Suffering Our Words

Arms Open - Becky Allender

It’s a familiar experience: speaking something aloud and then watching, powerless, as the fallout of our words unfolds. Here, Becky Allender writes about the power of the tongue to both bring life and cause harm, and about the call to surrender our spoken words to the living Word of God. This post originally appeared on Red Tent Living.

Shock waves went through my entire body! “Did I say that?” Oh, dear God, how could I have been so foolish? How could I have said that? My face flushed red and my stomach ached as I swallowed with a gulp and the severity of my words rang in my ears.

But what exactly had I meant? What did I actually say? My mind went completely blank as the gravity of whatever was said ricocheted inside my head. I couldn’t think straight and my heart pounded loudly in my chest.

I wanted to flee and I felt trapped at the same time.

How many countless times in my lifetime have I had to suffer my spoken words? I even pride myself in being patient and long suffering—and somehow think that means careful and full of wisdom about when to not speak. I even carefully pride myself in crafting generous and grace-filled sentences, and then something like that slips off my tongue! Oh dear Lord please be merciful to me!

I went to my closet and got into Child’s Pose on the floor and pleaded with God to soften the heart of the person who received my judgment.

How is it that words of life, or what I intend to be life-giving, somehow become words of death?

How many countless times have I had to suffer my spoken words?

As I kept my forehead on the floor I pleaded with the “Word,” Jesus, to boldly stand in my way. I pleaded that my presence and heart would mellow the harsh words and by His commendation turn my words to be a fragrance of life. The foolishness of my prayer felt like asking for a pig to be pretty by applying lipstick. But I have known God to turn darkness into light. In the mystery of His love, words that seemed at first cruel could actually be transformed into a hope, a desire, a longing for change.

I have been on the receiving side of words that were hurled in unexpected volleys. In some of those interactions, it actually took almost two decades before I received them and could hear them without nausea-induced fury. I regret that it took me so many years to trust the speaker of those words. But what was once the stench of death could finally be smelled as the fragrance of life. Yes, life and healing and surrender. How had we made our way through such tangled, thorny paths?

I stood up in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). I felt my feet strong and sturdy on the floor. I tilted my head back and arched my back with arms uplifted. I breathed in deeply and spoke aloud the words, “Help Jesus!” I put my folded hands to my “third eye” and breathed out peace and goodness. I stood in Samasthiti (Equal Standing) and quietly breathed in and out for many minutes.

Jesus, you are the Word and every word that has ever been spoken will one day bow before you. Every knee will bow when you return. Everything and everyone will bow and praise you. I stood straight and trusted the Word. My words at best are never enough. My words, at worst, are like debris that falls out of the sky. My words, harmful and ill, kind and life-giving, must bow before the Word, if any good is to come.

I am made in His image and my being brings praise to my heavenly Father. Just as Mt. Rainier is a testament to God’s glory, so it is true for me. I too, just by being me, testify to God’s glory. My very being bears witness to His awesome glory. I will not fear even when my words are like lava that melts forests and causes havoc. I will trust that the words that I spoke will be used for good. If not today, then some day.

I left my closet and walked downstairs. I called out my husband’s name and asked how he was. Could we talk more? I was ready now, but was he? There is nothing so severe that a Savior can’t restore. And so, my heart was calm and I went to sit with him and see how he was with what I had said. His eyes were soft and we touched foreheads together, and our arms gradually entwined each other. And we began to do the hard, complicated work of turning the words of death to life.