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.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

'Til Death

Remember when you were little? You'd make a promise, and if the recipient of your word looked doubtful, they'd ask you, "Pinky swear?" And in absolute assurance, you would promise, "Pinky swear!" At the risk of losing an appendage I suppose, you gave your word.

I'm still finding myself doing that once in a while even as an adult. I'll ask Neal to promise me he'll take care of something, and if he seems to be hedging at all, I'll ask him "Swear?" And he always does. But it's never about the big stuff. I actually don't ask him to risk his pinky anymore, but the concept is the same. But I shouldn't ask him to do that, because the bible says this:

Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:36-37

I think that God is instructing us that we should be a people of our word, always, no matter what. If you say something to someone, they should be able to count on the fact that because you said it, it will happen. I think there are two benefits that I note immediately,(1) it makes you an honest and trustworthy person. That's something we should all aspire to be. I think that (2)the second benefit is this, perhaps we will give our words more consideration before we make promises we can't or are unwilling to keep.

God is the author of the promise. He wrote an entire Book filled with them. God always keeps His promises.

That's actually an anchor point for me. Maybe THE anchor point in my life. I even have it written on my license plate frame, "God Always Keeps His Promises." I've seen it proven in my life time and time again. He's kept The Word (Bible) to me, as well as promises He made just to me. Not always in the way I thought, or in the timing I planned, but always, promises kept.

I've been privileged to experience His position (or something comparable to it) in a promise. Did that make sense? What I'm saying is, I've gotten to see the role the Lord takes in His promise to me... well, sort of.

I think of His promise, His covenant, of salvation to me. The promise He swore by Jesus' sacrifice. Unlike legal "covenants" today, where two parties enter in together, and responsibility is negotiated and divided, in the covenant of my salvation all the effort and sacrifice was done on God's part, all I had to do was accept it to receive the benefit. That's what adopting a child is like. You make all the sacrifice and effort to make this child a part of your family, and they just have to enter in and accept it. And it isn't breakable. I suppose in some manner it is, but not without a lot of leaping through hoops and back to do it.

What I mean is when I adopted Ethan, I guaranteed him an inheritance. Unlike Jacob and Victoria, whatever I have left behind when I die someday, I have to make provision for him. And unlike Jacob and Victoria who I could disown, I cannot do that to Ethan. He's stuck with me. My obligation to all my children may be moral, but only to Ethan is it legal and binding. Which is why I think the Lord describes his relationship with His children as that of adoption. He's bound to us, in an unbreakable covenant.

As a Christian there is another relationship that I am in that is considered a covenant promise. That is my marriage to Neal. In the world marriage isn't looked at that way. It's considered to be a contract with an unending list of outs, and it seems to me more and more people are taking them every day, and what really makes me sad is how many people I see doing it or even considering it in the church.

I wasn't actually a Christian when I got married, or at least I wasn't walking with the Lord. But when I became a Christian I certainly believe I retroactively became bound to a covenant marriage, or at least when we both became Christians I did. (And I did actually get married in a church, and it was a Christian ceremony, even if only out of tradition - so one could make an argument it was binding anyway.)

Although my contract of marriage (and all its loopholes) was a contract between two people, Neal and I, the covenant of our marriage is between three, Neal, myself and God. When I promised to love Neal in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, when I promised to cherish and honor him, I didn't just make the promise to Neal, I made it to God.

I'm glad for that truth, because I think it is the super glue that stands when the Elmer's runs thin. Marriage is hard. Don't misunderstand this post, at the moment my marriage is wonderful. I'd love to say with assurance that we've grown to a place that we don't struggle but I know the reality is, that it might not always be the way it is now. And so when those times come, I'm glad that I can stop and remember I didn't just make the promise to make our marriage work to Neal, I promised God I was in it for the long haul - "till death do us part." And I have no acceptable excuse to break my promise to God, because He's never broken a single one to me.

Now don't get all fired up and misunderstand me, I'm not judging anyone else, not on an individual basis anyway, but I am saying, If you are a Christian that before you are willing to walk away from a marriage, or even willing to consider it, you ought to really take inventory. Did you mean the words you said? The promises that you made? If perhaps your spouse doesn't seem deserving of your devotion, how about your God?

The reason you had to promise "for better or for worse" is because the worse will come, and it isn't a loophole or escape to end your marriage. As God's people, we should be keepers of our promises. Do I know there probably have to be exceptions? Perhaps, but there aren't as many as some think there are.

I'm rambling now, and maybe you're fighting to stay awake by this point in the post, but my heart is heavy - marriage is in trouble, there is an attack against this great institution created by God. And it isn't the big battles over definitions that we need to take heed, it's in our own churches, our neighborhoods, among our friends. Take heed. Fight for your marriage, it's a gift to you from the Lord, even if it isn't going the way you thought or hoped, you can only surrender your own will and participation, you can't change your spouse, but you can change your heart and allow God to work in you. I hope you will, it's worth it.