Words Pack a Wallop!
September 1, 2011 | My Jottings
(From the archives…)
I’ve said before that while growing up, my favorite thing in the whole world was to swim. I grew up in Southern California, and many families there had built-in swimming pools in their back yards, but my family didn’t have one until I was a teen. During the early years of my life I had to wait to be invited to a friend’s house to swim.
One hot summer day when I was about ten years old, a neighborhood friend named Jackie invited me and my good friend Christy over to enjoy her pool. We did back dives and front flips off the diving board, we turned pale and wrinkled from the chlorinated water, we coughed from the mixture of smog in the air and bleach in our lungs, but I didn’t care – to me it was all a magical concoction of what made a perfect day.
After a couple of hours of fun, I noticed Jackie whispering to Christy, and later found out that she had invited Christy to spend the night at her house, excluding me. I was hurt, but I went home thankful I had been able to swim. Several days later when I was invited to Jackie’s house again, I decided to be bold and ask her why she had asked Christy to spend the night and not me too. Jackie wasn’t an unkind girl, but she was serious and rather forthright for her age. I saw her wince as she considered what to answer me, and these were the words she spoke: “Julie, you’re dull.”
If ever a word packed a wallop, that one did. Deep inside I thought it might be true – I knew I wasn’t one of those exciting little girls who had swarms of people around her all the time – but I had never heard someone describe me as dull, and as that word reverberated in my head, I began to think of ways to liven myself up, ways to become more exciting or entertaining. I thought I was going to have to tap dance, juggle or tightrope walk in order to keep people from thinking I was dull.
But somehow over the years God kept me from truly attempting to change my personality. He brought other people into my life who liked me the ho-hum way that I was. Nevertheless, that word packed a wallop in my young heart and soul and occasionally I fought the thought that I had to entertain people in order to interest them. When I had matured a bit I was able to let go of that false way of thinking. Lucky for all of my friends that each time we’re together they haven’t been subjected to waving pompoms, trick roller skating, or quickly constructed balloon animals. When I began to understand more about who I am in Christ, the word “dull” gradually lost its power and I could look upon that memory of Jackie with a smile.
This is a strong verse, but I have seen firsthand how my own words have walloped others, and I have cried bitter tears over careless things that have slipped out of my mouth. I am sick and tired of bringing death with my words, and want to bring life. Even when a negative report is called for, I know it can be brought with words of life.
I read that the average person spends one-fifth of his or her life talking. Are you 50 years old? Quite possibly, you’ve spent ten years talking. If all our words were put into print, the result would be this: a single day’s words would fill a 50-page book, while in a year’s time the average person’s words would fill 132 books of 200 pages each. Among all those words there are bound to be some spoken in anger, carelessness, or haste, just the very situations Proverbs cautions us against. Someone wrote, “Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”
James 3:2-6: We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.
Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
A contemporary example of the tongue being a destroying fire and a deadly poison, is Adolf Hitler. I read that for every word in Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, (which means “My Struggle”) 125 people died during World War II. One hundred twenty-five deaths for every one word. Speech can be a matter of life and death.
In my family during my youth, I saw and experienced the damage that an untamed tongue can inflict on people. There were also many kind, encouraging and life-giving words spoken in our home, but somehow the negative words always seem to pack the biggest wallops, don’t they?
My friend Jackie uttered those walloping words to me over 40 years ago, and I still remember them, but they no longer have any power over me and don’t hurt a bit. In fact, I’m inclined to agree with her. But I don’t feel that need to be someone other than who the Lord created me to be. If I’m not the most sparkling, sanguine person in the room, I’m okay with that. Fuddy-dud works for me. I honestly don’t feel the need to juggle or tap dance or liven myself up anymore. 🙂
These days I’m learning to hearken to the powerful words of Someone Else, and He’s not telling me that I’m dull. (Okay, He’s not telling me I’m scintillating either). His words do pack a great wallop, but for my good and for His glory.
He is telling me that I’m loved with an everlasting love. He’s telling me I’m worth dying for. He’s telling me I need His discipline in my life. He’s telling me I can find all I need at His feet, and that I will never find a friend like Him. He’s telling me that my careless words and many other sins give me a desperate need for a Savior. He’s telling me that He is that Savior.
Could you believe that He’s telling you the very same things?
Truly one of the hardest things in life for me, is to not blurt out a complaint, a worry, or an observation that might be too harsh for the hearer. But I am thankful for opportunities to change.
This morning I woke to find my heart still beating and my lungs drawing breath. That must mean there’s still hope. Like David did, I’m asking the Lord to daily create a clean heart in me, so that the words that are produced there are life-giving words. I want my words to bring warmth and life to my husband, to my children and grandchildren, to my friends, and even to the stranger who crosses my path. I want to speak words that flow out and bring to others encouragement and truth, light and hope. Words that pack a wonderful wallop, and are remembered for years afterward, because they brought life…