mean things. We like to think they don’t, really, because sarcasm is so
snappy and funny (when it’s aimed at someone else).
The American sitcom is nothing
but barbs and quips. And often the offended character merely bats the
insult down with a wave of the hand and walks out of the room. Later,
at the coffee house, pizza joint, or in the bedroom, all is well.
But words settle deep.
Put-downs, criticism, and even some kinds of teasing can cling to the
heart’s inner wall.
Twice a week I attend a spinning
class at the gym. Over time, the regulars have become friendly, and we
like to joke around. It’s a good group.
But one of the men, John,
started giving me a hard time about my yawning. I’d dash into class,
hop on my bike, muscles stiff, mind cloudy from a day of writing and
weeding through character development, and proceed to yawn my way
“Are you going to yawn,
I tried not to yawn, but I did,
and John announced it to the class.
“There she goes, yawning.”
At first, it was fun. Then
annoying. And finally one day John layered in the “brutal” element and
hurt my feelings. I don’t offend easily, but his tone spiked his words
into my heart.
After that, I ignored him. I set
up my spin bike on the other side of the workout room and greeted him
only if he crossed my plane of vision.
A few weeks went by and we
became friendly again. He stopped teasing me if I yawned.
But here’s the irony. One day
our instructor teased him about the way he set up his bike for class. I
laughed. And the Lord pricked my heart.
In that moment, the eyes of my
heart opened and I knew John had been wounded by teasing. I apologized
“Forget it,” he said. “I’ve
been teased my whole life.”
Bingo. His own pain became my
pain the day his words stung my heart. I felt what he’d felt many times
as he was teased and picked on.
Wounded people often wound. In
the brief moment I had a glimpse of John’s heart, I understood God’s
heart for him. And for me.
I wasn’t in any way to add to
John’s inner wounds or hurt, even with a small echoing laugh.
Scripture says Jesus won’t even
step on a bruised reed. The apostle James reminds us of the great
turmoil our tongues can cause.
In this life, we pursue many
temporal things. New shoes. New cars. A publishing career. And God
delights in giving us these things.
But there are some eternal
commodities we can take with us into the Age to Come. What we do with
our time, our money and our words.
I live in a world of words. Most
of the year I’m aiming to write two thousand words a day. If I’m not
drafting a novel, I’m
tweeting, or writing e-mails. I’m
constantly reminded of the power of letters strung together.
spoke and the world was created. Curses alight by the spoken word.
Isaiah writes, “No weapon formed against you will prosper, and every
tongue that accuses you in judgment, you will
condemn” (author’s paraphrase and emphasis).
We’ve all been accused and
judged. We’ve been exhorted and encouraged. As a writer, I want my
words to mean things to the reader, to touch a hidden place in their
hearts with truth and hope.
If God urges me to exhort
others, I don’t want my words to be idle or vacant of unction. I want
them to touch the core of their souls.
This was God’s challenge to me:
If you want to speak for Me, and have your words count, then they will
count all the time. Not just when you want them to,
but every idle word will have weight.”
I’ve spent a lot of years trying
to live out this invitation. Offered many prayers of repentance.
I’m reminded of God’s heart
toward us when I meet people like John. Now I can encourage him, even
in small ways, and know my words have weight and meaning.
God loves John. With words. So
How about you? Are you guarding
your words? Speaking kindly to your
spouse and children, your friends and family? Or are you tearing down
with sarcasm, barbs, and teasing?
I love a good joke. I love to
laugh. I love to tease and be teased, but not at the expense of my own
soul or that of others. I still mess up, say the wrong thing. But I am
praising God for the life He’s given us in the power of the tongue.
The world is a hurting place.
Let’s not be a part of tearing down what God means to edify.