Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Word Wranglin'

I have spent the weekend with my family. My husband and I traveled to my hometown on Friday and we got back last night. Short trip, I know.

In this time, we have driven a couch across three states, we have visited, taken pictures of my sister’s dogs, delivered the couch, visited more, picked up a couch and a comforter (we will take anything that is free…anything), taken Christmas pictures (yes, it’s coming), and eaten, and eaten.

Being around both of my sisters for one day, reminded me how quickly one can bring on complete confusion with the turn of a phrase. We simply bubble over with pleasure, still, when we can split my mom’s thoughts into complete chaos.

Usually, there is one story teller, and one addendum maker. So, two people are talking on top of each other. My mother is saying things like, “I don’t want to hear this”. That only gets us more intent on our story.

Enter speaker number three. This is potentially the most important person because it is their job to side track and aggravate. This person has the charge of saying things like, “Well, that sounds like you”, and “Don’t flatter yourself”. It looks like a ballet, titled, Word Wranglin'. The one who wins is the one left talking.

I have to admit, I love being the third person. I am very good at this game.

This is all fun and games between sisters, but this is unfortunate when it rears its head in church committee meetings or even worse, places where people don’t know Christ. I love good, lighthearted repartee, but picking our stages is important.

These verses all remind me of my verbal responsibility.

Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening (2 Timothy 2.14, NRSV).

Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, 4 is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, 5 and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain (1 Timothy 6:3, NRSV).

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge; 21 by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith (1 Timothy 6:20, NRSV).

I have found that in my relationships with my family, my husband, my friends and strangers, the most difficult communication befriends the misuse of words. It is the wrangling over words that repels people, but what if we are with unbelievers? What if my idle chatter is splitting the thoughts of a brother or sister into chaos? That can happen in an instant when I don’t know what they are going through.

Based on observation, I see open debates over words more between males than females, but females have a special corner on the market. We are relational. Conversations with no initial mal-intent meander and open doors about our lives, our responsibilities, our husbands, or other believers. Sometimes we do this in front of non-believers or new believers. These words are pivotal.

These verses show me that words have their own life, with the potential to ruin or miss the mark. We have to beware of chit-chat that does not illuminate our faith, it does not promote godliness, nor does it encourage the overcoming of road blocks. We have to be aware of their audience.

I have to admit, when I have studied, written, cleaned house, done laundry, handled emails, grocery shopped and managed the details of my home, you can catch me in just the right frame of mind to resent the next act of service…making dinner. Some nights, I just look at those ingredients sitting in the fridge and say, “You can’t make me”.

If you put another woman in the room with me who told me to take the night off, it would ruin my resolve. I understand how words can be the tipping point of the will. As women, we have to be careful how we use them around each other.

So, we flip our wrangling and justifications to words of encouragement and resolve. We share these and spread them like flower seeds all over our friends. It is so rewarding to see the evidence of a garden when we water each other with, “You go, girl”, and “I believe in you, beloved”. These are words that eliminate chaos, and lead to vision. These are words that I can sink my teeth into.

Are you a woman of encouragement? Can you spread these words around you, today?

Father, thank you for the words that come for your Spirit. Place these words on our tongues today as we talk to our brothers and sisters. Let us leave behind the confusion that can make us stumble, and, instead, become people of clarity and resolve.

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