There is something spiritual and powerful about words that slices through our chests.
I remember the first time I told a girl that I was interested in her.
I was (I blush as I write this) eighteen at the time. My younger but less reserved brother had a steady girlfriend in the third grade; this clip from the forgotten American classic, Pootie Tang, should give you a sense of him.
As for me, I stuttered. I stammered. My heart was beating so hard it literally caused rhythmic vibrations in my voice.
Why? Why do flesh-eating bacteria fill my brain in moments like these, snatching up gray matter when I need it most?
Not everyone is like this. Not everyone stops before they start and second guesses their second guesses. But even if this isn’t your character, you’ve had the experience of not knowing what to say, not knowing what to say next, letting the moment pass.
Sometimes we feel bad about these things, but sometimes we let it pass. We move on and declaim responsibility. We say nothing when we should say something.
When I read the Christian Bible, I am struck by how words of blessing and words of cursing fill the book. On nearly every page, people tear each other down or build each other up. There is something spiritual and powerful about words that slices through our chests – and the only difference between a scalpel and a machete is the design of the surgeon. The question the Holy Scriptures ask is: Will you bring words of healing and truth, or weapons of war?
I try to resist the weapons of war, to not hurt with words, but dying hearts around me are also killed for lack of proper care. It’s not enough to say nothing. Without words of encouragement, without opening my mouth in moments of hesitation, I’ve failed to care about the hearts of my friends too many times.
I’m overwhelmed as I read these words from the apostle Paul: “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Being filled with God’s Spirit is so … verbal. Addressing one another, psalms, hymns, singing, giving thanks … The gifts of the Almighty to his people are God-words that fill our mouths and fill our rooms for others to hear.
The tower of Babel and confusion (and cursing) is being torn down among us when people like me “live in the Spirit” and open our mouths with something – anything! – with which to bless and love. A voice of accusation whispers, It’s not good enough, It will probably fall on dead ears, Don’t be trite.
But the Spirit and the Bride say, Come.
O Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall declare your praise.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Bryan Wandel works in government finance and has studied history, accounting, and religion. He is a member of the editorial board at Humane Pursuits. Bryan’s writing has appeared at Comment Magazine, First Things, and elsewhere.