and it has stuck with me because it expressed my sentiments. What we read and hear becomes a part of us in the most concrete and mysterious ways. I am remiss to claim complete originality!
My maternal grandmother, Eva Genevieve Coston, lived the longest of my grandparents. She died at 96 and was pretty spry most of those years. As the oldest child and first granddaughter, I was acutely aware of her aging. She became quieter and quieter at family social gatherings. It’s because her life was already mostly spent—what did she have to bring to the table? The younger generation had and has a way of becoming dominant in those gatherings—the ones that are out in the workaday world making a living or climbing the ladder of success. Now that I am in my 70s, I realize that the person with the most wisdom and experience in the room was Grandma Eva, yet she was the most silent. This was partly her fault and ours, as I imagine she felt her life less relevant pertaining to the complex issues of the modern world or the choices and problems that her offspring faced. Still I think we should have drawn out that wisdom! On some level, I am sorry we did not. I will always cherish her life and contribution to mine. I realize now that her life spoke so much even without words. For that I will always be grateful.
I desire to remain relevant. When I was younger and working in the ministry as a pastor’s wife or as a missionary in different countries, I carried a relevant message of salvation. I tried to present it in the most appealing ways and that without gimmicks. Authenticity is extremely important when considering relevancy. Now that my life has slowed down, I still long to be relevant in this culture with younger generations and to contribute something eternal. As I was pondering this desire, it occurred to me that the key is seeking that which is eternal – that which is other-worldly and that that will last forever.
When Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection, he said to his disciples to wait for the comforter or the Holy Spirit. That part of the triune God will be with us on earth to teach and guide us as Jesus did in person to the disciples while on earth. That is as true today as it was then. There is so much to say about the Holy Spirit. How quickly we forget about his abiding presence and wisdom that is available. I find in my daily routine if I just stop and utter this prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit.” That he will make himself known—for he is ever-abiding with those that believe. In the most tangible ways, I can feel his sweet presence when I ask for wisdom or clarity or the miraculous.
It is the Holy Spirit that makes my life relevant.
He empowers the message I carry and the words that I write. He brings the miraculous, and he is the presence of Jesus in the room in my current situation.
As witty and wonderful as the words of William Shakespeare are and that have endured for centuries upon centuries, I cannot say his phrases have spiritual or eternal relevance. They are appropriate and poignant but do not carry efficacy for that which is eternal.
I have concluded that the best way to stay relevant in my contribution is to yield to the spirit—the Holy Spirit allowing him to energize and breathe into my life and message, to help me write my words.
As a writer, I long for my thoughts to be remembered too. Mostly I yearn for relevancy, and I know this is not achievable apart from the Holy Spirit. Welcoming him into the moments of my day and acting on his wisdom is the most relevant and lasting expression of life that I can contribute.
Like my silent grandmother, the Holy Spirit is the wisest and most experienced person in the room, ready to impart what is needed for the moment. He is quiet until you engage him. What could be more relevant? Come, Holy Spirit!