Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Word Curses

I was participating in some fun over on my Facebook page, it was called "25 Random Things about Me." I did it twice, because well, let's be honest, I love to talk about me, and I love to write. So this fun little exercise was highly entertaining to me... twice.

When I did my second list I was sharing about how when I was young I had a lot of accidents around special days and holidays and such. On Christmas when I was about 5 I fell and split my eye open on the corner or a coffee table and had to have stitches. When I was 8, just days before my 9th birthday I was at my neighbor's on a rainy day and we were playing baseball in the garage and I took a bat straight to my nose, I had to have plastic surgery to have it rebuilt because it was gone. The last day of school in 6th grade I took a bucket out to the garage that night and put it under a table, in the dark when I shoved it under the table a wedge fell off the table and landed on my little toe almost cutting it off. A few days before junior high graduation we were messing around at lunch time in our Spanish teacher's class and we were walking on the desks (I don't know, why were we playing baseball in a garage? Who left the wedge on the edge of the table? Stuff happens.) and I fell and split the back of my head open.

All my traumatic events were always closely associated with some special day, so about the time I was 15 there started to be this running joke in my family, mostly between my mom and I, about how I probably wouldn't live to see my wedding day, that some horrible event would befall me and keep me from ever reaching the altar. It was always said in jest, but it was said A LOT.

About a week before Neal and I got married I was home doing a little housework and prep for our nuptials. I was cleaning up the kitchen and clearing my counter. I grabbed some trash and put it in the can and to make more room I shoved down deep inside. Inside was a jagged top of a tuna can that had been thrown away. When I shoved the other trash down the can top cut across my wrist, right along the "suicide line." When I pulled my arm out and saw it, it was bleeding pretty good. My very first thought was, "I'm going to die, I'm never going to make it to my wedding day."

I called my mom, who panicked right along with me, and then I called Neal. He rushed home from work (yes, we lived together before we got married... we weren't Christians then.) I was holding a towel on my wrist, in my mind to save my own life. When Neal got a home about 5 minutes later he came running up the yard. Even he had heard the stories of my predicted demise. He took a look and then snapped me out of my panic. It was a pretty good cut, borderline on whether or not I should go and get a stitch or two, but my life was never in any real danger. I do still have the scar though (I decided against the stitches) and even 20 years later you can still see the faint reminder.

Reminder of what? Reminder of the power words can have. For years we had spoken a word curse over me without even thinking about it. "She'll be lucky if she lives to see her wedding day." Because it had been repeated so many times it became like a prophecy. Even though I would never have admitted it, there was a part of me that expected it to come true. I let a root of fear enter in to my heart by speaking words of doom.

I was fortunate in that my "word curse" was limited in power because apart from actual suicide, I don't have the power over my own death. (And even then, I could fail.) But there are lots of word curses we speak into our lives that are far more subversive, and potentially far more detrimental.

One "word curse" I am trying hard to watch carefully in my home right now is over my son Ethan and his math work. The curriculum is really hard, and we're both struggling with it, but I'm careful not to say in front of him, "it's too hard." Because if I say it, and he hears it, he might start to believe it, and then he might not even try. The other day, he spoke a word curse over himself. As we were struggling to get through the math he looked at me and said, "I'm just stupid." That was a tightrope to walk, I didn't want to speak my curse of the math being too hard, but I also had to make sure I didn't let him think he was the problem either.

Victoria has been doing it too. She's having a tough time with reading. Ethan is a really exceptional reader, above grade level, and because they are so close in age, everything is a competition. Ethan can read actual books, novels even, and Victoria is struggling through her beginning readers. I've heard her say on more than one occasion, "I'm not a good reader." I have to stop her because if she keeps saying it, she might start to believe it, and give up trying before she ever realizes the joy and adventure she will someday find in books when her ability to read comprehensively emerges.

These are just minor examples in the simple lives of my children, but grown-ups do this too, and often at a much greater cost. They say things like, "my marriage is never going to get any better," or "my husband/wife will never change." Or they say things like, "it's hopeless," or "I'm always going to struggle with this," or "I don't have the self-discipline to accomplish that."

The fact of the matter is, if you keep speaking these kinds of things into your own life, personal, professional, marital- they will become the way things are instead of just the way you think they are. You look at your spouse, in a marriage that is struggling, you are wounded or saddened by the hurts been done. You say to yourself over and over again, "He'll never change." It becomes your reality. It gets to the point any effort he makes to change is meaningless, because you have, with your own words, blinded yourself to the possibility he will. You have spoken the prophecy and then yourself fulfilled it.

Or perhaps you struggle with something yourself, say an issue with anger. Repeatedly you blow up and say things you shouldn't. You want to change, but you don't believe you can, you even say you don't believe you can or ever will. "It's just the way I am, I have anger issues." Suddenly the issues become greater than the will to change. You can't change, because you have again, spoken the prophecy till it became a belief, then a conviction and then an insurmountable perceived reality. It could be anger, overeating, drinking, any number of things. It could be believing that your marriage is hopeless, that there's no better job opportunity or even no better alternative in life. First you speak it, and then you believe it, then it becomes your facade of truth.

It's not just into your own life that you can speak these word curses. You can speak them to your spouse, your children, your friends in any life within your sphere of influence. Think of the word curse possibilities, "lazy," "good for nothing," "failure." I know one of the word curses spoken into my life was "spoiled brat." Just hearing those words can rise the hair on the back of my neck, my heart palpitates, I get irritable at the sound. Everything in me resists the words, but the fear is always deep rooted that perhaps it is true because it was spoken into my life so many times by someone I love.

Proverbs 18:21 says this, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit."

With the words we speak, we have great power. We have the ability to either inspire hope and encourage or to tear down and devastate. We can build a bridge toward change, or we can wall ourselves or someone else into a bondage with no apparent hope of escape. Whichever seed we plant, in our lives and the lives of those around us, we will bear that fruit. If we speak life and hope, we will reap the good that comes from it, but if we speak death and discouragement, we will reap the destruction and despair it brings.

I leave you with two of my life verses. Mind you, they are my "life verses" not because I already live by them, but because I aspire to.

Proverbs 10:19 says, "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise."

and Ephesians 4:29 "Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear."

Let me encourage you also today, choose your words carefully, speak life and hope, and may you reap the benefits of the choice.

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