Reflection for Sunday, August 12, 2018
Written by Rev. Jacqueline Samson of St. Stephen’s United Church in Hudson Bay SK
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:25-5:2 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word is a gift.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable to you, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer …
In our reading based on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we are given some extremely important attitudes and practices that come from Jesus’ wisdom teachings. I used bold print and underlined the word extremely because it truly is that important to us as humans in relationship with other humans. The central focus is on the way that we choose to use our words. We are reminded not to lie, but rather to be honest with one another. We are instructed to resist words that hurt and instead to encourage each other, so that words will help whoever might hear them grow stronger. The teaching goes even deeper as it includes the practice of letting go of bitterness and rage, anger, slander, and hatred as we work on replacing them with kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness. The final piece of wisdom is the instruction for us to imitate God, because we are God’s beloved children … a call for us to grow up and to start behaving as such beginning with how we use our words … a call to live in love not only through our actions, but most importantly through our words.
The piece of music/video entitled “Speak Life” by TobyMac was introduced to me through Leanne Hintz. She wrote one of her blogs on this theme … the theme of using our words for building up another instead of tearing them down.
Leanne shares these words, “The phrase “speak life,” as I see it, is a simple reminder to speak kindly and to speak positively ABOUT others and TO others. I would take it a step further to say that we should also “speak life” ABOUT ourselves and TO ourselves.
“Speaking life” indicates hope and promise for the future. It nudges us to quit wallowing in our trials and focus on all that is good, rather than all the things that are weighing us down. Speaking life encourages us to live with gratitude and recognize the beauty in situations and people that we bump into in our lives. It pushes us to move past judgment, towards acceptance. When we “speak life” to someone, we build them up. We give them hope.”
The lyrics and images in this piece of music reveal in a powerful way the damage and the building up that words can do in our relationships. TobyMac sings, “We can turn our heart through the words we say … mountains crumble with every syllable … hope can live or die.”
The video has the image of a young boy silently crying after someone’s words did their damage to him. Then there is the image of him lying on the cement ground like a murder victim surrounded by a chalk line … the victim of a crime using the dangerous weapon of words … words that killed some part of him the instant they were said. There are also images of other people who also end up on the cold ground with chalk lines around them … the woman whose partner berated her … the old man in the hospital bed whose doctor told him there is no hope … powerful visuals of the hurt our words can inflict.
TobyMac invites us to “speak life to the deadest darkest night … to look into the eyes of the broken hearted and watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope, speak love, speak life.”
The video also has a lovely young girl who comes up to these people in their brokenness and despair and she is seen whispering words of love and of hope into their ears … we see how kindness leads to healing and strength.
Would you agree that words are extremely powerful? I invite you to think of a time when you either said or received some words of kindness … how did it feel? Now think of a time when you either said or received some words of criticism, judgement, blame, shame, or anger. How did that feel? In the video, there was a scene of a man being verbally attacked by a group of angry people. He reacts by grabbing at his heart as if he has been stabbed … his heart is visibly aching. I know that I have done this exact same thing when experiencing the horrible heartache of someone’s nasty words. It is heart wrenching!
All this being said, I cannot stress enough how important it is to be consciously aware of what comes out of our mouths. Our mouths can spew poison or release beauty out into the world and we can decide which ones to use. Words can elevate or deflate. There is a quote on the video by Brennan Manning that states it wisely with these words, “In every encounter we either give life or we drain it: there is no neutral exchange.” A great relationship question is this … “Do I want to be right or do I want to be in relationship?” Whenever our focus is on being right in a relationship we discount the other person and when we do this there can’t be a healthy relationship. Relationships are about understanding and allowing differences to exist side by side with love.
One of my favourite go to books is this one …”The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz (you can order here, if you’re interested). In it, he writes of the four most important agreements that we can make with ourselves in order to live lives free of fear and powerlessness. Guess what the first agreement and the most challenging one is?
“Be impeccable with your word.”
Ruiz writes,“The first agreement is to “be impeccable with your word.” It sounds very simple, but it is very, very powerful. Why your word? Your word is the power that you have to create. Your word is the gift that comes directly from God …
The word is not just a sound or a written symbol.
The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life. You can speak. What other animal on the planet can speak? The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic. But like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you. One edge is the misuse of the word, which creates a living hell. The other edge is the impeccability of the word, which will only create beauty, love, and heaven on earth.”
I don’t know about you, but I have noticed that as I get older and hopefully more mature as a person, that I have less and less tolerance for the words that destroy and more desire for the words of beauty in my life. I have also begun to realize that the words that we choose to use are really a reflection of how we feel about ourselves, even though we are using them on someone else. The tit-for-tat word game is better played with words of love, kindness, and gratitude that with words of hate, meanness, and selfishness. I implore you to really work on this first agreement of being impeccable with your word … take time to think before you speak. And follow closely these words from Ephesians, “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word is a gift.”
So … practice … practice … practice and help to alleviate some of the worst kind of suffering that we can do to another person … another child of God’s.
“Speak hope, speak love, speak life.” May it be so.