18 March 2010

break my bones

Tuesday afternon after I got off work I took a sandwich and some coffee down to David, a Big Issue seller in Oxford who I see a couple times a week. We were standing there talking and despite the warm sunny weather, he seemed so discouraged. When I asked, he told me he was just tired of the abuse. He always speaks to me, and I have observed to others, with the utmost politeness and kindness, asking them if they would like to buy a magazine with a quiet, gentle manner. But he told me that while some people respond politely, there are many others who will yell at him, tell him to "f*** off," or otherwise verbally abuse him. Sometimes he leaves his corner early because he's just weary of it.

I can't believe people would do that. What kind of brokenness inside of someone causes them to treat a struggling human being that way? Who do I hurt with my words? Carelessly spoken, shot off, unintentional, or measured, we all instinctively know the power of speech, and I have used mine to wound, stab, and isolate.

That night I watched Memoirs of a Geisha. The entire film is aching and sad, but ironically, the part where I started crying is when the little girl who has been taken from her family, abused and isolated, and then abandoned by her sister in a thwarted running-away attempt is standing on a bridge in the middle of town and a powerful businessman notices her, stops, speaks kindness into her life, cheers her up, and buys her some flavored ice. From that moment onward the girl's entire life purpose becomes to become a geisha, because then she will have a chance at a place in that businessman's world.

His words spoke kindness into her, revolutionized her life, gave her a purpose to live. I started crying because it frightened me. We have so much power.

My friend Lissha once told our teen girls at camp, "You have the power to speak life into people." I have never forgotten that phrase. That is a terrifying power, because it infers that we also have the power to do exactly the opposite. And we have this power not over objects of small importance, but over people. People who have been dearly bought, highly esteemed, redeemed in the suffering of God himself. We speak thousands of words every day. Each one is a choice.

Forgive me, Lord! For I am a woman of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!

" They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent's; the poison of vipers is on their lips. Selah" Psalm 140:3

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." 1 Corinthians 13:1

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?" James 3:9-11

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