The Power of Words and the Wonder of God
- Monday, December 07, 2009
I also have sat with people who are thirty-five, forty-five, or fifty years old who'll talk to me about horrible things that their mom and dad said to them decades ago. When they begin to recount the ugly words of yesteryear, they'll weep as if it happened yesterday. In these moments, I'm confronted again with the scary, painful, long-term shelf life of ugly, hateful, abusive talk.
On the other hand, what's more exciting than waiting for a child to speak his or her first words? Little Jimmy toddles into the room and he goes blu-blah-blah-blah. And Dad says to his wife, "I think he said ‘John Calvin.' I'm sure. I'm sure it was ‘John Calvin.'" Well, it was probably just gas, but the parents are expectant and excited because Jimmy is on the cusp of something that is magnificently human—he is getting ready to talk!
What is sadder in all of life than when a human being goes silent? I remember it well with my dear mom. We actually had some preparation. She had been sick for a while, and we were called to her bedside. We knew that this was the end, but we were privileged to spend her final week with her. We sang to Mom every hymn in Christendom. I finally bent over her bed and whispered in her ear, "Mom, we're out of hymns, we're going to sing to you the Beatles." She smiled. But with all that preparation I was not ready for that moment when Mom fell silent. There was something horrible and de-human about that moment. I wanted to hear her say "I love you" one more time. I wanted to finish conversations that we had never finished. I had so much that I wanted to say, so much that I wanted to hear. But she had spoken her last words.
You see, talk is a very, very important dimension of your humanity, your God-likeness. So your saddest and most celebratory moments of life have all been accompanied by talk.
3) Your World of Talk Is a World of Trouble
There's a third thing that I know about everyone reading this book: your world of talk is a world of trouble. I know this for sure, not because I know you but because I know me. It's to my grief that I am not writing these words as an expert. No, I'm writing as a man in moment-by-moment need of the rescuing grace of my Redeemer. And you are reading these words as a person in the same kind of need. Who of you would be quite comfortable if I were to play a public recording of everything you said last month? I don't think any of you would volunteer.
My wife, Luella, and I have been married for thirty-seven years. During those thirty-seven years, Luella and I have had a particular struggle in our marriage. Well, it's really my struggle. It's over the issue of time. Luella was raised in Cuba, and she has a combination of a sort of island view of time and a Latin view of time. She lives on a bit of a vibe. People go to the islands because time slows down. On the other hand, I was raised by a man who thought that the sole litmus test of the value of a human being was punctuality. If you're on time, you can live. It's an understatement to say that being on time is a bit of a struggle.
Let me illustrate for you. Once, when our children were young, we decided to go to a state park for a picnic, and we agreed we would leave at three o'clock. For me, a time set the law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be broken. For Luella, it's a rough estimate. At about 3:15 I realized that we wouldn't be leaving on time, and I began to get upset. And Luella informed me of something radical: we didn't, in fact, have an appointment at the park. No one was going to remove our table and suck the water out of the lake and roll back the grass and remove the trees. It was okay if we arrived a little later.
Well, all of that background is to help you understand the particular situation I am about to share with you. It was Easter morning in the Tripp family. I think that those of you with children can relate to this; Sunday morning isn't often the most relaxed time of the week. We stuff children in vans saying, "Shut up. We're going to worship." But this was not just another Sunday; this was Easter morning, and our church, for reasons I don't really understand, had decided that one of the best ways to celebrate the resurrection was to have a full breakfast before the service, which meant that we had to wake and leave about an hour and a half earlier than the usual Sunday time. I woke up with feelings of utter futility.
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