One of the key grammatical questions students face from the beginning is where to place a comma. This tiny little punctuation mark is likely the most abused and misused in all of English.
Although commas are among the first learned punctuation marks, the question of their use continues for a lifetime. For instance, a comma debate I often have with my editors is the use of the Oxford comma – the one that precedes the “and” in a listing of items.
Its use is a matter of style preference.
In my journalism training, I was taught to omit it. For example – “I need milk, bread, almonds and coffee from Publix.” So, please don’t judge me for not using it!
There is one thing upon which we can all agree – a comma indicates a continuation. In other words -- unlike a period -- when a comma is used, there is more to follow. It’s not the ending.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s consider the punctuation of life, so to speak. I would claim we all need to use more commas, rather than the periods we far too often deploy.
Please…let me explain –
Even though I wouldn’t classify myself as a pessimist, I still place too many periods upon life situations, when a comma should be used.
My guess is you do the same.
We resign ourselves to the use of a period when we decide the story must be over.
The broken relationship. The frightening diagnosis. The incorrigible child. The annoying neighbor. The troubling job. The unending depression. The insufficient finances.
Anything resonate yet?
We decide that’s that, and assume the end of the narrative by placing a period.
Yet, thank the Lord, the story is seldom over when we think it is.
Where we would choose to put a period, God places a comma.
Although the scriptures are filled with examples, the story that leaps out of the text is the death of Lazarus. Mary, Martha and the others gathered there had no doubt put a period on the ending of his life.
As the late great commentator Paul Harvey would often say, we all know “the rest of the story.”
Where humankind would use a period, God had a comma in mind!
Now, God’s use of commas doesn’t mean we won’t have any tears or anguish (Jesus certainly did!). But as we weep over the period we feel is inevitable, God enters into our sorrows and meets our exasperation and grief out of His heart of love.
And then replaces the period with a comma.
That makes the comma all about…HOPE.
Hope for restoration of the relationship…hope for healing…hope for recovery of the wayward child…hope for neighborly love…hope for the career…hope for joy…hope for provision.
Hope based on God’s sovereign love for us.
Where have you placed periods because you don’t think there could possibly be a comma? Things have gone on for too long. Or they’re just too difficult.
Yes, sometimes we simply have to put a period, and still hope God will replace it with a comma. As with Lazarus, sometimes there has to be death – even of habits, relationships, etc. – for there to be resurrection.
Always remember, though, we are the children of a God who blesses us with an abundance of commas, so
“be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
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