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The Power and Prevalence of Words

April 9, 2019

The #MyWheaton blog shares first-person stories from Wheaton students and alumni.

The Power and Prevalence of Words

Stephanie Bagley ’19 is a psychology major and English minor from Hanover Park, IL. In this MyWheaton blog post, Stephanie shares how writing and performing her spoken word poetry throughout her time at Wheaton has drawn her closer to Christ.

I like words. I hold onto them.

I can hear the words of people here at Wheaton that I love, those moments splicing together like a supercut playing in my mind:

“You have a poet’s mind” …I see a bemused and proud professor’s face, lighting up my courage to keep writing, despite my difficulty with the technical and concise. “Steph, there is so much grace here” … I steady two pairs of earnest and attentive fellow-RA eyes, stirring the sensitive heart within me as I welcomed their embrace.

These encouraged and informed the content of my poetry. I took precious moments and exchanges back with me to ponder, and out of them—the framework of my faith—came a collective prayer, a process. 

I look around. It feels like I’ve written poems in and about every inch of this campus.

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Sitting against the wall, on a dorm bathroom floor in a daze. On my knees, crying with my face smashed into my couch chair cushion in my RA room. Breathing in the scent of dirt and grass on my back on the quad, or Blanchard lawn. Smiling and fiercely scribbling in a notebook in class.

People here have an appreciation for the sacred—the words are painted into air like art—and whether it’s spoken word, spontaneous prayer, a recitation, or a lecture, I have basked in it. I learned freedom and charitability, curiosity and advocacy. How to take these experiences and draw them into the creating process, writing with God. And into the sharing process, performing for God.

My mother always told me, “God’s gonna use that voice someday!” I was a kid with a loud voice, curious mind, and restless writing hand.

After discovering spoken word in high school, I became intrigued by the staggering level of vulnerability required. To me, this was the allure. I had an excitement to use my voice for good and to speak truth. I had a desire to inject meaning, purpose, and intention into each phrase. And as I took my mother’s words with me to Wheaton, I looked for opportunities to speak hope, voice authenticity, and connect with other souls.

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I think back to a moment in time, right before spring break last year, when I was going to perform at College Union’s Coffeehouse event—not only singing but sharing my personal poetry. At the last minute, I ended up revisiting and finishing a poem that I decided to share.

An RA in upper-class halls at the time, my own internal battle preoccupied me. I had received five mental and three physical health diagnoses over the past year, two of them considered chronic. But I had realized they also made me more in touch with what my girls were going through and had made me more inspired by their stories and struggles.

This particularly difficult year had made me rethink and wrestle with what grace was, what my purpose was, and how to make sense of God’s will again.

But somehow, I knew what I believed.

And I needed to share it. Tonight. I re-opened the file and began to write.

“Living life is a process
But I hold a promise.
Boldly,

hope sits in the palm of my open hand.

I can see it
I can feel it
Grasp it? –No!
I don’t need
it,
I need
God who makes me
Bravely see it
Rests there best
When I don’t squeeze it
But learn to breathe it
Be me
With He
Who cast a vision with His very breath
Of every beautiful thing

Life.

You may take some time
For me to find myself inclined to
Let myself be redefined
And enjoy every
Twist and curve
As tumultuous as
My mind and spine
As valuable as they are
To my design
Truth is,
You feel rough
To the limited perception
Of my untrained eye.
But you
Are felt from deep inside,
God’s breath pumps me
Into time,
And in this dwelling space
I find a place
Inside

Patience.

I feel the idea of process explains it
And yet
We distain it
Refrain from it
Try to change it ‘stead of valuing the
Grace it
Teaches—

Humility.

Can be broken, but not depraved.
It’s a gratitude melted softly in
Humbled hands.
Humility is the intersection of
Intense awareness of incompetence
Paired with a miraculous unshakeableness
That declares your identity in

He.
ELOHIM
Who outstretched His palm over the expanse of the
Open sky,

JESUS who cried “It is finished!” As he gave up his life
As he died, was crucified
Who’s hope-hands were pierced
But all the more strong
As he pried open
Hands of death—
Of the pain
Of this life—
That used to clutch,
Choking out
Our ability to find

Bliss,
in the uncertainty.
Thankfulness,
in wistful pondering.
Forgiveness,
For eternity.
God,
Who gives me these words,
who inspires me to sing,
To dream,
To hope, in

Boldness.
My heartbeats syncronate to His
Righteousness
His breath is mine and
Mine is
His.

My skin tingles at the vision
The choice
He made to
Choose this mess.

My hand tenderly accepting
Promise."

I’m processing lately what each moment here has meant to me and as I look back during this senior year, I have hundreds of documented instances where I have learned something and grown a little bit more.

I have a hunger not only to express myself but to share with others how I’ve made meaning out of my circumstances, to offer them an authentic piece of my heart—in the pain, the epiphany, the inexpressibly good.

Spoken word is my catharsis, and Wheaton is my muse. For Christ and His Kingdom.

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