With Just a Few Brush Strokes
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. Psalm 12:4
I knew I needed to stop, but the words just kept pouring out of my mouth. Mean words. Cutting words. Angry words. Words that hurt. My head was pleading with me to stop, but my mouth was on autopilot driving my point home.
Maybe you have been there before when you know what you are saying is wrong and you need to stop, but you just keeping spitting out the emotional frustration you have been stuffing deep down in your heart.
God has reminded me once more how powerful I am as a woman. As a woman, I hold the power to make or break the people around me. My words can implode those closest to me and reduce them emotional rubble in a matter of minutes or they can construct confidence, security, and self-acceptance within those around me.
Our words are mighty. With a few brush strokes of well-placed words we can paint vastly different landscapes or reap extremely diverse outcomes. The words we choose and the tones we use are like the color palette of a painter. Harsh words yield barren, dark, desolate backdrops. They bring destruction and desolation to the souls around us. Courage, strength, peace and joy come from timely words of affirmation, praise and encouragement. Bright, cheery, inviting settings require brush strokes of uplifting, encouraging, and supportive words.
Proverbs 12:4 tells us that “an excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.” Our words can either be a glittering crown on the head of our spouse, children and friends; empowering them to stand tall and walk confidently no matter what circumstances they face, or our words can be like cancer and slowly eating away and destroying from the inside out the lives of those around us.
I have a choice. I can choose to either build up or tear down the people God has placed in my life. I can paint words of life or words of death within them. I can bring light or darkness into their day. I can inflate or deflate the dreams they hold dear. I choose the colors with which to paint my words upon their hearts. I decide daily if I am going to place a crown on their heads or a disease in their hearts.
The prayer of my heart is to use my words to paint faith, hope, and love all over the ones God has placed in my life.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:19-22 ESV
I couldn’t remove the cloak of weariness that was draped across my shoulders. The closer I got to home, the heavier it got. The weariness not only lay across my back, it pulled at my eyelids and splashed in my head. It had been a very long time since I was this tired. Yesterday our campus was filled with balloons, flowers, stuffed animals, and chocolate. Today it was different. Fear, anxiety, and sadness swirled around the halls and classrooms like trash twisting and twirling in the turmoil of a blowing wind. What a difference a few hours could make. Our students left school Wednesday with Valentine’s Day paraphernalia and plans on their minds and came back on Thursday morning wondering what the future would hold.
Even now as I try to write this, I struggle to stay focused.
You see I spent most of Thursday talking to teenagers about what we should do if an active shooter makes it up the stairwell, onto our hall, and even into our classroom. Do we hide? Do we run? Do we fight? Their responses ranged from James Bond movie heroics to truly terrified “I don’t want to die” testimonies.
I sat and listened. Sometimes directing the conversation down a more productive path, but most of the time just listening trying “hear” the hidden true emotions behind the words being said. When it was all said and done, I couldn’t give them a perfect answer for what to do if we were ever faced with the horror the students in Parkland, Florida faced, but I could give them the reassurance that we would do whatever it took to survive. The blue- eyed warrior princess in the back calmly gave practical defensive plans for securing the door. The gregarious -good looking soccer player volunteered to put on the Spartan armor in the back of the room and “take the guy out” to which his friend replied, “No you won’t. You will stand there and scream like a girl.” Laughter and fear mingled together as we worked together to sort out the tangled emotions we all felt and reassured each other we would be okay.
“Captain Gibbens, can I ask you a personal question?” a student asked as we began to transition to the tasks of school work. I motioned for him to come closer to me.
“Would you take one for us?”
“What do you mean?”
“A bullet. Would you take one for us?”
“Yes, I think I would.”
“Yes. I can’t be sure what I would do in that moment, but I think I would.”
And I meant it.
I’m not sure I would throw my body in front of a bullet for them, but I believe I would do what I could to see that they were safe. I would do my best to get them out of harm’s way.
Why did I write all this? I am not totally sure, but I know in my heart that the best thing I could do yesterday was to listen to my kids, to not be quick to give them answers, to not do all the talking, but to give them a chance to speak. My kids yesterday needed to talk and they needed someone to listen.
I wrote all this because James 1:19 says we need to be quick to hear and slow to speak. We need to listen to those around us. We need to listen in order to hear the emotions behind the words. Listening takes works. Listening takes time. Listen takes setting our agendas aside in order to focus on what the other person is saying. Listening is exhausting, but listening changes things. Listening sets the stage that allows our words to have meaning and relevance. Listening validates the feelings of those around us. Listening tells others that they are seen and that they are important.
Listening to my students yesterday was the best lesson I didn’t plan.
Hug your loved ones tight tonight.
Thanks for listening.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)
In Biblical times, weapons and tools were made of iron. As tools and weapons are used, they become dull. Not only that, but iron softens and weakens over time. In order to make it strong again it has to be reheated and melded with another piece of iron, placed in hot coals and then quenched in water. The new reworked tool has properties of the old, but is be renewed in its strength. The blade is then sharpened by the repeated sliding pressure of an abrasive back and forth across the edge.
Just like a new iron tool is forged through pounding, heat and melding, God uses people in our lives to sharpen us- to smooth out the rough edges of our character; to make us better, stronger, and more purposeful. Like a super smoothie created from mixing different fruits, proteins, and vegetables, our character is forged by the blending our lives with others. As our lives come in contact with others our character is refined and strengthened as our unique strengths, and weaknesses are melded with theirs and we both come out better people in the process.
Forging iron is not an easy process. It takes heat and friction. It requires melting, reforming and cooling. In the hands of a master blacksmith the right amount of each required step is applied in the right sequence with the right amount of time and pressure. If any part of the process is circumvented, the end product is flawed-it is too soft or too brittle and cannot be used. It is either thrown out or re-forged until it is right.
Character change is not easy either. Allowing God to use the people in our lives to mold us into the women He wants us to be requires yielding to the process and allowing the craftsman to do his work. It’s hard to have our hearts heated, our natural tendencies rubbed the wrong way, and to have our protective shells broken open by those around us. But God has placed the people around us to serve a purpose and that purpose is to make us into strong, sharp, yet flexible, tools for His work and glory.
Maybe you are like me and you hate friction. You are a peacekeeper at heart. You constantly maneuver to make sure everyone is happy. Encouragement comes more easily for you than confrontation. You embrace the first and run from the second. But, sometimes we are called to step up and step into the forging fire of friction because without it we become dull, soft, brittle, and useless. In those character forging moments, I need to trust the craftsman and let Him use the abrasive pressure, heat and pounding of my relationships to forge me into the woman He wants me to be.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.