I speak for a living. The words I say are the means by which God chooses to provide for my family. I have a job that every word I say is scrutinized. Those that match the written word that I am supposed to be following are accepted. Those that do not are rejected. It’s a simple as that. In this job, I also have the ability to completely erase the times where I misspeak, get frustrated, or stumble over what I’m reading.
You might have been following along until that last part. “What do you mean you can erase your flubs and frustration? That’s just not possible — especially for a pastor.”
It is possible, but I’m not speaking about serving as a pastor in the local church. I actually have a second job as providing voice-overs for a company that provides online training and certification for the oil and gas industry among others. This job is simple. They send me a script. I record myself reading the script. I send the audio files back to them. They pay me per word. Gloriously simple (and a major display of God’s provision for our family).
Every single time I record an assignment, I mess up — a lot. But no one ever hears it. I get to simply highlight my errors and click the “delete” button. Just like that my verbal failings are obliterated without a trace. No harm, no foul. Every single time I annihilate those flawed words, I think, “I wish I could do this in real life.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply delete those times when we snapped at our spouse or yelled at the kids or made some condescending comment about our neighbor? Alas, that is not possible. We cannot immediately and instantaneously unsay the words that sometimes so carelessly fly out of our mouths. But we can, over the course of time, erase them.
I cannot Jedi mind trick my wife into forgetting that I was a jerk to her. I cannot wipe my son’s mind clean like I’m some kind of MIB agent. However, I can, through the help of the Holy Spirit working in me and them, heal those wounds by intentionally fighting to use gracious speech toward them. I can choose to use gentle words that are point people toward’s God’s truth and grace rather than my cynicism or wrath. Rather than adopting a “Get Over It” attitude toward those I’ve hurt, I can pray for and seek diligently for opportunities to love them better than I have in the past. I can choose to bless those whom I have previously, and sometimes persistently, cursed.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a prominent place to boldly speak the truth of God’s Word, but it must be done with grace. Plus, let’s face it. Most of the times we injure people with our words, it has nothing to do with God and everything to do with our sinful hearts.
There is no “delete” button for our words, but there is the overflowing, reconciling grace of God that can set you free from burning down people’s lives with your words and heal those who have been charred by your speech.