Maybe it’s because I am a writer. Maybe it’s because my love language is words of affirmation. But words are powerful to me. I choose my words carefully when I speak and write, sometimes going back and changing out words that feel better, more accurate. I follow my occasionally clumsy or hurtful words with apologies and promises to do better.
Words hold great power.
Words are foundations, built piece by piece into a greater work. Words can be a salve, placed on a bleeding, pained heart to start or continue healing. Words can connect, building a bridge to a person who felt like an island–suddenly they are not alone. Words can plant hope, birth new life, redeem the lost, find the forsaken. Words can reach out. Words can love.
Words can also cut. They can destroy a foundation in a few short seconds, tearing things down that will take far longer to rebuild. Words can stab into a heart, edging their way into the tenderest and softest tissue. Words can destroy connection, collapse bridges. Words can breed isolation and shame. Words can shear and separate. Words can hurt. And words can kill.
Yesterday, I heard cruel words relayed to me that were said by someone who should have been one of the most unlikely people in my life to say them. I knew this was how the person felt. Yet, hearing those words tore into the deepest, most tender part of my heart. What little hope I had for healing was destroyed in a matter of seconds and I’ve been left with deep pain and confusion. I wept as my husband held me.
Tonight as I wept again, my children heard me crying. They came into my bedroom and smothered me in their hugs. They begged me to tell them what was wrong, asked why I was crying so hard. I did not tell them. But as I looked away from the part of the tree from which I fell and into the verdant, young limbs of my own tree that has since sprung root, I felt confusion and gratitude.
How people can so flippantly say such cruel things is something that will perplex me for the rest of my time on earth. I know I could never say such things about the people I love, no matter what they did. Tonight, I held my son as he lay in bed. I stared down into his little face.
“Do you know,” I said, “that there is nothing you could ever do to make me not love you. No matter what, I will always love you.”
Propagation. When a piece of a tree is cut from another, placed for a time in water to grow its own roots, then replanted as it’s own tree.
Free to start its own limbs and stretch its branches outwards towards the sun. Separate. Independent. A new beginning. Fresh, healthy limbs with new chance to grow upwards towards the warm sun, verdant and vibrant. Hope. Health. Promise.
The little limb leaves behind a great deal. The process of cutting, healing, and starting anew is terribly painful.
But there is hope and new growth.
I will choose my words so carefully, sweet children of mine, and apologize when I don’t get it right. I will never allow hurt to grow here. I will tend our limbs gently, carefully, with great reverence and care. I will pull out the weeds. I will fertilize with grace, forgiveness, and love. We will stretch our new growth upwards towards the Son, letting His warmth touch us and grow us. What I start growing here will continue through limbs and shoots and sprouts for generations to come.
Remember, my lovely children, to sow carefully, plant lovingly, speak very very carefully. Our words can cut away branches or be the seeds of our future.