I’m teaching the importance of words. I hope my kids learn this. But first I have to learn it myself and these lessons are hard learned.
The things we speak to each other frame the content of our lives. The things we speak to ourselves determine what we believe.
So I teach my children God is good. His word is good.
I teach them to usher in praise when the world seems to crumble and groan and stretch in anguish. I teach them that every broken thing cries out for redemption and there is but one Redeemer. I let them see me cry when injustice rolls across my news feed and my life and the world, and I don’t press the tears away when my lips mumble, Lord, have mercy.
I teach them to lean in close to God, tucked right up in his presence. When she comes to me with wide eyed wonder and asks what Holocaust means because she ran up against that word in her history text, sounded it out with her brow furrowed and her finger bumping against each letter, I teach her that when we cannot bear the brokenness we start with lament. We start with grief and repentance and turning our hearts over to God. Without that, we have nothing to offer the broken and hopeless and grieved because mercy starts there. I teach her that God is close to the oppressed.
Mercy mends the broken the way justice binds truth to action.
I turn on praise songs even when my eyes are weary and tear-stained. I tell them this is not hypocrisy; this is obedience and there is a difference. Hypocrisy is born out of make believe and pretense, and there is nothing flimsy about this kind of faith. This is the faith that says Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. It’s profession, petition, and praise. I teach them in their weakness to always ask for help. It’s wise to know we need it.
So I raise my hands even when my arms are tired and the void seems so much greater than the abundance. I let them see joy and sorrow are not opposed. I turn on the music and sway my hips, grasp their hands in mine as we sing and dance and make art with colors splashed across canvas. I let them see beauty in the mess. I try to see it, too.
I let them know our God hears and answers and is close to the afflicted and the brokenhearted. I teach them about a God who knows suffering and dancing and every pristine color streaming through our window in the morning light.
When I get it all wrong, and my words come out fiery and weighted full of flesh, I say sorry first. I let them see me ask forgiveness readily and often.
My tongue stumbles some mornings when I’m ushering in praise. I pour the coffee and pray when all else fails, give me Jesus.
I teach them my need, my want, my gospel on repeat.
I teach them He is enough with every whispered prayer.
I teach the importance of words when stacks of books and crayons and the sounding out of vowels and consonants and phonics is so tedious I want to rush ahead of his stumbling lips. But I weigh my finger down and trace the words that will open his mind and someday I pray the Word of God will be planted deep and he’ll crack open the spine of his Bible and the truth will rush his soul and maybe he’ll know that every day I was offering my testimony when plodding through picture books modeling my mouth into pursed lips and great wide sounds.
I’m living wide open to the knowing. To the wonder of the mind and the power of words spoken and claimed. I’m hoping they’ll know words matter.
Truth matters. He is so good. We spoke it every day.
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