By Randi Peck
My daughter is an artist. At nearly four years old, she cannot yet write out sentences. But she loves to draw pictures. I’m telling you, she would go through two-Spruces-worth of paper a day, if we set no limit. If I can’t find any crayons or pens, she’ll use highlighters. If we’re out of paper and envelopes, she’ll use the backs of receipts. There’s no stopping her.
So when she sends her grandparents letters, or creates cards for her friends- her art is her message. Sometimes, stick people with Einstein-ish hair span the page. Sometimes she makes her own connect-the-dots full of color And sometimes, lemons, sunshines, and “everything that God made” fill the four corners of her canvas. Who knows where the imagination of a child will lead them- all I know is that her art adds brightness to the day of its recipients.
My little crayon-yielder may be young, and yet, the way she fills a page with color is capable of evoking emotion and inspiring moods. I don’t think anyone would argue, art sends a message. Art is powerful. For God gave us creativity, technique, and color pallets to stir us, and to speak of his glory… How much more so, did God entrust us with speech, to proclaim his name? How much more so, are our words sending a message?
If your words were strokes of the brush, what kind of picture would you step back and see?
If your sentences left an image, each visit you shared with a friend, what would that image be?
If your exchanges with your spouse, over the weekend, filled a canvas, what would the end result feature?
Would they translate into dark and foreboding images, adding to the already-anxious mama tendencies?
Would they convey walls that isolate, or mountains of expectations?
Would they be a giant self-portrait, reflecting your incessant self-absorption?
Maybe you have a particular “shade” in mind, that you tend to “color” with wherever you go… Worry. Resentment. Condescension. Shallowness. Negativity. Self-centeredness.
It may seem like a ridiculous analogy, but we all know words do last. We all have those voices echoing in our minds and consciences—
Whether literally our mothers: “Don’t get too close to the microwave when it’s running.”
Or a high school peer’s dagger, painfully inflicted more than a decade gone by: “Nobody want’s to be around your drama.”
Maybe a fashion flub someone passively mocked you for: “You’re so funny, the way you apply your makeup.”
Yes, words make impressions. They can guilt and divide and break a heart. But don’t they also possess equal potential to empower? Heal? Build up? And comfort?!
I can still hear the encouragement of those first few people who saw potential in my writing: “Have you ever thought about being a journalist?”
Or the comfort of my parents, offering a promise in my darkness: “I don’t know why, honey. But those who sow in tears, will reap in joy.”
Some of these conversations took years to sink in, and take root. Others stand out like crossroads in my journey, monuments of change.
In any case, words that prove lasting and true… these are a priceless gift.
Personally, I struggle deeply with setting a grace-filled culture with my words. Though you won’t often find me mud-slinging with my convictions, I swing to the opposite end of the pendulum: fearfully withholding the truth I know is needed, for fear of confronting. I am scared to offend. Or appear unempathetic. Or even to say the wrong thing… So I sit and nod my head; with each nod of my head, shading in the image of gossip or stress or bitterness being constructed before my eyes.
Do you, too, withhold words of truth and grace, when a friend describes a dangerous pattern they’ve fallen into?
Your opinions on drinking or worship style or breastfeeding… do they highlight or hide the love of Christ?
When you express your views on Halloween, do you reflect the gospel light?
When blood is boiling and CAPS are locking, in those vicious and fearsome wars waged in the comment thread- does your contribution lift burdens or add them to its readers?
Sometimes words must be pointed and graciously painful- Becky once shared how the words of the women willing to confront and redirect her drama, during her divorce, were like “pillars in the sand”. Even though she didn’t necessarily want to hear them at the time. Faithful are the wounds of a friend (1).
Other times, the topics we engage in may not be sinful, in and of themselves, but the conversation is in the weeds, bogged down with the cares of the world. The perspective desperately needs the birds-eye view of the gospel.
Often times, I think it’s as simple as bringing strokes of grace into the room- reminding others that no matter which sleep training method they subscribe to, God is the Good Father who alone can raise their child perfectly. That he is the Protector, and that what we pour into them, eternally, is much more important than all the hormone-free, grass-raised, organic food in the world.
If you’re like me, you of course want to leave magnificent, lifegiving words-for-the-soul, wherever you go! But it isn’t so easy, is it? For out of the abundance of our heart, the mouth speaks (2). And our hearts are full of sin and garbage, lies and fear.
If we hope to be messengers of the beautiful gospel, our starting place must be the Word, Jesus himself.
The two-edged Sword, cutting to the heart.
The Good Tidings of great joy.
The Word made flesh, emptied of heavenly glory, come to reveal the Finished Work.
Through a righteous life and a humble death and a glorious resurrection, this Word forgives us of the lethal words we’ve spewed over others.
And binds up the wounds others have caused with their own destructive sentences.
It is not just that Christ’s words give life- Christ, the Word, is life. And as we sit before the Word, our hearts begin to be emptied of our own abominable thoughts. And our words begin to display the message of hope- the Word of Life.