Our words (spoken and written) matter! One simple word contains the power to shape another’s life for good or bad. Even the Bible seems to say a lot about the power of words.
Some examples from Scripture include:
Proverbs 18:22: Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 12:18: There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
I could go on-and-on with biblical references concerning the use of words. I bet all of us could testify to the truth of this matter within our own lives. I know I can. The old saying “stick and stones may break my bones, but words never hurt” just isn’t true.
Careless words spoken in my church during my formative years significantly traumatized my early experiences with God. My earliest memory of this comes from Vacation Bible School at the age of 8. While making a craft after one of our lessons, the teacher casually asked us if we knew why God destroyed the cities Sodom and Gomorrah. Blank stares met his question. We had no idea what he was talking about. Seeing that no one had an answer, he proceeded to tell us that “God destroyed them because they were all homosexuals.” His wife told him to be quiet because we were all too young to know what that meant. All of my peers went back to working on their crafts, not even giving what he had said a second thought. However, I couldn’t get what he said out of my mind. By this age, I had already begun to feel different from the other kids. I cannot adequately express the horror I felt when I realized that maybe I was one of those people. My young mind thought that God must have had to be really mad at them to destroy their whole cities. I became afraid, and I didn’t want God mad at me like that.
This man’s careless words that evening set in motion a pattern of my desperately trying to prove to God that I wanted to be good and not be one of those people. From the age of 8 into my mid-twenties, I diligently begged God every night to change my gay feelings. I constantly read my bible, even carrying it in my backpack to read when I finished my work at school. At one point, I even gave up secular music and threw away over 200 CD’s thinking that God would see that I was serious about not wanting to be gay. But no matter how much I did and begged God to change me, nothing changed. I wanted someone to hold me and tell me that it was all going to be ok, but I never told anyone. I was too afraid.
There are many other negative examples I could share to further illustrate this point, but I’m not going to dwell on them. Thankfully, at this point in my life, I can honestly say that there have been far more positive words spoken into my life that far outweigh the negative slurs I heard growing up.
Words such as “beloved, beautiful, funny and daughter of God” have replaced “disgusting, dyke, fag, and pervert” in the way that I see myself.
The most healing words to me came from God Himself. I can’t say that they were audible, but they had a profound effect on me nonetheless. While I was in the throes of emotional distress over the tension between my sexual orientation and Christian faith one day, the simple words “I love you” permeated my heart and peace began to flow within me. I know that it was God speaking to my heart because at that point in my life, I would not have thought that myself. I didn’t think it was possible that he could love someone like me.
Those three words changed my life.