“Sometimes it seems that our many words are more an expression of our doubt than our faith. It is as if we are not sure that God’s Spirit can touch the hearts of people: we have to help Him out with many words, convince others of His power. But it is precisely this wordy unbelief which quenches the fire.”
Poor Job. In the worst season of his life, he just needed some support. What did he get? Like Eliza Doolittle, the man was inundated with “Words, words, words!” Lots of talking. Little support.
A favorite fairy tale of my childhood was Toads and Diamonds. I probably missed the point of the story because I was so absorbed in the gorgeous illustrations. Of particular interest to me was the picture of the kind sister spilling jewels and flowers from her tongue (while I hurried past the page with frogs and snakes coming from the mean sister’s mouth). Apart from the practical difficulties of having a BeDazzler built into one’s anatomy, I was fascinated by what a trail of beauty goodness can leave in its wake.
They were feeling me out, poking to see what I was made of. Mischief sparkled in their eyes, and gentle teasing bounced toward me. This lunch was the first of many among new friends, and I felt a mighty push to impress. Gathering every ounce of wit available, I opened my mouth. My young heart swelled as the pert joke aimed at my jousting opponent met laughter. Was that admiration in their eyes? Really? I had discovered my superpower—a quick tongue. And so it began.
I’ll give you three guesses as to where this is going.
“Say what you wanna say / And let the words fall out / Honestly I wanna see you be brave.”
(Sara Bareilles, ‘Brave’)
You get a text asking if you’re interested in taking on a big assignment. Or your old nemesis from high school (totally a thing) sends you a friend request. Or God confronts you about how you’ve deeply hurt a family member. All of these require responses, and goodness knows, your flesh has a way it wants to answer.
She glanced in his direction, but her eyes slid easily over his form and moved away to someone else. Through the course of the evening, she conversed with every single person… except him. She laughed at their jokes, offered warm encouragement, and posed thoughtful questions to all the guests but one.
Have you ever been given the cold shoulder, punished with wordlessness? It’s not a happy feeling. I used to think God was silent. Now I know better. He has a voice, and He loves using it.
And He said unto them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Analyzing the speech of most believers, you’ll find a strange device on our tongues: Christianese. We sound like we’re stuck in the King James version of reality, trying to make the world around us understand how good God is by employing the verbal equivalent of an 8-track. It’s old, it’s tired, and it’s too stinking familiar to be of much use.
The Super Bowl is just around the corner, and fans are getting antsy. Snacks will be prepared, faces will be painted, and chaos will most definitely ensue. As you dust off your best game day recipes, here’s something to ponder: what if you cheered on the people—all of the people—God has put in your life like you cheer for your favorite team? What if you let that level of intensity funnel into encouraging those around you?
Most people collect things. I gather inspiring quotes and spread them around my space to wave hello as old friends do when I’m bored. Or tired. Or sad. Or just 100% done. One such companion, originally included in a play by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, is “The pen is mightier than the sword.” As a particularly uncoordinated being, I adore the fact that the power wielded through my mind can be just as potent as—if not more so than—the power wielded by my physical prowess. You should like this fact, too, because the thought of me slinging a sword around is so far from graceful. (If I ever took up fencing, I would entitle that period of my life “99 trips to the E.R.”)
Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
(Ephesians 4:29, The Message)
I grew up watching my mischievous little brother occasionally get his mouth washed out with a bar of soap. As the firstborn perfectionistic good girl, the chunk of Ivory never made its appearance near my tastebuds, so I was free to snicker quietly as the suds abounded in my little archenemy.