No Words

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I lost my daughter in Barnes & Noble.

One Sunday after church, realizing we were in serious need of a Starbucks fix, we headed to the nearest Barnes & Noble. With java needs satisfied, we began the aimless browsing that book-lovers do for pure pleasure. After perusing the shelves long enough to reach the bottom of my cup, I looked around and realized I’d lost my daughter, something difficult to do since she stands eye-to-eye with her six-foot father when wearing the stilettos she hasn’t yet admitted are torturous.

Only three weeks shy of graduation, she already carries herself like the young professional she aspires to be. When she walks across the stage to receive her diploma, she’ll wear the gold cords signifying academic honors she’s earned through four years of consistent excellence. Bright, gifted, an accomplished performer with a voice that holds an audience spellbound, she is without a doubt a young woman of presence.

But despite brains, humor, and a Marilyn Monroe smile, she’s somehow made it through high school with no more dates than it takes one hand to count—and she’s been ready for romance since she was three.

On a mother’s hunch, I headed to the pop-psych, self-help section, and there she was, sitting on the floor surrounded by a semicircle of books. With both amusement and angst, I realized the book she was studying with the intensity of an honors student was one on nonverbal cues for dating, flirting, and getting the man you want.

As a writer (at least on my good days), I doodle with words the way an artist doodles with lines and shapes. My life is defined by the awareness that words encapsulate meanings as big as love itself or actions as small as a whisper. And there before me, sitting on the floor of Barnes & Noble, was my bright, attractive, accomplished daughter studying the nonverbals of getting a man. When she looked up, the longing in her face put the lump in my throat. Despite my personal disdain of pop-psych, self-help promises of self-determined destiny, I bought the book for her with all the inner roiling that buying Barbies™ brought the decade before.

I wanted words to temper the empty promises of legs crossed and body poised. I wanted words, the right words, to tell her she already knows all the nonverbal cues she’ll ever need. But words failed me that day. Words, as powerful as they can be, are often as empty as the air in which they’re spoken. I couldn’t tell her the nonverbal communication skills offered between the covers of that book won’t bring her what she most wants. I couldn’t tell her that the God in whom she lives and moves and has her being created her with all the nonverbal skills that really matter—because the ones that really matter are those that come from her heart.

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