My reading lately has been pointing in the same direction. Everything I see or hear, intentionally or otherwise, sticks to the theme, like neon arrows moving me along a certain path. It feels as if it’s a conspiracy to make absolutely sure I don’t miss it, subtle as a sledgehammer.
This obvious theme is the words we use.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, if you’ve been awake and aware. The manner in which we speak to each other is disheartening, at best. We cut, we divide, we use our mouths violently to inflict the most damage. We used to try to retain some semblance of civility, even courtesy, but now that is mostly gone. Our fear and insecurity has outweighed our humanity, so we weaponize our posts and remarks, using tones we wouldn’t have dreamed of a few short years ago. Even when they’re not directed purposefully at others, our words are hopeless and cynical. We obsess over problems and worst-case scenarios.
I’m finished doing the same thing here, pointing out the broken parts. Instead, we’ll use one of my very favorite questions: What now? Where do we go from here? Is it really as inevitable as we’ve accepted?
Starting with the 3rd question, of course it isn’t. The tomb was empty, and nothing ever again can be said “is what it is,” because it’s simply not. It can be different and it can be today.
As for What now? and Where do we go from here? I have some ideas.
Proverbs 15:4 Gentle words bring life and health, a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 18:4 A person’s words can be life-giving water. Proverbs 12:6 …the words of the godly save lives, and 12:18 …the words of the wise bring healing. James 3:9-12 Sometimes [the tongue] praises Our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out in curses against those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth…this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Can you pick olives from a fig tree or figs from a grapevine? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty pool.
The tongue has the power of life and death (Prov 18:21), and I’m guilty of both not acknowledging that overwhelming fact and not caring. That James passage cracks me like a giant egg with that praising God AND curing those made in His image. Right? I’m too often a salty pool. I’ve crushed spirits instead of healed, brought death instead of life.
So, here’s the idea, and there is an order. Waiting for others to change first, for us to respond got us all in this mess. Let’s just operate as if we’re the answers to our own prayers of reconciliation, and go from there. Let’s be fresh, life-giving water. Let’s be springs (instead of salty pools). We’ve tried to gauge & match the temperature of the world around us, and it has been a resounding failure. That temperature is way too cold. It’s time for us to set the environment. We can decide to forgive, to not hold grudges, to call up, build, point out beauty everywhere we see it, give grace, give the benefit of the doubt, throw away our scorecards and start new.
Yes, of course, this is sometimes going to end up hurting. Some of us are monsters and will take advantage of our kindness and love. It’ll feel like we’re alone, and we’ll second-guess, “what can we really do?” Yep, that’s all true. But it already hurts, we’re already taken advantage of, beaten up and attacked, the only difference will be why.
We can start to push against the tide of darkness. You know, the more I think about it. We only think we’re pushing against the tide. It’s probably more like this garbage of inhumanity is like a dam – that our original bend, present since our creation, to worship, to engage in authentic relationships, to love extravagantly, is actually the tide and once we can all bang hard enough to cause a few cracks, it’s only a matter of time until it all comes down. And that all starts with a word.