This morning, as I sleepily (and a bit grouchily) drank my first cup of coffee and read my Instagram feed, I came across this quote by Lysa Terkeurst, “A woman who is careful with her words is a gift to all who know her.” Goodness! That’ll make me think before I spout off at the mouth today. As long as I can remember, I’ve been plagued with the need to speak my mind. This has both helped and greatly hindered me as I’ve navigated through my life. Countless times have I literally cringed at the words I’ve spoken, wishing I could take them back and do them over, or better yet, not say anything at all. Over the years, I’ve constantly invited God, by the power of His Holy Spirit, to control this part of me, which as we see in the Book of James, is described as “a small part of the body that makes great boasts.” It’s been quite a journey and I still struggle at times. With all my heart, I try my best to remember, as James advises, to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” James, like Lysa Terkeurst, is a very wise individual.
As I continued to sip my coffee, I began to also ponder the tone in which I speak. Sometimes tone is everything. Years ago, Stan and I were leading a team of short-term missionary students, as we did each summer, to the inner-city community of Islington in London, England. I now look upon these summers as some of my fondest times, in which we would inundate this community with love as we served, encouraged, taught, mentored and tried to be Jesus to children, teenagers and their parents. Our goal was always to communicate how much Jesus loved them and the life He had for them, all while making authentic relationships. Over a period of 10 years, we spent quite a lot of time in Islington, creating a deep love for this area and the amazing people who called it home.
During one of these trips, as we were hanging out with some teenagers, I was approached by a cute girl, who said, “You don’t sound like the other people that came over from America with you.” I explained that most of our team was from California, whereas I was originally from North Carolina, in the Southern part of the United States. She then replied, “Oh! That’s why you sound so different! It’s like when you speak your words dance!” I have to say, she made me feel much more confident about my Southern drawl that day.
As I, once again, ponder this comment, I am reminded that as Christian Believers, those who claim that their life and hope is in Jesus Christ, our words – the content, meaning and, yes, even the tone - shouldn’t be the same as those who do not follow Him. In other words, shouldn’t we communicate differently? In fact, shouldn’t all of our words “dance”? This makes me ask some hard questions… Do my words lift up those around me, or do they drag them down? Do they speak hope and promise, or do they discourage? The Bible tells us that the “power of life and death are in the tongue.” This means that each of us has the ability for our words to “dance” and bring life to those around us, as well as literally saturate others with death.
But it can be difficult at times, can’t it? We want to be full of life, but we often communicate death. I used to have a friend who, when she failed, would say, “I want to be Miss Melanie, but I keep being Scarlet!” (Apologies to everyone out there under the age of 45). But there is a way that we can be a Miss Melanie, so to speak, and lift up everyone around us with our words. And hands down, the most powerful way to do this is to equip ourselves (and our mouths!) to speak these words by saturating ourselves in God’s Word. God’s Word is where true life is. It changes us from the inside out. It’s is the only thing that can authentically enable our words to dance. Luke 6:45 (NLT) tells us “What you say flows from what is in your heart.” In other words, the first step in making our words dance, is a heart transformation, which only God can do. It’s not a mouth issue…it’s a heart issue.
Our words have incredible power. More, I believe, than we are even humanly capable of comprehending. So as we go about our days, beginning today, I invite you in joining me in giving extra thought to our words, especially with those whom God has entrusted us with. I know that there will be challenging times when our words may not want to “dance.” But I am confident that if we daily look into God’s Word, if we humble ourselves, and if we ask God for His touch upon our speech, our words will definitely be dancing!