Thursday, June 20, 2013

Power of Words

I have quite a lot of words.  They're not loud, boisterous words, but they're words nonetheless.  They are words that process situations, people, and feelings.  They help me think through my life and the way I work.  They also help me process others' situations and how they work.

I'm not careful enough with my words.  I often say too much.

A few months ago, a woman came to share with my small group.  (Hello, you; I know you're reading this:)  She talked with my freshmen small group about the struggles she and her son experienced when he was a teenager.  She and I communicated during her son's teenage years, trying to combine our forces, our love, and our wisdom to help her son.  We wrote e-mails back and forth, sometimes brief, sometimes lengthy.  We cried together on the phone.  She was, for the record, the most cooperative, strong mother of a troubled teen with whom I've worked.

She came prepared to my small group meeting, which didn't surprise me at all.  She had written out her thoughts and her experience.  Her typed notes were organized in a folder.  But that's not all that was in her folder. 

She had printed pages of our e-mail correspondence from the last seven years.

And I was struck by the importance of my written words.  And I wondered what, exactly, I had written.  I wondered if my words were compassionate, loving, honest, and supportive.  I wondered if they were selfish or selfless.  
Three of "my girls."  Look how cute they were:)
Last night a young woman posted on Facebook about a Bible study we had 7-8 years ago.  She was one of "my girls" who I led through the adolescent experience in a faith community.  I was floored that she remembered our discussion about technology and church from when she was a junior high student.  

I don't presume that I said anything profound that etched in her memory.  But she remembers the conversation.

How many small group conversations have I led in the last 12 years?!  I cannot begin to count them.  In the vast majority of them, I've said nothing insightful, profound, or lasting.  I have wasted lots of words, and I continue to waste lots of words.

I am fearfully overwhelmed by the idea that my words, written or spoken, could stick with an 8th grader until she's an engaged woman.  I am humbled by the idea that my words would be worth keeping to a mom struggling to be the very best mom she can possibly be in the face of difficult circumstances.  At this moment, I don't want to think about the words that have come out of my mouth in a preaching capacity and the influence they may or may not have had.

My prayer is to use my words wisely, to be aware of their significance, and to keep my mouth shut a little more often.

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