Words of Life

My ears and heart have listened to many spoken words. Some words were needed and like food for my soul. Others would have been better unheard and undigested in my mind.

Whether good or bad, words often have a sticky quality; they lodge themselves in your brain, where they are considered, processed, and reactionary emotion is massaged out of them. Our heart then becomes involved, and any time those words are thought of or mentioned again, those emotions may resurface. Words have the power to shape us.

There are moments I can remember when someone made me shrink back, and the stench of death was on their words. Specifically, I can remember being compared to siblings, friends, coworkers, and my spouse in ways in which I come up short. Sometimes fully aware of the power of their words, sometimes completely ignorant, people have told me that I am lesser than others. I have to fight not to let those words define me, because they really have stuck. They threaten my sense of assurance of life and identity in Jesus. They have killing power.

“Sometimes words of life are an acquired taste, and the Lord has to develop our taste buds so that we crave them.”

I can also remember many times in which people have spoken life-giving words to me. I remember family members and friends who have reminded me that I am loved no matter what. They have reminded me that my worth is solid and sturdy because Jesus has claimed me as his own. They have pointed out ways that God has worked through my circumstances and through the gifts He’s given me. These spoken words have been banners as I march through this world as a pilgrim. They have resurrection power.

As I reflect on words and conversations that have stuck with me over the years, I remember a few times when words of life came to me in disguise. My eyes saw through a false lens and viewed these words as murderous, evil, and suffocating, when in reality, if I had perceived them through clear lenses, I would have seen them for what they were: words of life, freedom, and truth.

For example, when my current husband and I were dating long-distance in college, I went through a season when I became consumed with our relationship. Because of my idolatrous focus on him and our future together, my friendships began to suffer, and I began isolating myself from the wonderful community in which I lived. A true friend of mine came to me and in the gentlest way possible told me that she worried about how much I thought about my dating relationship. At first, I was offended and thought there was no truth to the words. As time went on, though, the Lord cleared my vision, and I was able to see that she was right. Her words that I had scorned I could now see as an instrument of freedom. She was pointing me toward Christ, the only true source of joy.

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – choose.”  Proverbs 18:21

So as the Lord uses others to speak words to me, and as He gives me words to speak to others, it takes His Word and His Spirit to discern if the words truly are from Him. Sometimes it’s easy to tell if the words are life-living. But sometimes the words may be offensive at first, uncomfortable and ugly, but they are words of refining. They are painful but purifying, shedding but shaping, demanding but delivering. Sometimes words of life are an acquired taste, and the Lord has to develop our taste buds so that we crave them.

The longer we go without communicating with the Lord or being in His Word, the fainter His voice grows in our minds. We start to forget what He sounds like, and thus, we become disoriented in a world full of many voices from within and without. Therefore, we have to make ourselves familiar with our Shepherd’s voice so that we recognize when He is speaking through others or spurring us to speak. And we must always remember that He hems us in, before and behind. Even when we fail to listen to or speak words of life, there is grace scattered before and behind us. Like flower petals of grace on the wedding aisle, God prepares the way for His bride as she walks toward her Groom.

– Rebecca Jenkins, Pelham