Our words to each other matter. I really believe we hold in our tongues the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). As a boy growing up, I had terrible things said to me. Today, in contrast, I am passionate for my words to encourage and bless. I want them to speak life and love to your soul. Be warned, though: maybe its all the talk of, “my life is coming to an end,” but my words these days are flowing out of my heart like water blasting out of a fire hydrant.
Words, when they express our hearts, invite us into each other’s lives and a great gift is offered. Maybe it’s been the trips I’ve been taking recently for “medical treatment” on Bourbon Street. They have given me precious time to talk with dear friends who have been so kind to travel me. In the talking comes the gift – the deepening of our friendship through the care we express for each other’s hearts.
“You are important to me.”
There are lots of different ways to say this incredibly powerful sentence. And it doesn’t happen immediately, but over time, it does happen. Words spoken back and forth that come from the depths of our hearts are the cement that glues us together in this world. Words of encouragement, words of forgiveness, words of commitment, words of honest hurt with the hope of moving beyond the hurt – all these words are full of deep power when spoken to another from a heart that cares.
Because my journey on this twisting, turning river of uncertain health is public, many of you write to me. What a gift that is! Some of you tell me your stories, some of you ask questions, and some of you just want to do nothing more than lavish me with love. It has gotten to the point when I receive an email from certain of you, I begin crying when I see your name in the “from” box. It’s because I know what’s coming is going to be so good for my heart.
Our words to each other really do matter. I have an “encouragement” folder in my email program where I keep the words that so many of you have written to me. It is so strengthening to me on hard days to go back and read your comments. Courage and love just flood my soul as your words are used again and again to keep me in this battle. Here’s an example from a man whom I admire and respect deeply:
“You simply have too much going for you to have this beat you – your family, your friends and, most of all, your own inner strength, resolve and beliefs. You give all of us who face lesser battles, but who may well face a similar one, a great deal of strength as a result. Keep up the good fight – you have a great many on your side.”
Now some of you may be thinking by this point that this is all very well and good, but you just don’t have a “way” with words, written or spoken. May I say something very important to you?
It’s not so much how you say something, it’s that you, in fact, choose to speak.
Last night I was on the phone with a younger man whom I had not spoken with in several years. Listening to him, I was struck by something. His voice had changed. No, it wasn’t puberty! He’s a father now. But over the last few years, he’s become a true man. I could hear it in his voice. It sounded solid, rich, and full. So I told him. The line became silent and a poignancy hung in the air between us for several seconds. An older man was blessing a younger man by speaking good and true words to his heart.
Choosing to speak can be an awkward thing. But when we do so, the impact can be life changing. I was in New Orleans again this week for more medical poking and prodding. At the end of the appointment, my doctor (13 years my elder) stopped me suddenly at his office door. Pointing down he said, “Do you see this threshold?” Placing his hands on my shoulders, he continued, “Whenever you cross this threshold, I am not your doctor. I am not your uncle. I am not your brother. I am not even your friend.”
“I am, instead, your father,” he continued, “and I’m going to take care of you like you were my son.” Looking me in the eye, he concluded by saying, “And I’m going to do everything in my power to make you well again.” Then, through his tears (and mine), he pulled my head down, kissed me on the cheek, and said goodbye.
Later on, he called me while I was driving back to Tallahassee. He told me about his family, asked me about mine, told me my PSA level was down (and that he couldn’t explain it), then ended the conversation by telling me an off-color medical story. Ah, the company of men!
I will never forget what this physician did for me that day. It was a sacred moment. His words are still resonating in my heart and will stay there forever. No man has ever said anything so powerful to me. But here’s the point: it’s not how he said it. It’s the fact that he chose to speak.
So tell me, who needs your words (and heart) today?