Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Power Of The Tongue

"My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
         I recite my composition concerning the King;
         My tongue
is the pen of a ready writer."  Psalm 45:1

I love books.  I really and truly love books.  I love simply wandering the aisles at the library or the book store- surrounded by shelf after shelf of tomes full of written words.  I love reading them and getting lost in a story, and I love turning to them when I need facts or information... I love books.  I've often thought about trying my hand at writing one- I have dozens of half-plots and characters floating around in my head.  But you know, the wonderful thing about a book to me is that you can read it, and then after time has passed, you can read it again.  Writing the words onto the pages of a book is a way to keep them and preserve them.  Even in today's day and age, when you make an audio recording, there is always a chance that those words could be accidentally erased- with a written record, there is little chance of that.

This verse struck a chord with me yesterday though- and it still bears a bit of mystery this morning as I read it again.  "My tongue IS the pen of a ready writer".  That makes me smile, and wraps me up with a warm fuzzy feeling, until I really read it and realize that it is speaking of the power of the tongue- the power of the words that our mouths make and give voice to.  The tongue is a pen... a pen writes down words that can literally last for generations- how can a tongue do that?  How can a spoken word do that?

Oh, it certainly can.  Every time I think about the power of the spoken word, and think about watching what I see, I clearly think about this house that we almost moved into a while ago.  It was a big old farmhouse- it would have been fun to try and fill all the rooms- but something about it didn't feel quite right to us.  As we were being shown the house, and walked up the stairs, the owner kind of laughed and told us she was about to show us "the orphanage".  There were so many bedrooms on the second floor, that they'd always called it that. Indeed, it was a little reminiscent of the idea of an orphanage, room after room in a row.  Later on though, she told us how the house came to be available for renting- the woman who had been living there died in a car crash, leaving her two young boys without a mom.  At the time I just thought it was a horrible thing to hear.  It wasn't until months later that I was driving past that house again, casually thinking about it when I thought about those two events- and I instantly began thanking God for the unsettled feelings He gave us about that house.   These people have called the bedrooms in their house an orphanage for years, and when their words became truth, they didn't see that perhaps they should stop calling it such.

When you use your tongue to criticize someone, those words last a really long time.  In fact, those words to me seem to last so much longer than words of praise or encouragement.  Over the last two weeks I've stepped up and dipped my toe into doing something unexpected at church, and while I spend time beating myself up over my less-than-perfect activity, the words of praise that come from so many have really gone a long way in building up my confidence.  While there is a part of me that would love some constructive criticism if it's there to be had, I am very grateful that no one has actually brought anything up.  Instead I can think on the kind words of others and it gives me a little boost of confidence to keep forging this new path.

The thing is, those words of encouragement are nothing if they are not spoken in the first place.  Think about that- we are not all mind readers, we can't walk around thinking thoughts to one another.  We physically have to use our tongue to speak them to give them power.  Oh, I like getting a written word as well- sometimes a little note will give me such a boost- but it's that personal spoken word to my face that is oh-so-powerful.

Think about that the next time you go to God to pray about something.  Unlike us humans, God CAN read our thoughts, and he certainly answers those prayers that we keep quietly to ourselves, but when we give voice to those prayers- when we open up our mouths and petition Him with our voice, than He really pays attention.

I know this is not the first time that I have mentioned the power of our words- the thing is, it's so easily forgotten!  One minute we're thinking about how we're going to watch carefully what we say, and then just like that we're calling someone an idiot because they did something dumb.  It's so important to try to be vigilant and watch our words.  Studies have been done on schoolchildren who have been praised over and over for their efforts- those students, though they may not be the brightest, consistently do better on tests because they simply think they can after all the praise they've received.

Not only do we need to watch our words towards other people, but we also need to remember that our tongue is powerful and can bring great honor and praise to God.  I like to think that when I'm doing housework and I'm singing along to some great praise music that I'm multitasking- that as I'm getting some physical work done, I am also spending time praising God for all His wondrous works and for all that He has done.  That's a great power of the tongue to have- simply praising God for everything that He is and everything that He's done. 

The tongue is indeed sharper than a two-edged sword.  The question is, how will we use that tongue to pierce the darkness? How will we use our tongue to encourage and edify?  The next time you feel some unsavory words bubbling to the surface, think first before you speak.  Think about how you can use your words in a positive way instead.  It could really make a world of difference to someone- or maybe even yourself.

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