Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Word Hungry by Pamela Mytroen
How hungry are we for words? Hungry enough to steal books, like Liesel did in the film, “The Book Thief”? Living in the paralyzing fear of Nazi Germany, she became desperate for life-giving stories.
Books were rare, most having been burned through Hitler’s ‘intellectual cleanse’. Liesel is in awe one day as she drops off clean laundry for Ilsa Hermann, the mayor’s wife, and is invited to read from her extensive library. With reverent whispers, Liesel chooses her favourite books each week and indulges in a page-turning feast. However, when the Mayor finds out about her secret reading sessions, she is banned from the hallowed library.
But Liesel has tasted the power of words. She has also become close friends with Max, a Jewish fugitive her family is harbouring in their basement. When he falls seriously ill, Liesel begins a journey to save him through stories. Though books are forbidden, Liesel secretly returns to the mayor’s home, and at the cost of her life, “borrows” a book. She begins reading to Max, breaking the bread of life one precious crumb at a time, story after story, book after stolen book, until the fever is broken and he awakens to life and health.
Having been fortified by her beloved words, Liesel turns her attention to others starving for hope. She whispers stories to the scared families in the Air-Raid Shelters where her words tug smiles from their captive spirits.
One day before Max leaves, he hands Liesel a copy of Mein Kampf, in which he had whitewashed every page. He says, “Write. In my religion we're taught that every living thing, every leaf, every bird, is only alive because it contains the secret word for life. That's the only difference between us and a lump of clay. A word. Words are life, Liesel.”
Writing in her re-purposed journal saves Liesel’s life one night as she falls asleep in her basement with pen in hand while all around the bombs fall on her village.
There is a secret word for life, like Max said. One word splits the rock of our tombs and calls us out. This Word is referred to in scripture. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). In verse fourteen we learn the identity of this Word: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Jesus Christ is the Word Who gives abundant, never-ending life.
It was the spoken words of the Word that created all we see. Jesus spoke the light into being. And he speaks light into our being too when He calls us from death to life.
Words are life. But there is one Word – Jesus – we cannot live without. Only His whisper has the power to break sin’s fever and wake us back to life.
Writers would be wise to follow the example of Liesel. In our desire to share life-giving words with others, we must first find Jesus, the source of all life. We, like Liesel, may need to risk our lives in our search for the precious Word. When we find Him we must not let go, no matter the cost. Take Him in, and indulge in the feast of His love. Finally, being strengthened and built up by grace, we will be able to write the words that stir others back to life; words that shine light into darkness, and hope into despair.
 From the film, “The Book Thief”, a 2013 American-German war drama film based on the book by Marcus Zusak, 2005, TransWorld Publishers.
by Pamela Mytroen
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