Every year, around this time, I ask the Lord for a “word for the year.” A guiding focus or theme for the year to come. A place of prayer, growth, and learning. For example, in years past I’ve had words like “trust”, “obedience”, “intimacy”, or-this year’s word-“rest”. As I begin reflecting on the year that’s coming to a close, and peering into the year to come, I am not only thinking about my “word” for next year-but also, the words I will leave behind this year. The words I will no longer use, at least not in the way I used to use them. The words that I have grown through, been delivered from, and been convicted of as it relates to usage. And so here we are- I invite you to join me for the next few weeks- exploring and challenging and ridding myself of my own “four letter words”.
First, just let me say that I love language and words. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. I love the beauty of words and the way that the simple and mundane can be brought to life through the magic of words. I love that while I may not be much of an artist in the true sense of the word, we can paint incredible pictures and create new realities through a few well-chosen words. I love finding just the right words to mark a moment-a toast, birthday card, or sermon.
I also believe that words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. But what we must also understand, is that its not actually the words themselves that hold power-but rather the heart behind them.
WE are powerful.
Image-bearers of the creator of the universe.
Children of God who carry all the authority of Heaven in every step.
As such, we live and move and breathe in the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us…and yes, when we speak-it is with power.
So the question is, what words are we giving our power to? What are we speaking into the world and over ourselves?
I don’t believe that any individual word is inherently “good” or “bad”. Rather it is the intention of the heart speaking the word, that qualifies it as such. My husband and I don’t teach our kids that words are “bad”, but that words have power and how we use words is a reflection of the condition of our hearts. Sure some words were developed and created to be “bad words”, but it started with an intention. The motivation of a heart seeking expression. If I teach my kids that words are “bad” without teaching them to examine the motivation of their own heart, they will simply learn to select different words. “Good” words. More socially appropriate words. But they will still be expressing the same thoughts and feelings. I would rather see my children (and myself!) learn to self-examine and to express themselves in honest, transparent, whole, loving, and respectful ways.
Now, before you get the crazy idea that we’re some sort of Brady Bunch family speaking love and life and sunshine and rainbows all the time-let me clarify. I’m speaking to big picture values and a personal theology of language. Which does of course guide the way we strive to conduct ourselves and raise our children. But please do not for a SECOND hear any judgement or self-righteousness. These values are the foundation and the standard, but the daily practice? Well that’s another thing entirely.
Our kids are not strangers to the side eye, raised eyebrow, and smack upside the head when they get caught speaking in a manner that is less than loving, kind, or life-giving.
And yes, we’ve been appalled to hear our children use a “four letter” word, only to have them say “But MOMMY said it!” (You caught me.)
And I may or may not have sent a GIF containing a choice word or two to a friend when she asked if I wanted to go running. Sometimes, there’s really no other way to express yourself!
Clearly, we’re human.
The point is not to fall into the legalistic trap of deciding which words are “bad” vs. “good”.
The point is that this year, the Lord has made it clear that I had some things in my life that were weighing me down. Ideas that were tripping me up. Beliefs that were holding me back. And they were all being expressed through a few very specific words. (To be clear- we’re not talking about actual “four letter” words here! Relax. Trust me.)
As the year comes to a close, I invite you to journey with me over the next few weeks-exploring the words I’ll leave behind, discovering the freedom and fullness that God truly has for us, and uncovering what your own word for next year might be!