“…the final mystery as well as the final power of words: that not even across great distances of time and space do they ever lose their capacity for becoming incarnate. And when these words tell of virtue and nobility, when they move us closer to that truth and gentleness of spirit by which we become fully human, the reading of them is sacramental; …the Word itself becomes flesh again and again and dwells among us and within us, full of grace and truth.” Frederick Buechner
Words. Such a simple word to write or pronounce. Yet, such a loaded “word” for our hearts.
One word can lift our spirits to soar like wings that know no limit. One word can also send us spiraling to the ground in a hardcore, bloody plunge. Few of us own the power of our parted lips and oscillating tongue. Yet, we know that all God had to do was speak words for all the world to come into being, and we are made in his image.
As a parent, we know that both praise and ridicule makes all the difference in the lives of our Littles. Yet, sometimes, frustrations rail so high that often we say things in words or timbre that simply cannot be gobbled up as quickly as they were spewed.
We secretly hate ourselves for spewing these words before we thought them through. I say, “secretly” as we are typically so ashamed at having said them that we either don’t remember having said them, or we just can’t bring ourselves to reconciliation with the fact that we did. I have experiences of having said both, enriching and derogatory words, that come bubbling up to the surface from my depth.
When my Middle was six years old we were riding in my truck alone together. Out of the blue, she turned her tiny face to me and asked, “Mama? If I was pregnant and told you that I had not had sex would you believe me?” Lord! The child was six years old! Inside, I panicked. Why is my six-year-old asking me such a question? And, I thought, “No. I would not believe you.”
Thankfully, I took a moment before answering and said, “Honey, why do you want to know this thing?” She answered, “Because when I grow up I want to be the Virgin Mary.”
Relieved, I answered, “Honey, God already had his ‘Virgin Mary’. Now, he just wants his ‘Whitney;’.”.
That was a life-giving, stellar moment I belayed with words. I repeat, “moment’.
There are other “moments” where I totally missed it. Moments of leaving, turning away by shutting down another with my too-many words. Moments of ruin. Moments of lost opportunity for joy, love, healing, and connection. I languish most for the moments of lost opportunity.
Once, my youngest confronted me with a scripture I had used “against” her. Oh! How that stung. I have complete trust in my daughter so even though I did not remember saying that to her, I instantly believed her, and how my heart broke.
I believed her in part because she is the sort of person who is “without guile” as much as Jesus said of Nathan. But I also believed her because I was just getting in touch with my darker side. I did not want to acknowledge this side of myself; I tried to keep her locked in the basement of my soul. Yet, as hard as it was to admit, I knew it lay there in waiting. It must have come out at her when I was afraid for her over a decision she was making. A moment of destruction with words.
So, how do we know when our darker side is popping out? We can look through the lens of our actual words as a camera to our hearts versus what we want to believe about ourselves.
To say, “I love you.” Can carriage a cacophony of meanings.” Does it mean, “I care about you as much or more than myself.”? Or does it really mean, “I need you more than I know who I am?”.
What we mean by the words we say comes across spirit-to-spirit in a way that few of us understand. Words are powerful but spoken without the integrity of the whole of ourselves may summons a destructive power. The truth is held beyond the fence of words. It’s in our eyes, the timbre of our tone; it’s in the way our body is tight or fluid as we speak them.
This is why dogs, horses, and all sentient beings who do not use words can know exactly what we mean when we talk to them. Our demeanor combined with words determines whether they wag their tails, bare their bellies, refuse to be caught, or come running to our arms. They know, and can teach us if we will listen. (See Job 12:7)
Don’t get me wrong, words are important. It’s just that what we need to factor in is that words are only a snapshot into our souls, not a feature-length movie. For that, we have to listen to the whole of ourselves. I’m certain God could have spoken Zebras into being with a grunt rather than a word because the whole of God is intact. In integrity. This is our life’s work: to reconcile our words with our spirit and body. Through this honest self-reflection and recollection, we will find our original beauty, life’s purpose, and mission.
Love, your sister along the journey,
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