The Perfect Word

Since I wrecked my knee last fall, I’ve noticed that there are many references to standing strong in the Bible and in the writings of the saints. When you’ve experienced the vulnerability of unreliable footing, these references take on personal significance and become personal meditations.

Sometimes one or two words can make all the difference in a text. For meditational purposes, I want a text to hold as much meaning for me as possible, and finding the words that best evoke a feeling are thus important. (Also, my bulletin board can hold only so much inspirational material, so each word counts.)

I read somewhere that an editor suggested to John McCrae that the second instance of “poppies blow” in his well-known poem be changed to “poppies grow,” thereby better portraying hope at the poem’s end.

Similarly, I was searching for the perfect word for the second verse of Psalm 40:

  • He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand (New International Version).
  • You set my feet upon a rock and made my footsteps firm (the band U2).
  • He … set my feet upon a rock and made my steps secure (Revised Standard Version).

Sorry, Bono, but while I do indeed need a firm place to stand as well as firm footsteps, what holds more meaning for the frail is security. Firm is solid, stable, not easily moved; but secure is assured, confident, free from risk and anxiety (definitions from Canadian Oxford Dictionary). Secure goes one step further, in other words, making it the perfect word.

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