In the university town where I live, there’s a new club dedicated to what might be this moment’s most celebrated cultural phenomenon. Members of the Taylor Swift Club get together to listen to music and bond over a shared appreciation for all-things-Taylor.

“Music tends to have a deeper meaning,” freshman Abby Snelling told the university newspaper, The State News. “So, when you find somebody that has the same favorite song as you, it’s usually for a deeper meaning. So, there was like a bigger connection there, especially with Taylor.”

I’m not going to lie: I’ve gotten a Taylor Swift song or two stuck in my head, but I’m not quite sure I understand just how much the world seems to love her right now. She’s at the movies and the Superbowl. She sparkles across the top of Disney Plus while I find an episode of Bluey for my 6-year-old, who hasn’t already watched 600 times.

I asked one of the biggest Swifties I know, family friend Courtney Katich, what it is about Taylor that makes her so excited.  

“Her discography is basically an encyclopedia for emotions set to pretty music,” Courtney told me over Facebook. She sent me these lyrics from Swift’s song “august”: “Wanting was enough. For me, it was enough.”

“The song is about the feeling of the end of a romantic relationship when they weren’t really ever yours,” Courtney wrote. “I’ve been listening to it recently on repeat because of feelings/emotions that I haven’t been able to express verbally, but have been able to find the verbiage for through listening to the song.

Swiftie or not, I think this is a sentiment many of us can understand.

There are times in our lives when the gap between what we feel and what we know how to say seems insurmountable.

As a poetry teacher, I often remind students of language’s limits. It is impossible, I tell them, for any of us to understand exactly what another person is feeling or experiencing. Even if we have gone through similar heartbreaks or mountain-top moments, we all carry such different selves with us to those moments.

Whether I’m reading a poem or writing one for myself, I’m searching for the language to capture the exact right metaphor or sensory details to communicate what I’ve experienced to be true. I’m trying to find or use language to get as close as possible to what’s locked inside me.

The Power of Words

It’s not just poetry or music that can have this magical capacity to communicate the in-communicate-able.

For instance, in the front page of my to-do-list notebook, I’ve used multi-colored pens to scribble, “The world is an imperfect place. Screws fall out all the time.”

It reminds me that nothing goes exactly to plan—a reminder I borrowed from the movie The Breakfast Club. The words themselves probably mean nothing to someone who hasn’t watched the film, but when I read them, I think of the movie moment and smile. Indeed, the world is imperfect—an imperfect joy.

People of faith know this power of language. We have religious texts like the Bible to turn to when we need language of comfort or hope. Think of the words from Micah 6:8 that both Christians and Jews count among their sacred writings: “…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?.”

Many of us read these words as a command spoken from one of God’s prophets. But I also hear them as a mantra, as a bit of language that can pull me back from the busyness of my life to what really matters—insisting that what is required of me is important but also simple.

Of course, religious texts can also be tricky. They carry baggage. Some of us have had the words of religious texts used to exclude us or to judge us. These words have also been used to justify terrible acts of oppression, violence and even genocide.  

We can’t hide from this history. Religious texts are words written down by people—flawed and deeply human. Just like Courtney brings her heartache to a Taylor Swift song, these authors brought their cultures and their experiences to their writing.

We have to face these flaws and own them. We have to do the hard work of reconciling with those who’ve been harmed by the texts we call holy. But I think this is another hidden power of the words we hold dear. They can carry the weight of our pain and our missteps. They can hold more than one meaning at once.

Recently, I shared the Easter story with children at my congregation through a beautifully written picture book by Brian Wildsmith. The book included a page about how Jesus confronted the money changers in the temple.

When I’d finished reading it, an adult in the room wanted to talk about the language used in the story: “Did Jesus really call the temple, ‘My house,'” he asked.

Hoping to deflect what I feared might become a conversation I didn’t really want to have, I joked, “Well, probably not. Jesus didn’t speak English.” Undeterred, the man admonished me about using the wrong words to tell a story.  

And he’s right. It can be dangerous. It can be dangerous to present language to others in a way that does not make room for the full and nuanced truth of a story.

But when we can embrace the fact that language is sometimes all we have to communicate the truth about something, we can also appreciate how complicated it is to be human. Did Jesus literally say, “My house shall be a house of prayer, not a den of thieves.” We have no idea what Jesus literally said. However, the story communicates what the author wanted us to believe Jesus meant.

Sometimes, that’s all we have—words that act as a bridge between what is happening and what we want others to know is happening.

Words, like all of us, are imperfect. Yet, like all of us, they can be wonderful, too.

April is poetry month—a month celebrating the art of finding the best words to communicate what is often beyond the capacity of language.

This month, I hope you will take some time to think about the words that are important to you.

Discussion questions:

  1. What Bible verses, hymns, song lyrics, or other fragments of language do you turn to for comfort or courage?
  2. What role can words like these play in understanding one another’s feelings, hopes, sorrows, or experiences?
  3. Have you ever had a time in your life when there just didn’t seem to be sufficient language to communicate what was happening to you? What did you do?

Closing prayer:

God of all, you are a force beyond language. You speak to all of us, regardless of where we’re from, what words we know, or what methods we have to communicate. Thank you for the gift of words—for songs, stories, poems and conversation. Help us remember that words can contain multitudes—comfort, courage, hope, and tenderness—and that words have great power. Help us use that power with mercy, peace, and justice.

Sarah Carson is a former managing editor of Gather magazine. Her book How to Baptize a Child in Flint, Michigan is available where all books are sold. Read more of her work at



Art work of Taylor Swift (ID 2334649347) from Used with permission.

Read the Faith Reflections, “The Poem That Prays” by Sarah Carson.