Yesterday, I heard thousands – tens of thousands – of them from the time I woke at 6:30 in the morning. I heard them whispered, shouted, sung; I heard them inside my head as I read them on a page. The words I heard were of a surprisingly varied nature. Some of them sounded sweet – compliments, prayers, and encouragements. Others – gossip, snapped insults – left me wishing I could wash my ears out with soap.
Within 16 hours, I heard thousands upon thousands of words.
I’ve never thought of it too much. I tend to take speaking for granted. I fill conversations, minutes, days and years up with more words than J.K. Rowling has dollars. I spend my thoughts in the currency of words as if they cost nothing. The trouble is, they do cost something, and the price is steep. I’ve been ignoring that price tag for far too long, and today God helped me see words in a different light.
By 3:00 yesterday afternoon, my brain was buzzing with talk. I sat down on a picnic bench outside, quiet for the first time in hours, and listened.
Silence. It was heavenly.
I began thinking of all of the words that I’d heard, and realized that 95% of them didn’t mean much of anything. If all of the meaningless or hurtful or just plain goofy talk I’d heard (and said) could be eliminated from this day, the soundtrack of my life would have been much quieter. Out of the multi-thousands of words spoken, maybe, oh, let’s say, 300 words truly made a positive impact on me. 300 words – or less – encouraged, revitalized, and uplifted me. The rest of the words were like eating a big bowl of whipped cream, leaving me sick and – after all that volume – surprisingly empty.
Jesus: You will have to give an account for every careless word you speak.
Sitting on the picnic table, the noise in my head began to drain away. The sun was shining on me, broken and pieced back together by the shadows of tree branches. Rhododendrons stood tall on my left in a proud green mass; more delicate trees with new-born leaves clustered on my right. Green lawn, rising and falling in gentle waves stretched out in front of me until it faded into the mountains far away. Robins hopped through the dandelions, eyeing me suspiciously every now and then. A pale yellow butterfly hovered close to the ground, crossing the lawn in a crazy, sporadic, beautiful flight.
God: Let there be beasts and flowers and fish. And He saw that it was good.
All words hold tremendous power. Human words have the power to wound and heal, create and destroy. God’s words have the power to create Saturn, manatees, ants, strawberries, the Grand Canyon, moths, eyeballs, and the ocean. God is infinite, and His words have always, before the beginning of time, held power beyond belief. He has given us tongues that hold a tiny fraction of a drop of that incredible power. And He has given us freedom. He has given us the choice of how to use this amazing messenger of thoughts, this rudder on the ship of our bodies, our lives. He allows us to us this tongue of ours in whatever way we choose. We can tell stories that make our families look foolish. We can deliver speeches that change lives. We can curse and we can bless. He has given us complete freedom of speech. And He has cautioned us over and over to use it wisely.
King Solomon: The power of life and death is in the tongue.
Our words can imitate God, if we allow Him to harness our tongues. Let Him sweeten the water in the well, and the water in the bucket will be refreshing. He is the Creator God, and we can imitate His creativity in building others up through our speech. We can be like Him in how we use our words. We can speak wisdom, beauty, compassion, love, and joy. Or we can reject the bridle He offers to our bucking broncos and watch where our whims take us. Speaking without restraint, without thinking, and without caring may be easier than learning to train our tongues. But we can be sure that it’ll cost us dearly in broken bones.
When I open my mouth to speak, I want to imitate my Father. He speaks words of truth, of healing, and words of life. I want meaningless words and hateful speech to be banned from my tongue. If the Author of life, the Creator of the world, and Truth Itself is living in me, my words should reflect that.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.