I was listening to my sister explain to my niece why she could not spend the night at her Aunt Patti’s house. My sister had to make several attempts at explaining why the night was not a good night for her to sleep over. At the conclusion of what would be her final effort, she ended her reasonable and logical explanation with an emphatic, “…and that is the end of it, because Momma says so.” The conclusion was when I stopped listening to my sister and started hearing my mother. There are all kinds of ways that my sister is different from my mother, but I chuckled to myself as I heard my mother’s words coming out of her mouth. We learn the vocabulary of living from those who are closest to us. It gives me pause to think what I have taught my boys. What will it feel like if one day I hear my words coming out their mouths as they speak to those who are nearest and dearest to them?
Words are what we use to communicate with each other. What we mean by them can be easily misunderstood if how we use and understand them is different from how the person we are speaking to uses and understands them. Our tone, volume, body posture and attitude can also impact the message we are trying to communicate with our words.
Words can hurt and words can bless. Words spoken by us can encourage someone to discover the joy of life, and they can also leave wounds that will be a long time healing. Sometimes we speak before we think. Our intention would never be to hurt or to harm someone, but a word or phrase slips out and the damage is done. Words are powerful. They can nurture and grow a life, or they can tear it down.
Words are used all the time in our world, not just in our closest relationships. They are the tool that anyone who has something they want us to know, think about, or act upon gets his or her message to us. Politicians who want our votes throw words at us. Retailers who want us to buy their products throw words at us. Criminals who would deceive us with a fraudulent scheme throw words at us.
Words are everywhere and they come at us all the time these days. Facebook, email, and texting allow words to come our way on a virtually continual basis without us even speaking with another human being. How do we process all those words? Is there a danger, in the midst of so many words, that words will have less meaning, or over load our capacity to process them, understand them, make sense of them, and respond to them accordingly?
With all the words that are zipping through our lives each day, it is no wonder there are times when we miss the Word that God spoke to us so long ago, and is still speaking to us today, “…the Word that took on flesh and lived among us.” When God wanted to speak to us the deepest longing of the heart of God, God left words behind and came to us. The Word God spoke was God in the flesh with us. We know God because God came to us.
In times of difficulty and challenge, God still speaks. God is still with us. In times of grief, God is still with us. In times of joy, God is still speaking. In all of our days, in all of our living, the Word that took on flesh and lived among us is still with us. That Word still holds out to us “…the power to become the children of God.”
The challenge for us seems to be one of discernment. Is it possible for us to distinguish the Word that God is speaking into our lives from all of the other words that fill up our world? Are we willing to so position our lives in proximity to God that the Word God is speaking to us becomes our language, our way of communicating with the world around us, and interacting with it — so that as we live, our lives speak of forgiveness, mercy, peace, hope and redemption? Ultimately, what God said to us by taking on flesh and coming to be with us is that we are loved. Can the Word that God spoke to us, and is still speaking to us, be spoken through us?
It can, if we make time to listen to God. If all we ever listen to are the voices that clamor for our attention, then we can never hope to speak with any other language. Nor can we hope to see life from any other perspective than that of those clamoring voices. Let us listen to God so that our lives will tell the story of God’s great love for all of us. As children of God, let us repeat the sounding joy over and over again.