I love the elementary school where I teach. Each morning in the first and second grade hallway the teachers stand outside their doors to greet the backpack-laden children as they make their way toward their classrooms. My colleagues call out words of encouragement to the kids and often offer up hugs mixed in with their hellos. Of course a warning or two to “Walk!” is thrown in when some over-anxious bundle of energy comes tearing down the hallway knocking over unassuming travelers in their path.
There is one particular little girl I look for each morning. Usually she is one of the last ones down the hall because she has gone to the cafeteria for breakfast, but she routinely stops at my door for a hug before heading to her first grade classroom. Yesterday as I squeezed her tight and kissed the top of her head I told her, “You’re special.” She pulled away from me and looked at me with gleaming eyes and a toothy smile that spread from ear to ear. I knew I had spoken the words she had needed to hear that day and it filled my heart with joy.
Our words have such power, probably far more than we can even imagine. However, if that is true for the positive things we say it also holds true for the negative. The same tongue that sings praises has the power to condemn. How many times have I been caught up in the moment and opened my mouth without thought to the consequences? More times than I would like to admit I have been unkind, rude, self-seeking and thoughtless. Even under the guise of humor words can still pierce the heart and deflate a spirit. The apostle James writes in James 3:9-10, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”
Taming the tongue is not always easy for me, but it is doable when I allow the Holy Spirit to guide me. He reminds me to be quick to hear and slow to speak considering the power of my words. Funny how I often get that backwards. Paul tells me in 1 Thessalonians 5 to “encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are doing.” Hmmm…perhaps that primary hallway in North Madison Elementary is just a physical model for what my spiritual journey should look like in this world. A shower of encouragement to those along the path peppered with an occasional reminder to slow down so as not to run over someone else.
Lord, thank-you for the encouragers you have placed in my life. Help me to be like that. Help me to be like You.