I have always been fascinated by the power of words. My Grandfather regularly demystified and imparted his varied artisan skills, from molding precious metals to hitting a curve ball, with simple, empowering guidance. My Dad is a war veteran not easily rattled, but there was a phone call one April night that buckled his knees. At the tender age of nine, I had never seen tears in his eyes, but that night he wept and his whole frame shook. I watched through a window as a Pastor first listened, and then offered a few powerful words that helped my father start putting his world, and mine, back together.
What are your “power of words” stories? Maybe you save quotes – words that model, galvanize, and inspire. I encouraged (read required) my sons to learn the Band of Brothers speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. And – don’t forget Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech. If they don’t ring a bell either Google them now. I can’t leave out some of from Kipling’s poem, “If”,
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too…
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch…
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
Words are powerful. Solomon went so far as to say, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Power to invigorate. Power to restore. But also power to crush and destroy. This may sound like preaching to the choir. Those who minister know the power of words. That’s why we craft our messages, classes, and sessions, our public words. What about those unscripted words in less public situations? They still carry power; the power of life and power of death. During this season, when I spend even more time talking with family and friends I need to ask before I speak, “Life or death?” Maybe we could find the courage to ask some trusted loved ones about our unscripted words. If you do, and it hurts, don’t forget that Jesus fulfilled all righteousness – even for our words – and He did it for you and me. Lean in to Him. Ask for His grace. Then go speak life.