Sunday, September 22, 2013

One Thousand Words.

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow to the booming voice of God saying, “You have 1,000 words left and then your life is over”?
I guess you might question your sanity but we'll overlook that path of thinking. In this scenario, you know it to be true. You have a thousand words of life left. And then that’s it.

James 3:2 says this: "Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way."

I don’t see anyone making those cute little verse graphics to share of that one on instagram.
It’s not a pretty or feel-good verse but it needs to be addressed. This is a real struggle and in a lot of ways, it’s the thing that is diluting the effectiveness of the church today. And know, please, I’m not preaching at you here. I can only write this because God’s been hitting me over the head with it for a solid year now. My study on the subject has reached the point that I have to write about it to sort my own thoughts.  

I've thought about it a lot, and I've come to this solution. I want to start every day as if I only had a thousand words left.
A thousand words is not very many. Already, I've typed 283 words on this page. We have entire conversations, spending hundreds of words, about gas prices and the weather and Miley Cyrus twerking. We make plans and then we talk those plans to death. We treat our language like an infinite currency, thus cheapening it's face value. We are utterly wasteful with our words. 

It might not be such a big deal to just talk a lot about meaningless nonsense if I wasn’t a professed Christ follower. The thing is, deliberation is key for a Christian. We have been commissioned with the task of spreading what is, hands down, the most amazing and unbelievable story known to mankind. We believe that the God of the universe, the creator of everything…EVERYTHING (grasp that, it’s huge), made the choice to pull on skin, be born as a baby to a virgin, live about 33 sinless years then be nailed to a tree and die a horrible death all because he loves us individually and wants a relationship with us. Take a moment to view this from someone’s point of view who doesn’t know Christ. Or remember from your own point of view if you have lived part of your life as a non-believer. 
So, how do we do it? How can we be most effective at sharing this incredible gospel? Well… I think we have to take our one thousand words and use every last one of them in a very calculated way, with complete awareness of the weight we bear as a witness for Christ. We have to be a credible source. We have to establish relationships that reflect that love that sent Him here so that our actions do not contradict our words. Most importantly, we have to consistently LIVE our faith.

I think a person’s first response to finding out they only have a thousand words left would be to immediately lavish their family and friends with loving sentiment.
Seems legit.
I’m a mom. I have babies I’d give my life for. I’m a wife with a husband who I am completely in love with. It seems noble and romantic that if I only had a thousand words left, I’d want to give them all to them. I would be wrong though. Satan has a way of mixing people up here, especially mothers. Because we live with this overwhelming mom-guilt and somehow, if we could SAY we love our kids enough, maybe it would atone for the feeling we have when we fail them. 
Ladies, listen to me here. You are going to fail your kids. You are a human. You are going to fail your marriage. You are going to screw up and let your family down. The only thing you will EVER do that is fail-proof is to reflect Christ to your family so that they might come to know Him. Because He does not disappoint. He never forgets. He never gets too stressed. He never raises His voice in a moment of tension. We could save a lot of words if we would employ our actions. Think of the Proverbs 31 woman. The only mention of her speaking in all 21 verses is that “She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to be that woman. I want to be the kind of woman who pours her heart and soul into serving her family for 20 verses and only speaks for one.

What about the things we allow to dilute our witness? What about gossip, lies, and arguing? Those things may not seem so destructive, but what if you only had a thousand words? Think about how many you would be willing to waste talking about an irritating friend or co-worker. If that five minute conversation represented a large portion of what you had left, you’d be a lot more likely to just let offenses go. And regarding lying, if you only had a thousand words left, would you want to risk losing someone's trust and causing everything you say to be questionable? Lies can cost a lot of words in the long run and cheapen the potency of the ones you use. Remember, you are living your life to tell a story that’s already hard for some people to comprehend. Don’t you want your words to be as believable as possible?
Oh, and lets touch on arguing and being hateful. You’d think this would be something Christians would accept as truth, considering Christ had so much to say about love, but sadly it isn’t. It may feel like you are doing the work of God when you choose to argue laws and politics and take a stand against things like homosexuality and abortion. The problem is that when you choose to pick a fight like that, often the people get forgotten. Christ wasn’t in the business of laws. He was in the business of souls. And He didn’t die only for “the good Christians”. In fact, scripture makes it clear that we pretty much all suck as people and all fall short of God’s glory. So if you have to make a choice between arguing against abortion or telling a mother who has aborted multiple pregnancies that Jesus found her worth dying for, please, choose the latter. It’s a better way to spend your words because after all, legislation doesn’t change hearts. Jesus does.

About gossip and idle chat, about being untruthful, about being hateful, it all comes down to James 3:11- Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Imagine a man who has been wandering through the wilderness for months. This guy is worn down. He’s tired. He is skin and bones and dehydrated. You have a water bottle of fresh, clean water and a bottle of poisoned water. Clearly he needs something to drink. His life depends on it. You know that and you want to help him. Which bottle do you give him? It’s a no brainer. Well, what if you just mixed the two, and give him that? Have you just given him some mostly fresh water, only a little poisoned, so it will mostly help him?
No, it doesn’t work like that. If you only have a thousand words, don’t dilute them with poison. Keep your water pure. Lives could depend on it.

What about your trials and troubles? You’ve got concerns and fears. Sometimes, you just need to vent.
James 1:19 says “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” I’ve always thought of this scripture in terms of dealing with people. Sure, it helps in your earthly relationships to open your ears and shut your mouth, but this applies to our relationship with God as well.
Here’s a lesson that I’ve learned well over the past six months. I recently started a project on Facebook where I post daily photos of life in our home. Someone noted to me that there are a lot more photos of my younger sons than my older ones. Yes. That is true. I am currently going through a custody trial with my older sons’ dad, and they are currently only at my house half of the time. The first few weeks of this, when I was first dealing with them being gone, I talked. A lot. I talked to anyone who would listen. I retold the same story over and over and over. Until I just…ran out of words. And then, finally, I really prayed. And amazingly, miraculously, God answered. Over and over, through scripture and well-timed Christian songs, and even perfectly worded Church signs, He answered. And only because I finally shut up did I hear Him. My faith grew. I learned to appreciate my boys in a way I never had before. I learned to trust God even when I am not in control of their lives. And I finally reached a point that I could be thankful for what I’d learned and that my creator loved me enough to walk with me through it. Sometimes, we can focus so much on our problems and being slighted that we don’t even see God working behind it all.
I wish I could say I’m the kind of strong Christian that immediately goes to prayer and my bible when things get tough.  God’s not finished with me yet, but I’ve learned a lot this year. I’ve learned that if I only had a thousand words, I’d spend a whole lot more time in a quiet room with God working through my troubles instead of calling my best friend and venting. Actually, thinking about it from this perspective, there are lost of places I waste words where I should just be praying. There are afternoons where I go put a load of towels away to come back in the bedroom and find my toddler has emptied my entire dresser on the floor. There are times when my husband has hurt my feelings and I feel the need to tell him, in that moment, just how mad I am and why he’s wrong and I’m right. There are instances where customer service is mind-blowingly bad and I lay my Christian face down for a few minutes to let the minimum-wage-worker on the other end of the line know exactly how frustrated I am. If I would just immediately turn my heart to God in these situations and keep my mouth shut, I’d have a lot less regret I’m sure and likely a lot more peace.

I’ve thought about this a lot lately and I’ve come to this.
I want to love my family and friends with not only my words but with my life, efforts and actions (Proverbs 31). I want my mouth to be a spring of fresh water to those who are trying to follow Christ around me as well as those who don’t know Him yet (James 3:11). I want to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19).
I want to live my life like I only have a thousand words left.
Or a hundred even.
Or ten.

And I want every one of them to point to Christ.