In a strange way, I feel like profundity is equivalent with difficulty. If a piece of art confuses me, or if a poem baffles me, or if a movie leaves me scratching my head, I assume that what I’m observing is quite deep. I believe there to be a meaning hidden below the surface of the medium, and the entire piece becomes a puzzle to figure out. I consider the small details, I hypothesize about possible hints, and I attempt to read between the lines to unravel the mystery hidden in the uncertainty. I noticed this recently when I read T. S. Eliot, or when I listened to Coldplay, or when I watched Eraserhead. I found myself incredibly intrigued (and, at the same time, incredibly confused) by the hiddenness and seeming vagueness of the art. I also found myself inspired by these stories and lyrics, wishing I could write something so deep.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14, counsels the church in Corinth concerning spiritual gifts, writing specifically on the topic of tongues. Though I don’t claim to understand everything about the context of this passage, I do recognize that Paul is emphasizing orderly, clear worship. He writes,
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
1 Corinthians 14:33a
Though Paul is not opposed to the use of tongues, noting his use of the gift in verse 18, he argues that, “Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19). Five clear words are more beneficial in Paul’s mind than ten thousand unclear words, revealing that clarity is key in corporate worship.
As I reflect on Paul’s teaching, I can’t help but consider its implications for my understanding of profundity. Could it be that true depth is not necessarily equal with difficulty? Could it be that my greatest literary achievement might not be in producing a work that is highly veiled and riddled with subtlety, but in presenting the truth of God’s Word with simplicity and clarity such that anyone can understand my message and motive? The latter option seems closer to Paul’s point. He writes earlier in 1 Corinthians,
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
So, while I can enjoy difficult texts, and while I may write a few myself from time to time, I need to remember that clarity benefits those around me more than obscurity. Let me always serve others with my pen, writing not to please myself but to make known the glories of Jesus Christ. And may the Gospel message grow clearer and clearer through everything I write so that all may better see the love of God.