“The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21)
This powerful statement from the Hebrew Bible has a special relevance as we celebrate Thanksgiving. Among the multitude of reasons to be thankful is the fact that most of us can remember being recipients of “words of life.”
That ancient writer clearly recognized that the gift of speech can be used positively or negatively. In the New Testament, James adds his commentary “that —out of the same mouth come praise and cursing” (3:10). When we reflect on “words of death” we think, for example, of criticism, ridicule, being judgmental or gossiping. But what about those “words of life?”
Are you thankful that along your life journey, someone has offered words that have strengthened, encouraged, sustained or reassured you? Consider these examples:
I LOVE YOU. As infants, most of us received from our parents that abundance of unconditional love which nurtured our emotional growth toward health and wholeness.
YOU CAN DO IT. In the preschool years, we were reassured by adult encouragement to venture into the big world around us, to learn to walk, ride a tricycle and even tie our shoelaces (pre-Velcro days!).
NO, YOU CAN`T DO IT! Those same parental or other voices of authority placed limits on our behaviour in order to keep us safe. Although their boundaries were not likely appreciated at the time, they may have been literal words of life, protecting us from unseen dangers and perils.
LAUGHING TOGETHER. Many of our most cherished childhood memories include laughter as words of life, when family members or friends played with us and shared fun times together. Do you recall some of those days?
TELL ME THE STORIES OF JESUS. Perhaps a Sunday school teacher told us about the life and teachings of this Jewish Rabbi and we were introduced to a God who loves us.
WEDDING VOWS. Have you reflected on the beautiful words of life that you may have received from a soon-to-be husband or wife, promising to cherish and honor you, in sickness and in health, “— as long as we both shall live?” While few of us succeed in perfectly following through on those words of life, they remain a standard to aim toward.
I`M SORRY. What a healing of relationships can be attained when these words of life are uttered, even if at times reluctantly! Two people may be only a foot away, one from the other; but the distance between them could be measured in miles, when there is unacknowledged wrongdoing. While many of us say we cannot utter these words, we really mean we refuse to do so.
I FORGIVE YOU. The above-mentioned healing process is far more completely realized when an admission of error or mistake can be followed by a genuine acceptance of that apology. How often have we been blessed and a relationship renewed, (when possible, or desirable) by someone`s words of life encompassed in their forgiveness?
THANK YOU. We may work for a pay cheque, make meals as part of an agreed-upon division of household labour, help out at church or in our community as a volunteer—but doesn’t that task become lighter when we have been thanked by those benefiting from our efforts?
“WELL DONE, THOU GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT.” Some day, after we have tried to love and care over a lifetime, setting aside time and energy to serve God and others, we will move on to whatever lies beyond this world and receive those Scriptural words of affirmation and new-life everlasting.
On this Thanksgiving weekend, two thoughts remain to be noted:
*Some of us in our community and many around the world have seldom, if ever, heard life-giving words from the above list.
*Most of us, on reflection, have been richly-showered with words of life. We can then freely give to others from the riches of words that we ourselves have received.
This will make the meaning of Thanksgiving complete!