Words, Words, Words
I recently finished a [written] interview with All About Worship [.com] on worship leading at IHOP, being married to a rapper, and my new album. You can read it here. I’m not going to lie, it took me forever to finish, and I rewrote everything about 3 times. It’s one thing to write a post on my own blog where I feel known and loved, with hundreds of wordy posts that give context to who I am and what I’m blabbing about, it’s something else to write an “interview” to an audience that probably hasn’t heard of me at all. Being able reread and edit, while still trying to sound like it’s something I’d actually say if we were having a conversation was a little difficult. Being sincere is one of my life values, and as I was working on this, I was reminded why.
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; That you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. Philippians 1:9-10
I want to be sincere in everything that I do. Another word I substitute for that is “authentic.” I want everything that I do and say to be filled with authenticity – something that’s real to me. Not just conjured or made-up, or what I feel like I’m supposed to say, feel, and express. I want to be real, yo.
I think this is something that many people in my generation hold as a value. They’ve become disillusioned with parents, mentors, pastors or leaders in the body of Christ for putting on a facade and pretending. They’re tired of being sold a party line or a bill of goods. They’re looking for sincerity, for reality and it’s become our rallying cry. But in the quest for reality, we’ve missed the second part…
Have you ever heard someone say something offensive, then shrug it off saying, “I’m just being real!” I love how this verse follows with the prayer that we would be without offense until the day of Christ. That in our quest for sincerity, we would not sacrifice the bond of brotherly love and preference toward another. It’s a balancing act for sure, and it is especially hard for me, maybe not in writing – but definitely in person.
You see, I have a problem with my words. I don’t know when it started – it’s as if it’s always been there, even as a small child. But when I feel backed up against a corner, or feel strongly about something, I have a tendency to whip out my sword, and trust me, it’s not the Bible. This secret weapon is the word of my mouth. And let me tell you, when the verbal sparring starts, somebody’s getting slashed and it is not me. Many times, I have been so absorbed with the “truth” being said, that I’ve had zero regard to the delicacy or diplomacy of my delivery. I am hopelessly black and white, and for years, I felt like somehow this justified my behavior. Combine an analytical mind, a little discernment, and a sharp tongue, and you’ve got a pretty ruthless combination. This little habit of mine can stay under wraps for a while, but would eventually manifest itself in my job, ministry, friendship, and then…yep, you knew it was coming, my marriage.
Marriage has a peculiar way of revealing the heart like, um instantly, and it just isn’t nice to verbally decimate your spouse. Most people don’t respond well to verbal attack, and especially not my husband! He even has a special word for it, but I won’t tell you what it is. Needless to say, I’ve had lots of practice in the past year on loving and honoring with my words, while sincerely communicating how I feel and what I think, and it has been the gift of the Lord! He knew what was lying dormant in my heart and that it needed to get dealt with. I’ve got a few posts up my sleeve on how the Lord uses covenant marriage relationships to prune/sharpen/reveal/expose/undo/reshape/redeem/restore – but I’ll save those till later. I do want to share some of the keys the Lord gave me in the process:
1. Take Some Time
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19
Do you remember in You’ve Got Mail (cause who hasn’t seen that movie right?) where Kathleen Kelly [Meg Ryan] wants to say exactly what she thinks in the moment but can’t seem to find the words, and Joe Fox [Tom Hanks] explains that he can and does, but lives to regret it? Well I am Joe Fox. Many times, stuff comes flying out of my mouth that I just wish I could take back. But I’m learning (just learning, not mastered) that before I let the Queen of Snarky come out of her hidey hole, to take a few minutes to breathe, and relax before firing off that email or breaking out my verbal machete. Quick to listen, slow to speak. Deep breath. It really helps me.
2. Have Graceful Speech, Seasoned with Salt
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:6
For a while, I think I interpreted this Scripture like I could just throw some salt in there, and if it got in some wounds, well that was too bad. I don’t think that’s what it means. But it also doesn’t mean having an answer is wrong – it doesn’t say “Mum’s the word” and we should be quite and demure all the time. Jesus had a lot to say, but he had grace upon his lips, and we should too. So many times I pray that my words would be filled with “grace and flavor” instead of a “harsh and hurtful” M.O.
3. Speak the Truth in Love
…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. Ephesians 4:14-15
I mentioned that I’m pretty black and white right? I have been in situations where something needed to be said to an individual: maybe they were manifesting glaring, obvious, harmful issues or behavior, or a situation was biblically, morally, ethically what-have-you wrong. And whether they were non-confrontational, or didn’t want to commit to the pastoral follow-through, for whatever reason, “leadership” in the situation never confronted the individual and the result was irreparable harm to their personal life and walk with the Lord. Those are the places in my heart that I have the most difficult time walking in forgiveness towards leaders. Oh how it pains me.
There are times as a leader, in whatever capacity, or in relationship that you will need to speak the truth to your friend, your spouse, or your flock. It may be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is your God-given responsibility and cannot be shirked by being “slow to speak.” That’s an inappropriate application. Whether it’s speaking the truth against deceitful teaching as this verse is referring, or speaking the truth to deceitful lifestyle or heart posture, this is something we’re mandated to walk out. But it’s truth in love and boy does that make all the difference. Walking in love isn’t something that you can just decide one day to do, it takes prayerful pursuit to walk out more and more.
Called as a messenger, struggling with the delivery?
Maybe you’re like me. Feel called to be a messenger, long to be authentic and sincere, but struggle at the “without offense” part. Or maybe you’ve spent so much time trying to avoid offending others that you’ve lost the authority and uniqueness of your own voice. It’s important to remember that God has called us to be both sincere and without offense. There’s no place for either robot yes-men, or renegade verbal assassins.