I don’t like being asked what is my favorite thing, from food to film to family member (don’t your kids ask which one you like best?). There are just too many things I like and love, even the odd relatives. But, it would be a cop-out to opt out of this week’s writing assignment--what I am most thankful for--just because I dislike narrowing things down. So, here goes: I am most thankful for...words.
I have loved words since I was a very young child. I wrote poetry and stories. My beloved first-grade teacher once asked me how I managed to create a certain poem. “I dunno,” I replied. “I just thunk it up in my head.” At age 8, I wrote a poem for my uncle in honor of his college graduation. It contained something about a wise owl. The adults were impressed, but no one framed the thing or tucked it into a memory book (do I sound bitter?).
Don’t judge me: I used to enjoy reading the dictionary and fancied becoming an etymologist. Yeah, kind of a geek, but since I enjoyed learning about history, it’s not a far stretch to be curious about the history of words.
We all have a ‘history of words’: words we hear and those we speak; those we read, and those we write; words we text and words we dictate. Maternal comfortings, excited expressions, stern warnings, friendly overtures, caustic playground comments, encouraging observations, bossy dictates, boring lectures, romantic proposals, angry outbursts, emotional speeches, children’s first words, furious arguments, powerful prayers, peaceful exchanges, inspiring sermons, funny commercials, hilarious stories, sad songs, worshipful services, last words.
There is much to be thankful for when it comes to words. I have precious word memories: my dad's greeting, “Hey, good-lookin'!” My husband's words of commitment on our wedding day, and every day since. My son, age 3: “You're the most beautiful mother I've ever had.” My daughter, looking at the changing leaves outside: “Those leaves are very colorly.” And another daughter, barely age 2: “You're so bad and so stupid.” Well, can't win 'em all!
The Word of God in particular is so precious to me because it is alive, encouraging, instructive and helps me to know God. The Word is good: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Words are important to God: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds” (Deuteronomy 11:18). “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
Of course, not every word we speak is a gracious word: we can use words to hurt, twist truth, dismiss, destroy, abuse, propagandize, criticize, even to kill. That is why the Apostle James addresses misuse of “the tongue” as a spiritual problem. We sin quite easily with our tongues and need to listen more and talk less. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry....Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:19, 26).
Keeping a tight rein on my tongue...ouch. Only God can help me with that. But, I am thankful for His Word--the Living Word Jesus Christ--for displaying for all of humanity, including me, that His gracious words can indeed bring healing to our soul and bones.